O’Connor takes scary fall in PCA win|[12/15/07]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 15, 2007

Jeremaine O’Connor went up, blocked the shot like he had done so many times before, and landed with a sickening thud on the rubberized floor at Porters Chapel Academy. The way he fell later on — silently – was far more terrifying.

O’Connor, a PCA senior who made the Vicksburg Post’s All-County team last season, collapsed on the bench midway through the fourth quarter of Friday night’s 54-43 win over Mt. Salus. He was taken to River Region Medical Center, where he was treated and released, hospital spokeswoman Diane Gawronski said.

PCA coach E.J. Creel said O’Connor was diagnosed with a mild concussion and, with a little help, walked out of the hospital on his own.

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O’Connor was injured in the second quarter when he went up to block a shot against Mt. Salus’ Kamry Owens. O’Connor pinned the ball against the backboard, but lost his balance and came down hard on his back. When he landed, he also apparently hit his head on the hard floor.

He stayed down for several minutes, was finally helped up and walked to the bench on his own. He re-entered the game late in the third quarter and played for about four minutes before going back to the bench with 4:42 to play. After getting to the bench, he fell over.

Trainers immediately rushed over to O’Connor, put his legs in the air and a bag of ice under his head. O’Connor coughed several times, but did not appear to be conscious. Paramedics arrived about 15 minutes later. They immobilized his head and neck, put him on a backboard and carried him out on a stretcher.

“He just came out of the game and I saw he was kind of drowsy. I told him to get his head up and drink some water. Then the rest happened,” said Melvin Wiley, an assistant football coach at Porters Chapel whose son, Jay, plays on the basketball team. Melvin Wiley was standing near the PCA bench when O’Connor collapsed.

Neither Creel nor O’Connor’s teammates said they saw any signs that O’Connor was still injured when he went back into the game in the fourth quarter. O’Connor had abdominal surgery over the summer to remove an intestinal blockage. He missed the entire football season and had been cleared to play basketball, but was still playing his way into shape. Creel said because of that, she mistook O’Connor’s injury for fatigue.

“He was dragging, but since day one he’s looked liked that. Kind of out of shape, because he’s been through a lot,” Creel said. “When he came off the floor he looked like he did every other time. Just worn out.”

Matt Hall, a senior post player for PCA, echoed his coach’s thoughts.

“He didn’t look the same. He was easing around. But he’s always like that,” Hall said.

All told, the game was delayed about 30 minutes while O’Connor was tended to. Play resumed after the delay, and PCA went on an 11-5 run before Owens hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it a 54-43 final.

Owens finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, while Tyler Moss had 18 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks for Mt. Salus. Jacob Rachal led PCA (6-2, 3-2 District 5-A) with 16 points, while Luke Willis had 14 points, five steals and three blocks. Hall had six points and 11 rebounds.

O’Connor had no points, three rebounds and three blocks before his injury. He also had the thoughts and prayers of everyone at PCA.

“I hope it’s nothing serious. We pray it’s nothing serious,” Creel said.

(G) PCA 42, Mt. Salus 39

Kati Atkins scored a team-high 15 points, including a 3-pointer with 1:15 remaining that put Porters Chapel (2-9, 2-3) ahead for good. Shelby Wells scored the last of her six points from the free throw line for PCA, hitting both ends of a one-and-one with 13.5 seconds to play to ice it. Paige Moore added 10 points.

Ramsey Rankin scored a game-high 16 points for Mt. Salus, which missed three layups and a free throw in the last 34 seconds.