Catholic forfeits region tournament game against Gatlinburg-Pittman after bus accident
Catholic's girls basketball team decided to forfeit its region tournament game against Gatlinburg-Pittman following after its bus went off the road on the way to Gatlinburg.
A dispatcher with the Tennessee Highway Patrol said the accident occured at approximately 5:57 p.m. and caused minor injuries. The team was headed to G-P to play the Highlanders in a Region 2-AA quarterfinal.
"It’s really heartbreaking to know they have seniors on that team not getting to play their last game," said G-P coach Katie Parton. "It’s just really traumatic. I talked to the girls and let them know they’re welcome to come sit with us, be a part of our team playing against CAK."
Parton sent her players to the locker room to pray after word of the accident reached the school. The coach later went to the hospital and, after speaking with Catholic coach Alex Bowers, the schools agreed the Irish would forfeit.
Parton, Highlanders boys coach A.J. Bennett, who will coach against Catholic in a boys region game Saturday, and Bowers are friends dating back to their days at Maryville College. Bennett was on the scene before the police after senior Christian Maloney, who came upon the accident, told him what had happened.
"That hit home pretty quickly," Bennett said. "I consider (Bowers) like a brother to me. I wanted to make sure everyone was OK."
Bennett said the images of the bus on its side appear dramatic, but fortunately the injuries were "nothing that had anyone holding their breath." He said the injured players were expected to go home Friday night.
"You're not knowing what you're going to run up on," Bennett said. "Consider it a very fortunate turnout that no one was seriously hurt. ... Our hearts go out to the Catholic family. Basketball's just a game, but they have two seniors on the team and for them to end their careers like that, it’s unfortunate."
Bennett said he thought the decision to not play was the right call. The concern, Parton said, was soreness and the emotional trauma of the accident. The Irish only have 10 players to begin with and four were injured in the crash. The game would have to be played Saturday or Sunday to accomodate the next round of the tournament.
“This game, at this point, is not a big deal when you think about children’s lives being hurt,” Parton said earlier in the evening.