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The Zak Zone

February 15, 2012

Some weeks when I sit down to write my column, I struggle to find a way to communicate an idea I've been bouncing around in my head and, since it's a sports column, to find a way tie sports into it.

Other weeks, the story itself just falls into my lap and begs me to write about it. This week's column falls into the latter category.

Growing up as a Christian and a huge sports fan, I heard the word "miracle" used in two very different contexts quite often, and the seeming double meaning has caused me to frequently ponder the miraculous over the years.

While I won't discuss the religious realm of the miraculous here, I mention the two together simply because I have come to realize they aren't quite as different as I used to believe they were.

I have come to believe miracles are just as likely to occur on the field or the court as anywhere else if we are willing to just open our eyes and our hearts to see them.

Punxsy senior girls' baketball player, Alex Magill, hit a pair of game-winning, buzzer-beating shots over the past week. I think that in itself is miraculous: That the opportunity arose twice, and she deliver- ed in both instances.

Last Tuesday, the miraculous took place at PAHS right before all our eyes, another instance that was a bit too obvious to ignore.

The Punxsy JV game started out much like any other basketball game, and true to their form this season, Punxsy soon opened up a sizable lead.

The Chucks squad was still comfortably ahead midway through the fourth quarter, when it started to become obvious that something different was about to happen.

Darrin Kriebel, the JV coach, told his son to go get Dirk Neal, the varsity coach, who was in the locker room preparing for the encore presentation in the varsity game.

Little did each of us know, a young man from St. Marys was about to steal the show.

We were all wondering what was so important that Coach K would interrupt the varsity's pre-game ritual, but shortly after Neal emerged to the locker room walkway, the scene started to unfold for us.

Matthew Kronenwetter, a young member of the Flying Dutch whose spirit and heart shone bright, made his way to the scorers' table to check in, and that's when the miraculous began.

Matthew is a young man who faces challenges that many of us don't face on a daily basis.

But one thing was clear about this young man: While these challenges may prevent him from doing some things, it certainly wasn't preventing him from living his life to the fullest.

A timeout was called to allow Matthew to check into the game, and when the teams took the court again, something aside from Matthew's presence on the court had changed.

Both teams walked away from the timeout smiling, knowing they were about to take part in something special.

I can't recall which team inbounded the ball, but St. Marys quickly was in possession again, and the ball was passed to Matthew.

He dribbled once and put up a shot, which clanged off the iron as the entire gym exhaled, wishing it had fallen in.

Punxsy grabbed the rebound, and knowing the game well, Matthew turned around and retreated to his defensive end.

Instead of running the break, though, the Punxsy player who grabbed the board tossed the ball back to a St. Marys' player.

Another player yelled for Matthew, and he ran back down and took another shot — one he barely missed. But after another pass back to him, the third shot he took fell through the hoop.

The entire gym clapped and cheered loudly for him, and it seemed as if the miraculous moment had passed.

But there was more in store, as the teams continued to feed the ball to Matthew as the clock wound to zero.

Matthew ended up making a total of three baskets for a team-high six points on the night.

With each basket, he pumped his fists in the air in celebration of the feat.

Now, with Matthew making three baskets, it became obvious to me that the miracle that took place that night wasn't his six points. He was perfectly capable of shooting, and if he made three shots that night, he's made hundreds before.

The miracle that night wasn't the three baskets he made. It was the way the pieces all fell together for each of us present to witness the event.

The fact that two coaches, then two entire teams, would collaborate to set the stage for this amazingly inspiring event to occur is the miracle.

This scene may unfold 10 times over the course of the season at gyms across the state, but that doesn't make it any less miraculous that we all were able to be a part of it last Tuesday.

I don't personally know Matthew Kronenwetter, and I may never know him, but the truth is, he inspired me on the court that night in ways I've never been inspired before, and for that, I am thankful.

Keep shooting, Matthew. Because in doing so, you're inspiring each and every one of us, on and off the court, to keep shooting, as well.

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