Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
LYNCHBURG — Way back on Sept. 20, one of Bryce Newland’s worst fears became a reality.
Newland, a Paint Valley senior and the Bearcats’ quarterback, was sacked in the second half of a game at Adena. He’d been knocked down many times before but this time, he didn’t get right back up.
Since he made a splash onto the area sports scene as a freshman, Newland had missed minimal time while participating in three different sports.
On the football field, he was the Bearcats’ leader. On the basketball court, he was the big man in the middle, controlling the glass and adding a bonafide scoring option to the team’s repertoire. On the baseball diamond, he was the team’s feared cleanup hitter and smooth-as-silk shortstop.
But on that night in Frankort, as he laid on the ground with his teammates praying beside him, all of the above was in jeopardy.
The final diagnosis was a season-ending ankle injury, one that forced the Bearcats to limp into the playoffs alongside multiple other injuries.
Time, of course, didn’t stop.
Newland was forced to go throughout a rigorous recovery process. His goal was to return to his team before the season ended. But there wasn’t enough sand in the hourglass for that to happen.
So instead, Newland’s focus turned to the basketball court.
“I tried to keep a positive attitude through the whole recovery process, but there were definitely times when it got to me and I didn’t know if I would ever be back,” Newland said. “I have to give a lot of credit to my friends and family for being there and keeping me going.”
When he finally returned to the Bearcats’ starting lineup, he made an immediate impact. The hours of rehabilitation, emotional distress the injury had caused, and the toll his absence took on his team had finally came to a close.
That was earlier this month. Newland has been back for a good while now.
However, Saturday, things came full circle for Newland and his family.
In a 63-46 win at Lynchburg-Clay, one where he scored 19 points, Newland stepped to the foul line in the fourth quarter and sank a free throw. It’s a process he’s completed hundreds of times before, but this time was different.
It was his 1,000th career point, which made his recovery and return that much more complete. As soon as the ball hit nylon, he understood the significance of what had just happened.
“I knew I was just one point away and whenever I got fouled, I tried to not think about what was going on and just focus on hitting the shot,” he said. “When I did hit the shot, I immediately became emotional. After everything that had happened with my injury, plus it was my mom’s birthday … I wanted nothing more than to do that for her.”
Newland’s parents, Deric and Regina, were just as emotional during the moment.
“I went straight to my mom and gave her the ball and told her happy birthday,” Newland said. “My parents told me they were so proud of me and how I’ve bounced back from my injury. It was just a great moment. It probably comes in at number two for me, behind winning a Gold Ball. It definitely means a lot.”
Newland is indeed now “back,” and hopefully for good.
That’s welcome news for the Bearcats, who currently sit at 3-6 overall. With Newland in their lineup, alongside the likes of Cruz McFadden, Cordell Grubb, Jackson Williams, etc., they’re starting to gel as a team.
Make no mistake about it, they shouldn’t be overlooked heading into the second half of the season.
But either way, they’ve got their leader back and that’s more important than any win or loss.
“I think this team is very capable of making a run in the tournament,” Newland said. “We’re getting better every game and we just need to come together as a team and have some confidence in ourselves.”