The Lady Yellowjackets took their spots on the floor Tuesday as the national anthem began blaring over the speakers in the Boyd High School gym.
Players stood shoulder to shoulder except for the space between Amber Montgomery and Bailee Luttrell, where Taylor Ragsdale’s No. 23 dangled in the air.
“We’ve been leaving a spot for her,” Montgomery said. “Since she couldn’t make it for the game, we left it open for her.”
While her teammates were taking the floor against the rival Paradise Lady Panthers, their hearts and minds were with the Boyd sophomore that was back at the emergency room at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth Tuesday.
The tough starting guard, who the Boyd Lady Yellowjackets have depended on to shut down opposing guards, is now trying to ward off an unknown opponent that has caused blood clots in her lungs and arms. According to her father Garry, she is expected to see a hematologist Tuesday.
“It’s a scary deal. She’s a normal, healthy kid that’s in unbelievable shape,” he said. “Then she started having a shortness of breath, and her arm started turning purple.
“Hopefully, Tuesday we’ll know more.”
Ragsdale was at practice a few days before going into the hospital Jan. 5.
“Her arm turned blue,” Luttrell recalled.
Montgomery didn’t think much of it and expected the sophomore to work through it.
“There’s always something wrong with her. We thought it was just another thing that would just go away, and she’d keep practicing,” Montgomery said.
Her coach Lynn Cranfill knew it wasn’t normal and sent her home.
“I told her she needed to go to the doctor,” Cranfill said. “She’s such a tough kid and competitive that she wanted to come back to practice. I told her I can’t let you practice. Then two days later she was in the hospital.”
Ragsdale went to Wise Regional Health System in Decatur on Jan. 5 and by the next morning was taken by ambulance to Cook Children’s in Fort Worth. Garry Ragsdale said his daughter was in the hospital for five days.
She was put on blood thinners to try to cut down the thickness of her blood and the clotting. The viscosity of her blood was twice the recommended level.
Her teammates visited her in the hospital and kept her in the forefront of their thoughts. But they admit they are missing a big part of their team.
“She’s good at picking the team up and is positive most of the time,” Luttrell said. “We miss her attitude. We don’t feel like a complete team without her.”
Sofia Scott added: “We do a lot of team bonding, but it’s not the same without her.”
As a veteran coach, Cranfill has lost players before to injury but not like this.
“This is different than an ankle or knee injury,” he said. “This is life threatening. It woke us all up. It shows us that there are important things other than basketball.”
The Ragsdales heard of the team honoring Taylor Tuesday.
“It’s touching,” Garry Ragsdale said. “The week before they left a spot for her. It’s really unbelievable how supportive everyone has been. Not only people from Boyd. But also Paradise and other places.”
While Taylor’s waiting for a diagnosis, the Lady Yellowjackets are hoping she can join them once again on the court by the end of the season.
“If we make the playoffs, she may get to come back,” Luttrell said.
“That’s our motivation now,” Montgomery added.
Richard Greene is the sports editor of the Messenger. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @wcm_rgreene.