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Emotional return for Mann, Lady Airedales 11/23/21

Emotional return for Mann, Lady Airedales

By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 


Codey Mann peared behind him Saturday just in time to see tears flowing down the face of his wife, Gina, in the second half of an otherwise meaningless November basketball game. 


But it was no ordinary non-conference basketball game - Lydia Mann was about to check into the game. 


Almost a year to the day, Lydia Mann injured her knee during Alma’s 2020-21 opener, which forced her to miss the season - and to begin the rigorous task of re-hab, something she was all too familiar with. 


“I looked back at my wife and she’s balling,” Mann said. “Lydia’s been through a lot in her young life, but she came in at halftime and said, ‘Dad, I want to play.


“I had no intention of playing her during this tournament. In fact, it might be the last game we play her in this tournament.”


As it turned out, Lydia played again Monday. And, thanks to her 11 points, the Lady Airedales erased a 12-point deficit and beat Shiloh Christian, 45-34, to reach the finals of the Turkey Shoot Tournament in Lincoln. 


Gina wasn’t the only one brought to tears, either.


“I’m going to start crying,” she said while being interviewed. “It meant everything to me.”


As for the Saturday win over Elkins, it was a surreal moment when No. 3 walked to the scorer's table to check-in. 


With six minutes left to play in the third quarter, Lydia Mann, her left leg covered with a black brace, was back on the basketball court. Almost a year to the day since she’d last played, Mann was hoisting 3-pointers and flipping off-balance jumpers toward the basket. 


Mostly, though, she was playing defense. 


“She probably had five steals while she was in there playing at the top of the 1-3-1,” her dad said. “Once she got comfortable, she took it to the basket. But it was a proud moment because it’s been so tough for her over the last year.


“It’s one thing when it’s a player, but it’s different when it’s your own daughter.”


“I was filling up water bottles in the locker room for the girls and I told him, ‘I want to play.’ Chan (Alma assistant coach Chanlee Bottoms) told me, ‘No, you’re playing; that floor is way too slick and I don’t want to risk it.’ 


“But I told them I wanted to play.”


Lydia Mann, though hampered by her shooting in Saturday’s return, felt like she could give the team a defensive spark. 


“I just said, ‘I really want to play.’ They said, ‘OK, we trust your opinion. You know how your knee feels.’ 


“So I got to play, and it meant everything.”


“As a player, she’s a very big asset to our team,” senior Kenzie Rushing said. “She contributes a lot of points and just goes hard all the time.”


Mann got to play three minutes in the third quarter, going 0-for-4 with a trio of missed 3-point attempts and a missed layup. 


When she came back in during the fourth quarter, with Elkins cutting into a one-time double-digit deficit, Mann had a key steal, and after passing the ball to Kenzie Rushing, began to celebrate the team’s hard-fought 53-45 win. 


Rushing sank two foul shots to essentially ice the game. 


“This week we’ve talked about becoming a better team and playing for everybody on the team,” Mann said. “I was really proud of everybody. I feel like we showed amazing energy - we’re all cheering for everybody and nobody was pouting, and that’s why we won.”


“Emotionally, it’s huge,” Rushing said. “She’s a year younger but she’s always played with my grade. It means a lot that she can finally be out there with us.”


“She brings so much leadership,” junior Presli Taylor said. “Her being back out there, it just makes us want to work that much harder, too.”