My third-grade son and his friend went with me to a Butte High girls’ basketball game at the Butte Civic Center this season.
Both young boys have aspirations of being professional athletes, so I gave them a tip.
“Watch No. 20 for the Bulldogs,” I said. “That’s Brittney Tierney. Whatever sport you play, play just like Brittney. She plays every play like her life depends on it, and she’s having fun.”
Butte High coach Maury Cook would tell you the same thing about Tierney. He said Tierney is “why coaches coach.”
If you’ve watched the sophomore’s brief Butte High career in volleyball, basketball or as catcher on the varsity softball team, you know exactly what I mean.
Tierney is a perfect role model for any boy or girl aspiring to be great at any sport. Play like Brittney, and you are going to do well.
There are certainly many more local role models playing high school sports in town, but she definitely stands out in my book.
So does Butte Central senior Corbyn Holm, but for a much different reason.
Holm is a positive example for every athlete or aspiring athlete on the planet — high school, college or pro.
She has long been a great model of work ethic with her play behind the plate as BC’s catcher and as an all-around player on the Maroons’ volleyball team.
What she did for the BC girls’ basketball team this year, however, is way off the charts.
In a day when it seems many parents would rather their son or daughter be an All-State player than a member of a state championship team, Corbyn put team first, and we can only hope everyone was paying attention.
Corbyn, who signed to play volleyball at Presentation College in South Dakota, didn’t play basketball as a sophomore or junior for the Maroons. It just wasn’t her thing.
She had enough on her plate helping lead the Maroons to the state volleyball tournament and being the starting varsity catcher since her freshman season.
Between her junior and senior years, though, Corbyn grew 3 inches to stand 5-foot-10. That was a welcome addition to the volleyball team, and Holm had an outstanding senior season for the Maroons.
Corbyn wasn’t on the state champion Butte Central girls’ basketball team last year, but she clearly paid attention when the team was hit hard in the post by graduation and injuries.
The Maroons began their title defense with three of the best guards in the state, but with very little experience inside. The inexperience showed when BC opened this season with a pair of convincing losses to Columbia Falls and Frenchtown at a tipoff tournament in Missoula.
Making matters worse, junior guard Kloie Thatcher suffered a knee injury early in the opening game. The injury wasn’t as bad as first expected, but Thatcher missed seven games.
The Maroons were in crisis mode.
Corbyn felt she had to do something to help, so she called coach Meg Murphy to ask if she could go out for the team.
She didn’t expect to play in games, and she didn’t even care. Even if she was only going to be used as a practice body, Corbyn wanted to put in the work to help her friends and to make the Maroons a better team.
Knowing the kind of athleticism and toughness Corbyn possessed, Murphy of course agreed. And the coach had much bigger plans for her newest Maroon.
Once she got in her mandatory 10 practices, Corbyn joined the Maroons on the bench. Then on the floor.
She was much more than an extra player at practice. She became a key component of the team as BC turned around the slow start and made yet another run at a state title.
Corbyn played in 12 games for the Maroons in the regular season. She scored 45 points (3.8 points per game). More importantly, she pulled down 5.1 rebounds per game and played outstanding defense.
She also played four solid games at the Western A Divisional tournament in Hamilton. It’s no stretch to say that the Maroons’ season very well could have ended a week earlier if Corbyn hadn’t decided to put her friends, school and team above herself.
As the year went on, Corbyn was clearly having fun playing basketball. She was spending more time with her friends, and, as a double bonus, she said she was staying in shape for her college volleyball career.
And, you just know it is going to be a very good college volleyball career.
That’s why every BC fan gasped when Corbyn hit the Civic Center floor while chasing down a loose ball during a loser-out game at state.
That’s why the fans and media alike held their breath as Corbyn stayed on the floor, holding her knee.
You could tell the injury was bad, and everyone immediately feared the three worst letters in sports: ACL.
Those worst fears turned out to be true, and Corbyn underwent surgery to reconstruct her right knee the following week. She’ll loser her last softball season. Her college volleyball career will likely be delayed by a year.
No high school players deserves such a fate, especially not this one. Corbyn did everything the right way. She was a coach’s dream.
In the case of Corbyn, karma clearly took a day off. Or maybe it proved that it doesn’t really exist at all.
Following a game the day after an injury, several people were telling Corbyn how sorry they were to see her injured.
To her credit, Corbyn would have none of it. She didn’t blame the injury on playing basketball at all. She didn’t appear to feel sorry for herself in the slightest.
“It could have happened while I was walking down the stairs,” she said, dismissing the pity.
Even in the middle of what has to be one of the toughest times of her life, there this high school senior was standing tall and serving as a shining example of strength and courage for every person, young and old.
What we learned is that we do not need to feel sorry for Corbyn. She has definitely proven she can handle this injury and so much more.
If there was an award for Player of the Year in the Mining City, my vote this year would go to Corby Holm.
Brittney Tierney would be a close second.
— Bill Foley writes a column that appears Tuesday on ButteSports.com. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74.