The Knights secured a 48-44 victory over the Skutt Skyhawks in the River Cities Conference tournament semi-finals, guiding them to a championship game against Roncalli Catholic on Jan 17. But there was something much deeper than basketball happening that night for the Mount Michael community.
Tragedy struck for Kyle Pelan ‘21 on Tuesday when his father, Mark Pelan, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly during the night. Despite this, Pelan still decided to play in the game on Thursday, less than 48 hours later. As the team came out for warm ups, the large crowd gave a warm welcome to the Knights, with applause and shouts of “We love you, K-P!” as he stepped onto the court.
“I talked with my family and a few priests and we all thought it would honor my father if I played in it. My dad would’ve wanted me to keep playing because he loved Mount Michael basketball with a passion, so that game was for him,” Pelan said.
Before and after the game, Skutt held a couple of prayers, and the entire crowd stood and faced the cross to pray for Mark, Kyle, and the rest of the Pelan family, as well as for everyone whose life Mark touched.
According to Skutt head coach Kyle Jurgens, it was his captains who offered to have the players and fans pray for Mark and Kyle.
“The prayer meant a lot to me and my family. Skutt showed so much class, and I really respect them,” Pelan said. Having that prayer was very special for me, and although it was hard, it was incredible how everyone came together to say a prayer for my dad. During the prayers I was emotional, but it was an amazing moment where I felt the Holy Spirit with me as Coach Spooner comforted me.”
At the game’s start, the team won the tip-off. There were three shots for the Knights’ opening possession, with the final being put in by Pelan, scoring the first bucket of the game and his only points for the night.
“I just wanted to go out there and play hard for my dad. It was amazing to have the opportunity to play and score the first basket for him … that basket and the entire game were definitely for my dad,” he said.
The game started as a close competition, with neither team scoring more than four unanswered points for the entire first quarter. The Knights then went scoreless for the last seven minutes of the second quarter as the Skyhawks went on a 12-0 run to end the half with a 25-15 lead. Airan Lopez ‘21 ended the scoring drought with a three pointer a little more than a minute into the second half.
The teams then went back to immediately answering the others’ points, and Mount Michael ended the third quarter outscoring Skutt 15-13. The fourth quarter was where the comeback really came to be for the Knights. They went on a 13-1 run for the first six minutes of the quarter, the final basket of which was a three pointer by Brad Bennett ‘21 that sent the Mount Michael crowd into a frenzy. The Knights were then leading 43-39 with just two minutes to go in the game.
A 3-0 run by Skutt brought them to within a single point, but three timeouts in a row followed by two free throws by Kaleb Brink ‘21 in the last eight seconds essentially closed out the game. With a free throw from Parker Hottovy ‘21 and two more from Joseph Chouinard ‘21, the game ended and chaos erupted throughout the Mount Michael crowd.
“It was an amazing comeback, and all I could think about was how Dad was watching over us and granting us this win,” Pelan said. “We would always talk about how we couldn’t wait to get over the hump and beat a fabulous team like Skutt. He would always encourage me that it would happen, and so as we won, all I could think about was how my dad got us this win.”
While the crowd was still celebrating the win, all of the Skutt players got onto the court and shared a hug with Pelan.
“They were so kind and genuine, with all of them giving their best wishes and prayers for me and my family,” he said. “It was a night I will never forget; I felt my dad was with me the entire time.”
The Mount is produced by the students of Mount Michael Benedictine School.