It’s funny how life comes full circle. Just ask Woodland senior Jaycee Lovvorn.
Lovvorn was riding high last Thursday after she scored her 1,000th career point in a narrow loss at Cleburne County. It was the next to last game of the regular season for the Lady Bobcats before they started area tournament play Tuesday night.
Two days later – on February 2 – Lovvorn was the center of attention on Woodland’s senior night because a) she’s the only senior on the Woodland girls team, and b) the team was unable to properly recognize her accomplishment because it took place on the road.
That two-day whirlwind celebration of her career was a long way from where she was exactly one year earlier.
On February 2, 2018, Lovvorn tore her ACL in a game against B.B. Comer. It was the final game of the regular season just before the start of the area tournament. The injury caused her to miss all of the ensuing softball season and set her on a long path to recovery to be ready for her senior basketball season.
Surgery, rehab and a clean bill of health were all necessary steps to get Lovvorn back on the court. But taking those steps didn’t necessarily mean that she was completely ready to play.
“At the start of the season this year Jaycee struggled big time because she was so fearful that she would hurt herself again,” said Woodland head coach Scottie Pattillo. “She was scared. She was terrified.”
That insecurity reached its apex when Woodland played its first game against B.B. Comer, the very team against which she hurt herself 10 months earlier, on December 7.
“She didn’t play very well,” Pattillo said. “She didn’t shoot the ball very much either. She missed several layups because she was just mentally out of it.”
The game after that she managed just one point in a loss to Ranburne, and Pattillo sensed the need to address the situation.
“I said, ‘Jaycee, listen. You’ve got to realize that you’ve got to trust yourself and trust God that you’re going to be okay, so that in this sport that you love so much, nothing holds you back from being the best you can be. Because I believe in you. All the girls around you believe you. All the girls in this school look up to you.’ Because she’s the best female athlete in this school. From the kindergarten to the 12th grade every one of them know who she is. They all look up to her. So I said, ‘When they come to the ballgame they’re expecting to see you play like Jaycee plays, which is all out, full speed ahead.’”
The message must have hit home for Lovvorn because the very next game she scored 17 points in a win over RCHS. And she’s scored in double figures in every Woodland game since then, culminating in her 22-point effort against Heflin that put her over the 1,000-point mark.
And despite the fact that it took place on the road, Lovvorn still walked out of the gym with the game ball, courtesy of her grandfather.
“Her grandpa said, ‘I want the game ball,’” Pattillo recalled. “Of course it wasn’t our ball. It was coach Gable’s ball because it was at his place. Her granddad got money out of his wallet and bought that ball from Gable, so she would have her game ball.”
Lovvorn is the first Woodland player to break the thousand-point barrier since a pair of all-time greats passed through the program earlier this decade.
“There hasn’t been a girl anywhere near 1,000 points since the Strains left,” Pattillo said. “Not even remotely close. So for her to do that, that’s pretty remarkable.”
Despite Lovvorn’s consistent production over the years, Woodland has struggled to make much hay in the win column during her career. But Pattillo hopes that her milestone and the overall influence that she has had on a young program will serve as a waypost toward better days ahead for the Woodland program.
The next oldest Lady Bobcats besides Lovvorn are junior Amy Smith and sophomore Kenslie Simpson. The rest of the roster is composed of 7th, 8th, and 9th graders.
“She’s going to pave the way for those girls,” Pattillo said. “Those girls, to have her as a leader to look up to, that’s going to be great for those young girls and their future because they see how hard she plays night in and night out. And not only does she play that hard, she practices that hard.”
“She’s going to be very hard to replace.”