Congratulations to Allee Coble for this EPIC recognition!
SANTA ROSA BEACH — When Allee Coble hit the hardwood floor, she felt her left kneecap shatter. The pain, both physically and psychologically, was immeasurable.
South Walton’s star forward had been competing at a summer basketball camp this past June at Troy. She leapt, she fell and suddenly her immediate future was in doubt.
The Seahawks were coming off a season in which they advanced to the 1A state championship game after clinching their second straight Final Four appearance. Coble was going to be a senior. She wanted a shot at the championship that had eluded her only months prior in a 58-48 loss to Wildwood. Now she didn’t know whether she would ever return to the court.
What followed were multiple visits to an orthopedic surgeon and several injections to dull the pain and help the healing process. Busted knee or not, Coble made her decision early. She was determined to play.
“My teammates, I owed it to them,” Coble said. “I felt like I owed it to them, and I owed it to myself to go out there and play it and enjoy it and cherish every moment with these girls ’cause that’s time I’ll never get back.”
Coble started playing basketball when she was 5 with rec league games in Walton County. She was enamored with the sport’s competitive nature from the beginning, forming an early rivalry with future teammate Gracie Ricci. Their first bouts were as heated as a Game 7 in the NBA Finals.
“She’d be on a different rec team, and I’d be on a different rec team and it would always be this big game,” Coble said. “It was a big rec basketball game when we got to play against each other.”
Coble reveled in the rivalry, and as her love for the sport grew, so did her burgeoning friendship with Ricci and others from the rec league.
“It’s people like that who have really drove my love for the game,” Coble said.
Those same people are the reason Coble pushed to play through the pain. Those same people are the reason Coble is the Daily News Small Schools Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
“She and Gracie Ricci and Shannon Cole since early middle school,” Seahawks coach Kevin Craig said. “They all fed off of each other, and she played very well with that group.
“Whatever we needed, she did.”
During her career at South Walton, Coble was always a model of consistency. Coaches from across the Daily News coverage area praised her ability to score, defend and handle the ball within the flow of the game. Despite the injury, her senior season was no different. With a balky brace shielding her knee, Coble averaged 11.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. She shot 41 percent from the floor and 71 percent from the line, all while maintaining one of the school’s best grade point averages.
In a late-season victory against Walton, Coble scored her 1,000th career point on a pair of free throws to ice the game. She and her teammates were so excited by the win in a crosstown rivalry game they forgot to celebrate. A week later, she became the Seahawks’ all-time leading scorer in a blowout victory against Lighthouse Christian Academy. She scored eight points in the first three minutes to realize a dream she had conceived midway through her junior season.
This time the Seahawks celebrated. Coble said her family came in from out of town to pack the bleachers in South Walton’s gymnasium and her best friends, of course, were on the court with her. It was a moment she said she will never forget.
“It was such a good feeling,” Coble said. “I felt blessed with the opportunity to do it and to get to celebrate with my closest friends when the time came was so sweet.”
The end of Coble’s journey was not so sweet. After a dominant 18-4 regular season, the District 1-5A tournament arrived Feb. 13. Coble and the Seahawks were set to play North Bay Haven, a team they had already bested twice before during the regular season.
On the other side of the bracket, Walton was playing West Florida, teams that had given the Seahawks more trouble during the regular season.
“We felt way more comfortable playing Walton, and we watched Walton win and we thought ‘Oh, goodness. Walton won,’” Coble said. “We were all so excited. ‘We can beat Walton.’
“Then I think we looked past North Bay Haven.”
South Walton lost 49-44 in the district semifinals, and their season was over. Coble’s dream of a state championship was over.
When the crying subsided in the locker room after the game, it was replaced with an eerie quiet. Coble and her teammates just looked at one another with blank stares.
She and the team needed a leader on the floor that night. She tried to be that leader, but it wasn’t enough. That’s something she said she has to live with. In the locker room after the game, she again did her best to be the leader.
When she had fallen during the summer, her teammates had carried her, given her the support she needed fulfill a dream. Now it was her turn to carry them. Again, she owed them that much.
“That one game did not define us,” Coble told them, breaking the silence. “Our eight seniors are not defined by that game but by everything else we accomplished.”
That was the last organized basketball game Coble will ever play for a school. She’s headed to Auburn in the fall to study civil engineering. The War Eagle is a proud family tradition she said.
She’s also looking forward to letting her knee heal, though she has no regrets about playing through the pain. For her family, she’d do it again.
“I’m so glad I made that decision six months ago,” Coble said. “I had the best three or four months, getting to spend it and end it all with them.”
To view more pictures of Allee in action, check out the article onoline at:
Submitted by Barbara Stratton