It was a night Findley and his fans will never forget

Stonewall senior Clayton Findley accepts the runner-up trophy for his team Saturday night at the 2021 SRT Tournament in Roff. 

Saturday night at the 2021 SRT Tournament in Roff was about much more than basketball.

It was about sportsmanship, love, admiration and support.

It was evident before the title game between Pontotoc Conference rivals Stonewall and Roff that things were going to be a little different than just a normal basketball championship contest.

Roff, the home team, was introduced first.

Then, when it was time for Stonewall's starting lineup to be announced, senior Clayton Findley's name was called out last.

The planned introduction reversal was to honor and show support to Findley, who lost his mother (Tonya Taylor) in a UTV accident the Sunday before.

The senior SHS leader gave high-fives to each Roff player after his name was called  before heading to center court, to join his teammates. It all happened during a standing ovation by the crowd inside the Roff gymnasium.

It was a magical moment in local sports history. If anyone inside that building didn't get goosebumps during that special time they probably weren't breathing.

When Findley exited the game for the final time late in the fourth quarter, he got a similar standing ovation. His smile was worth 1,000 words.

Then, after the two teams competed hard for four quarters and the final buzzer sounded, Roff players rushed over — ignoring COVID-19 protocols for good reason — and more handshakes, hugs and high-fives were delivered.

Hannah (Cochran) Rowland may have said it best on her photography business Facebook page.

"I watched a ballgame tonight that makes you proud of small towns, that makes you realize people are 'in your corner', that shows you the love you can’t buy in big schools. Small towns show that no matter how hard life can be there’s always someone there to pick you up," her post read.

"These moments are moments you can’t put a price on. You can’t always have these. But when you do witness them, it will bring the tears and a feeling of joy in your heart even though the world shows us so much hate and negativity," Rowland's post stated.

Findley has known many of Roff's players for years and gave his own thank you to them and the fans in attendance via social media.

"Some people know that I played baseball with most of them from a young age and they have treated me like brothers ever since and have never done me wrong. I have respect for every single one of these kids and that will never change. They are family to me," Findley's post read. "And to the parents and people in the crowd, I can’t do much but just say thank you for the support. Y’all made my entire week and I will never forget this."

It was a moment that will last for a lifetime — not only for Findley but for those that were there to witness it.

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Jeff Cali has been covering sports in the Ada area since the mid-90s. He graduated from Byng High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from East Central University.

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