NORMAN — Most high school basketball players wish they could play more than they do. Lainy Fredrickson is no different.
“She's always asking me, ‘When am I getting in?'” said Michael Neal, her coach on the Norman High girls team.
On Friday night, against archrival Norman North, Neal signaled Lainy into the game with just under a minute left to play, answering the chants from the Norman student section of “We want Lainy! We want Lainy!” It was the second appearance this season for the special-needs senior.
“The first time, I think she was about 0-for-8,” Neal said with a smile. “So I told her to go make one.”
Lainy's coaches pointed her to the scorer's table to check into the game. Overcome by joy, she zipped right past the table and got all the way to the far end of the court before teammate Bethany Franks redirected her.
After a few misses, with the drama building in a packed Norman High gym, Lainy launched a shot that bounced off the backboard and through the net.
“We got her in her spot that we practice in every single day at practice,” Franks said. “It took a few tries, but she got it down.
“I just think the people cheering for her, and that kind of sportsmanship in the gym in a moment like High-North, that's extraordinary.”
Lainy's basket set off a wild celebration that included everyone in the gym. Players, coaches and fans for both teams, referees, and of course, Lainy.
She blew a kiss to the crowd, took a bow and headed over to hug one of her friends on the pom squad before being engulfed by her teammates.
Video of her shot began spreading across the country almost as soon as it hit social media, with more than 10,000 reposts in the first 12 hours. It reached multiple national news outlets and was the lead video on ESPN's SportsCenter at 11 p.m.
While the impact of the uniquely special moment spread far and fast, it was nothing compared to the inside of the Norman locker room after the game.
“She came into the locker room crying. Our girls were crying. Our coaches were crying,” Neal said. “That's what it's all about. It was the perfect moment. I've never been a part of anything like that before.”
Lainy is one of seven seniors on the team, and she'll likely have more special moments with her teammates before the year ends. But Friday night's big shot will be hard to top.
“Everyone was happy to see that she got in the game,” said senior Darieana Hunter. “She was so happy that she cried. We've never seen Lainy cry.
“We're just here to make her feel good. Everybody deserves a chance to do what they love. Playing this game is what she loves.”