Oregon teen honored with Musial Award for outstanding sportsmanship

MAPLETON, Ore. - If you've never had a date with the state of Oregon, you should know she can play hard to get. From her shoreline to her tree line, she is one of the world's great beauties; but instead of flaunting it, she prefers a quiet modesty.

They say that Falls City, Oregon is a dead end. When you come out of town, you go into the woods.

"You are either going fishing or hunting or any other type of recreational thing," said resident Mike McConnell.

Less than a thousand people live here and last year the high school only had 35 students.

Ethan McConnell was one of six people in his graduating class. He grew up here. Though the school was small, he enjoyed his time and was even captain of the basketball team.

"I would say he is just your ordinary, typical teenager," said Ethan's dad, Mike.

An ordinary teenager perhaps, but around here they're still talking about the time that Ethan did something extraordinary.

It actually happened in Mapleton, Oregon. Mapleton isn't any bigger than Falls City, but they do claim to have the world's best hamburgers and hot dogs. And a pretty good high school basketball team.

Mapleton and Falls City aren't in the same conference and they're more than 100 miles apart, but they are rivals.

"They're both small towns," said Mike McConnell. "They're very close knit."

Perhaps the most popular player for Mapleton High is Davan Overton, who began playing basketball in middle school because he wanted to "Be Like Mike."

"One of my inspirations was Michael Jordan," he said.

Michael Jordan was never afraid of a challenge and neither was Davan. As a child he was diagnosed with Dandy-Walker variant.

"It impairs his speech, his gross motor skills and his fine motor skills," says his mom, Melissa Overton.

The condition is caused by a cyst on his spine and while he doesn't get a lot of playing time, he is there for every practice and every game.

"He loves being part of a team, he loves cheering them on and he loves getting out there and participating and being a part," said his mom.

The old gym at Mapleton has seen its share of great moments, from proms to graduations, but it's never seen anything quite like what happened when Falls City and Mapleton squared off to start the season.

Falls City viewed it as a key matchup.

"I guess even though it's the first game of the season, it kind of tells you how your season is going to go," Ethan said.

With Davan cheering his team on, the Sailors took a commanding 15-point lead late in the fourth quarter.

"After trailing by like 15 points, we didn't have the mentality that we were still going to win this game, but I guess it's kind of hard to quit so we still try our hearts out and play," Ethan said.

Then a quiet crowd was quiet no more. Coach Adam Decker put Davan in the game.

"It went wild. It was so loud, you'd think it was a state championship," said Melissa Overton.

Davan says his specialty is the three point shot and over the next few minutes, Davan's teammates did everything they could to get him the ball. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't get one to go in.

"I just kept missing," he said.

"He keeps trying and trying and you hear the crowd going c'mon buddy just one more time," his mom said.

Then, with time running out no one in the old gym expected to see what happened next.

"I don't know, it just all clicked for me at once that I wanted the same thing his team wanted," said Ethan.

Ethan McConnell then committed one of the most memorable turnovers of all time. Instead of passing the ball to a teammate, he passed it to Davan.

"Yeah. I didn't expect that at all," Davan said.

And in more ways than one, this time the shot was good.

"It was one of those moments where you are going, 'Oh, my gosh, kids are great. Kids are good,'" Melissa said.

"To do something like that for a stranger is just immense kindness," Davan said.

Acts of sportsmanship are not premeditated. They happen in the moment and from the heart. Ethan didn't really see it as a big deal until he was heading to the locker room.

"I remember after shaking the others teams hands I had a couple of moms pretty much teary eyed coming up and telling me thank you for what you've done," he said.

"Immediately, you know, a sense of pride just came right over me and made me feel like my job was done," said his dad.

Winter is coming again to Oregon, but whispering in the pines is a moment still is warming hearts.

"The news is littered with like shootings, wars, famine, all of that stuff," Davan said. "But a guy like Ethan really gives me hope."

A young man setting an example that you can lose a game and still walk away a winner.


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