Gantt overcomes tragedy to win state MVP

By Reece Waddell | Published Saturday, November 17, 2018.
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Two days after turning 16 on Oct. 22, Decatur sophomore Makenna Gantt was struck with tragedy.

A heart attack left her grandfather, Bill Gantt, hospitalized. Makenna went and saw Bill in the emergency room, but she did not know that would be the last time she got to see him.

Messenger photo by Lisa Duty.

“We didn’t know he was going to pass,” said Makenna’s mother, Dalene. “It was very sudden.”

During Makenna’s hospital visit with Bill, he gave his granddaughter a message he wanted her to carry out.

“The last thing he said to her was to win,” Dalene Gantt said. “She carries a little picture of her and Papa and kisses it before they play. For her, this one is for him. It’s all for him.”

Saturday against Needville, Makenna fulfilled her grandfather’s request.

The Lady Eagles knocked off the defending 4A champions, claiming their first state title since 2014. And Makenna was at the forefront of Decatur’s championship run.

All throughout the postseason, Makenna executed the Lady Eagles’ offense nearly flawlessly. Her teammates know just how valuable she’s been.

“She’s pretty much irreplaceable — as a person and a player,” said senior libero Alyssa Wallace. “She can do it all. She always brings it.”

A converted right-side hitter, Makenna started setting last year when coach Clark Oberle arrived in Decatur. Oberle said when he first saw Makenna, he immediately knew she could be a special player.

“There’s nothing prototypical about Makenna,” Oberle said. “She made some great decisions distributing the ball offensively. I’m super proud of her with all she’s been through this season.”

A 6-0 lefty, Makenna has done it all for the Lady Eagles, from the service line to the front and back row. She rarely comes off the court.

Less than two years removed from her position switch, Makenna shined the brightest on the biggest stage at the state tournament.  In the 4A final, Makenna buried nine kills, dished out 16 assists and made three blocks.

Her performance earned her MVP honors for the 4A title game.

“When we won last week against Glen Rose, the fact that we got here was pretty emotional,” Oberle said. “But to actually win like her Papa said and for her to win the MVP — he poured it on thick up there, is all I can say.

“She’s come a long way. To be a state MVP in a position like that is pretty special.”

Looking back on her MVP-caliber performance, Makenna said she just tried to be mature about the situation.

“I’m young, but that doesn’t mean anything,” Makenna said. “I have to be on the court 24/7. I just knew we had to keep going.”

Makenna’s mother conceded the past three weeks have been tough, but said there was no doubt her grandfather was in the building Saturday when the Lady Eagles were crowed 4A champions.

“We know he’s watching,” Dalene Gantt said. “He’s got the best seat in the house. Makenna has been blessed with many talents. She’s on this Earth for a reason. She’s a fantastic leader and we could not be prouder of her.”

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