Saturday was supposed to be a day of focusing on playoff basketball for both the boys and girls teams at Braggs High School.
Instead, the teams and community are coping with tragedy after a single-vehicle crash on Oklahoma 10 Saturday morning took the life of a basketball player and injured a cheerleader from the school.
Pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol report, was 15-year-old Jessi Haworth, a member of the girls basketball team, said Jeff Fry, who coaches boys and girls at Braggs.
The other girl, identified as Montana Nichols, 16, a cheerleader, was taken to Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa. She was stable when she was admitted with head and internal trunk injuries, the report states. Fry, speaking late in the afternoon Saturday after traveling to Saint Francis earlier in the day, said Nichols was expected to make a full recovery.
Meanwhile, players and their families, coaches, teachers, members of the school board and community were passing through campus offering support to one another.
“The bad thing is I’ve been involved in some of these darker moments in a coach's life,” said Fry, who said he had spoken at funerals of players he coached while at Talihina.
“We’re going to be very aware of what we say and how we say it. Everyone grieves in different ways. Some kids are shooting, some kids were crying. Everybody’s doing their own thing trying to cope, and this gym is a special place in this community, so we’re going to have it open for everyone to use as they need to.”
The two girls were close friends. Alex Chandler, a sophomore and a team captain, said Haworth had an impact on the team even as a freshman.
“She was a really good defensive player, and if someone was down, she was one who brought everyone up,” Chandler said. “It’s a big loss for us, and whatever we do from Monday on out is going to be for her.”
Both Braggs teams were to play Buffalo Valley for Class B district championships on Saturday. Those games have been moved to Monday, with all four teams assured of a spot in regionals set for Thursday.
Meanwhile, the area’s basketball community has extended a hand.
Okay High School Coach Chad Clark, who like Fry coaches boys and girls, arranged for the Braggs teams to attend his team’s district games Saturday night at Okay.
“We’re planning on a moment of silence, wearing something blue (Braggs school colors) on our uniforms, decorating the gym blue, just things to show our support for what they are going through, and then we plan on going over there as a team Monday,” Clark said. “A lot of our kids know one another.”
The crash happened at approximately 9:24 a.m., approximately 2 miles north of Braggs. Nichols was driving a 2006 Ford F-250 truck when the crash occurred, Fry said, but the cause of the crash remains under investigation, according to the OHP report. One of the girls was pinned, and one was ejected, but the report does not specify which girl was pinned and which girl was ejected. Neither girl was wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash, the OHP report states.
Braggs School Superintendent Brad Wade, said the community is "coming together to support the family."
"We've opened up the building here, and we've had students up here, and we're supporting them," Wade said. "We've got counselors here and our local ministers are going to be here Monday for the kids, and through the week as needed."
He said the school provided a "safe place" for students to come on Saturday.
Wade said Haworth was "very outgoing, friendly."
"She was very well liked, and she had a very bubbly personality," he said.
In a public statement, Wade encouraged people to "lift up these families in love and prayer, knowing they need strength right now more than ever.”
Staff Writer Cathy Spaulding and Executive Editor Elizabeth Ridenour contributed to this report.