A Two-Point Season And That Is Just Fine

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CRANEIn today’s world of websites, Twitter and Snapchat, news is instantaneous. Followers of easternoregonsports.com know a score within seconds of the final buzzer and that is a great thing. This story is different as it has taken a close to one year to write. Easteroregonsports.com was present in the Baker High School gym on June 24 as the Crane girls’ basketball team took a 75-54 win over Country Christian in the “unofficial” 1A championship.

Late in the fourth quarter, Kelsey Siegner went down to the floor on a fast break. We still remember her being assisted to the bench, the members of her team helping her to her feet for the team photos after the win. Ingrained in memory is Siegner being unable to join the other members of the all-tournament team at center court and those players gathering around Siegner on the bench for a photo and congratulations.

This story is not about loss or sadness of a dream unrealized. This is a story of a student athlete facing a change in her life. Growing up is tough and fulfilling a dream after years of work is even tougher. Watching that dream change due to circumstances beyond one’s control, but continuing in a different role as a member of a state championship team says something about the family, the team and the community surrounding a player. Most of all, the actions say something about the player herself.

We hope our readers trust us. The story may have taken a year to write, but the time has arrived-sometimes a pause in the action to some is just a beginning for one.

CRANECrane senior Kelsie Siegner stood on the free throw line at Baker High School during the championship game of the OSAA 1A state basketball playoffs on March 5. With only 11 seconds left in the game and the Mustangs leading 54-47, Crane was going to take a state title this year with or without Siegner’s success at the line. She had just entered the game three seconds earlier, replacing Taylor Joyce.

Great writers are able to convey the tears shed, the roar of the crowd and the emotions felt as both free throws went cleanly through the net. Unfortunately for you all, I am not that writer. You had to be in the gym with me, Siegner’s teammates and with the town of Crane (the whole town was there, trust me) to truly understand just how important those simple two points were to the Crane senior playing her final game.

Siegner ended her last season with only those two points to place in the record books. She played a total of 14 seconds during the entire 30-1 season for the Mustangs. But those 14 seconds and two points are a testament to, not a basketball player, but a true student athlete and person that will be remembered for many years.

Siegner played many more minutes and scored a tremendous number of points during the shortened 2020-21 season. On June 24, 2021, she was leading the Mustangs to an “official, but unofficial” title after Crane went a perfect 12-0 for the season. Siegner remembers the day and the fall to the floor in pain.  

“When it happened, it really hurt,” Siegner recalls. “I was hoping it was not that serious, but really did not know what to expect.”

It was serious. The injury included a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a torn medial collateral ligament (MCL) and a partial tear to the lateral meniscus.

A horrible injury, but even more horrible was the timing of Siegner’s incident. She was scheduled to report the following week to play for the Idaho Flash, a club team compiled of elite players from both Idaho and Oregon. Tournament play for the Flash was scheduled the week following Siegner’s injury.

“That was the most disappointing,” said Mitch, Siegner’s father. “All the hard work Kelsie had put in was not going to be pay off.”

“We had over two years work on sending out videos and talking with college recruiters and scheduling collegiate visits and that all came to an end,” added Jaimie, Siegner’s mother.

In the place of impressing college coaches came endless visits to doctors, physical therapists and other medical personnel.

In a bit of irony, Siegner met with the Boise State University physician, the same doctor treating Burns graduate Allie Hueckman for her knee injury.

“They told us upfront I could not go back for eight to ten months,” said Siegner. “The doctor did not sugarcoat what happened.”

With the Idaho Flash season a wash along with the upcoming Oregon Elite season not in the cards, Siegner made a decision on her own future.

“Sitting in my room and thinking about everything would have just made all this worse,” she said. “I knew I could still help the Crane team and that in itself was healing in a way.”

The loss hit the whole family, a basketball dynasty in the area.

“Kelsie’s goal since she was young was to play college ball,” Jaime said. “Even with all the unanswered questions, Kelsie never lost sight of that goal.”

As the Mustangs took to the court this season for their first practice, Siegner was there. Instead of running the plays, her new role was to teach the plays to new Mustang players.

“I really loved the coaching aspect this year,” said Siegner.  

“It was her way to continue to strive towards her goal,” Jaime said.

Crane started their run towards a state title on December 3 without Siegner on the floor, but standing on the sidelines yelling out plays and encouragement. Looking back on the 59-19 win that afternoon, not actively playing was harder on the family than their daughter.

“We definitely took it harder than Kelsie did this whole year,” said Mitch. “As a family, we struggled with her not being able to play. Kelsie always showed a strong face the whole time. It was because of how she handled all this we as a family knew the journey was not over.”

“Kelsie has been our rock this whole time,” added Jaime. “It is so difficult as a parent to see how hard your child works towards a goal from such an early age and in one moment, you think it is all gone.”

Not being on the court did not come naturally to the Mustang star.

“It was hard at first,” said Siegner. “I had to learn how to help my teammates in a different capacity and learn how to adapt to what I could to help Crane basketball.”

The concern over her injury and compassion for what Siegner was going through was not limited to just the Crane community or even Harney County.

“People from other schools were coming up to us telling how sorry they were for what happened,” said Jaime. “It happened with people all over the state. As good as Crane was playing, people would tell us how different the team would be if Kelsie was on the floor.”

On the floor as a player or standing on the sidelines as a coach, Crane basketball was successful. Adding to the athletic success was the community’s continued support for Siegner.

“All these kids know each other since they were little,” Mitch said. “They have spent years together in the same small classes. The community showed great pride in the role Kelsie was taking.”

“Kelsie made a name for herself doing what she needed do to for the team,” added Jaime.

Minutes into the fourth quarter of the championship game in Baker, the chants started. The crowd wanted Kelsie in the game. At one point, the chant was deafening and looking over at Siegner, embarrassing. Maintaining her composure, she continued to cheer on her teammates.

A rancher, Mitch had returned home between watching both the Crane boys and girls during the tournament when he received a phone call.

“I was told to bring Kelsie’s game shoes the next day,” he said. “I could not figure out why she needed her shoes. Jaime told me just pack the shoes and get over to Baker.”

With 14 seconds on the clock, Crane coach Stub Travis ordered Joyce to take a seat and Siegner to return to her place on the court, the first time since June.

“I was just going to chuck up a three if I had a chance,” Siegner said. “I was shocked when I was fouled and had the chance to actually score. Those two points, the only points I made for the whole season, will be the points I remember most.”

“Those 14 seconds were so meaningful for us,” Mitch said. “I wanted to thank every single person in that gym for supporting Kelsie coming into the game.”

“What happened in those short 14 seconds was the ultimate confirmation of everything that has happened,” Jaime said. “The whole gym was behind those two free throws.”

With a state basketball trophy now sitting in the Crane case, Siegner is looking to return to action as a participant, leaving her coaching days behind for now.

“I am pretty close to 100 percent,” she said. “I am working out hard and each day closer to the one-year mark, I am ready to play again.”

The newest goal for the Crane senior is to make her entrance at Hayward Field for the state track competition. In addition, word is getting out her rehabilitation has gone well and those colleges are again starting to make calls.

Now looking back almost a year, the Siegner family has learned more than a few lessons. The community in which they reside comes together in time of need. The basketball community in Oregon and beyond cares. And their daughter can face great adversity with grace and poise and make the best of a difficult situation.

“We know that a lot worse things could have happened to Kelsie in the grand scheme,” said Mitch. “We learned much from Kelsie during this and continue to learn from her every day. Kelsie’s story is not over.”

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