The crowd went wild.
That isn't uncommon at Dale. It is less common, however, for the crowd to go wild halfway through the first quarter of a game.
The crowd went wild.
That isn’t uncommon at Dale. It is less common, however, for the crowd to go wild halfway through the first quarter of a game.
Like many Lady Pirate basketball players, Emily Chesser practices her shot for hours every day. Tuesday night against the Oklahoma Christian School, she scored the first points of her career.
With 3:35 left on the first quarter clock, Lady Pirate Coach Josh Forsythe put Chesser in the game. It was her first time in uniform even though she goes to the Lady Pirates’ practice each day.
As Emily entered the game, she went down on the defensive end. As she stood in the corner, she raised her hands to defend passes. Then the Lady Pirates took possession.
As Elaine Witt brought the ball down the court, Chesser went to the lane. Claire Chastain called for Emily to get open. She broke free in the lane. Mikayla Rutland passed to Witt who passed the ball back to a wide open Chesser who took her shot. The shot rattled out but after a rebound by Rylee Thompson, she received another pass and shot again. After another close call, Chastain got the rebound and passed it back to Chesser. With one hand she sent the ball toward the rim.
The third time was the charm. Her shot was perfect – and the crowd went wild.
Emily’s smile was beaming and, like all basketball players who knock down a big shot, she pumped her fist as she celebrated with her team.
Coach Forsythe pulled Emily back out of the game. Several in the crowd wiped away tears as they enjoyed the moment.
After all, Emily wasn’t supposed to be able to walk or talk. She has been beating the odds since she was born. Tuesday night’s basket meant the world to her – and her many supporters in the crowd.
“We have been supported by our friends, family, the school and our church family,” her mother, Stephanie Chesser said. “They have all played a part in helping raise her.”
Emily – the fourth child and first daughter of Randy and Stephanie Chesser - was born three months early. She had several issues at birth that confined her to the NICU for weeks after she was born.
When she was able to finally go home, the work to care for her was far from over.
“We basically had a hospital at home,” Stephanie said. Emily was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition called Kleefstra Syndrome. A diagnosis of Kleefstra Syndrome is uncommon because testing for the condition is a relatively recent discovery.
Most who suffer from Kleefstra struggle to walk, speak, and have other developmental delays.
Chesser is considered high-functioning for a patient with this condition. She wasn’t able to walk for the first few years of her life, but thanks to her family – especially her oldest brother Andrew – working with her through physical therapy, she was finally able to use a walker at three and a half years old and soon left it behind to walk on her own.
“Watching her take those first few steps was an amazing feeling,” Stephanie said. “Many people with Kleefstra can’t walk or talk so for her to be able to talk and go to school is incredible.”
Now, she is a high school student at Dale. Her paraprofessional Kathy Wilson has been with her for 10 years throughout her school years. Wilson helps her through her day and she spends an hour a day at basketball practice.
“She comes and watches practice,” Coach Forsythe said. “She loves to shoot and help the team.”
That is where Forsythe got the idea to put Chesser on the team and have her play in a game. He discussed the idea with the OCS coach and they put together a plan to make it happen.
“I know how much she loves the game so I talked to Kathy (Wilson) and she talked to Emily’s parents who thought it was a great idea,” Forsythe said.
Stephanie was worried she might not even get to see it.
“I just hope through the tears I actually get to see her play,” Stephanie said. “We have wanted this so much for her but we didn’t know if it would ever happen.” There were tears of joy but Stephanie did see it and loved every second of it.
“It made my heart happy,” her mother said.
The seniors on this year’s Lady Pirates team were all excited to help make this night special for Emily.
“I’ve known Emily and her family for a long time. I think letting Emily be a part of our team shows the true meaning of team work and winning,” said Rylee Thompson. “This will make a huge impact on her life and that’s a win for us. She is such a sweet girl and I know we are all excited to experience this with her.”
Mikayla Rutland agreed.
“We are all so excited for this moment that Emily and her family get to experience,” Rutland said. “She comes in the gym everyday and shoots and watches us practice. She means a lot to us and I know she feels the same way about our team.”
Claire Chastain – the MVP of last week’s Kingston Tournament and a Division I signee with the University of Texas in Arlington – said she thinks it is the team that is blessed to get to play with Emily.
“Emily is an amazing girl with a bright personality,” Chastain said. “We are lucky to have her a part of our team. It was very exciting and emotional to watch her play tonight. We three seniors are extremely blessed to get to experience this with her.”
Emily loves the Lady Pirates, but her love for basketball goes beyond her high school team. She is a huge Oklahoma City Thunder fan and she also watches the Oklahoma Sooners with her dad.
“She watches the Thunder religiously,” Randy said. “That’s probably my fault, but I think she loves watching sports more than my three boys.”
Chesser loves watching the Thunder and she hoped they would return the favor.
“She was out practicing her shooting and came in for a break. That’s when her dad and I told her about getting to play in the game,” Stephanie said. “The first thing she asked was if (Russell) Westbrook and (Steven) Adams would watch her game.”
She simply assumed that since she enjoyed watching them play that they might like to watch her when she got to suit up and take the court, too.
Unfortunately, the Thunder had a game at the same time so they will have to watch the highlights.
After the game, Forsythe was very happy with the results. He was pleased with his team’s 39-point win. But he was just as happy about the basket that came early in the game.
“That was great,” Forsythe said. “It couldn’t have been any better. I’m proud of her.”
Her mother agreed.
“There were so many people who helped make this happen,” Stephanie said. “It meant everything to her. I am just so thankful to everyone who made it possible for her.”
Emily is just a freshman. Those might not be the only two points she scores in high school. But it is safe to say she will never forget her first time to score in a game.