CHARLOTTESVILLE — Christmas came early for the Indianapolis Howe girls basketball team last week following a game at Eastern Hancock.

After the Hornets’ 94-29 loss, in a random act of kindness, nearly every member of Howe’s team received a free pair of 1-year-old basketball shoes. During the game, one player in particular lost her shoe, which was hardly fit for the court.

Then something happened that Eastern Hancock’s Shari Doud has never witnessed in her 13-plus years as a head coach.

“During the game, one of the girls was running down the floor and lost her shoe,” Morgan Collins, a member of the varsity team, said. “We noticed the shoes weren’t exactly basketball shoes, just a pair of tennis shoes. Peyton (West) said she had an old pair of shoes in her locker that she could give her.

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“After the game, her and Hope Spaulding took their shoes over there and offered their shoes to one of the girls on the team. Seven or eight of us offered our shoes also.”

Collins said a girl had just checked into the game for the Hornets and seconds later was without a shoe. The Royals immediately thought of Howe’s safety.

West, who managed to wave her mom down in the crowd, asked if this gesture would be OK.

“Hope (Spaulding) and I were kind of like, ‘Let’s go over there and give them our shoes after the game,” West said. “I looked across the gym at my mom and mouthed to her, ‘Hey, can I give her my old shoes?’”

“I stopped the girl after (slapping hands) and asked her what size shoe she wore and she said an 8 1/2. Well Hope just happened to have an 8 1/2. We took them over there and a few of the other girls were like yeah we will take a new pair of shoes.”

The pair of shoes? Nike Hyperdunks, which retail for nearly $100 brand new. The team wore them last season. 

West said Howe, which only had about 10 girls in the program, acted very surprised at first. 

“They had real big eyes and were kind of taken aback at first,” she said. “They acted like they really appreciated it. We only wore them for one season. Some of the parents were confused at first, but once they found out what we were doing they were really proud.”

John Collins, who is Morgan’s father and the public address announcer at Eastern Hancock, said there was no hesitation at all by the team, despite taking it to the Hornets during the game.

There was no cockiness or arrogance. The girls simply wanted to help. And what a better time than the holidays?

“We have a new athletic code at Eastern (Hancock), and it talks about character,” M. Collins said. “We have monthly meetings where we stress that and sportsmanship.”

Added West, “I think we’re working on that as a whole community. We have struggled with that in the past, being sassy on the court, but I think sportsmanship this year is a lot better than it has been in the past.”

Doud, who has the team off to an 8-2 start in her first season as head coach, said all the credit should go to the girls.

“I was taken aback from it in a very moving way,” she said. “The kids came up with that on their own. Basketball is an important part of life, but they were able to push away the result of the game, and felt a need to reach out and help.”

Doud said Spaulding came up to her during the game and asked if she could run to her locker. The timing was off, although “very sweet.” Doud had no idea what they would carry out the idea after the game. 

“Knowledge of the gesture for me came well after the fact,” she said. “That’s the first, and I’m not sure I will ever see something like that happen again. It really leaves you speechless. Character is huge. I’m not so sure anyone can top that.”

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Kris Mills is a sports reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at 317-477-3230 or kmills@greenfieldreporter.com.