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Basketball Team Adds 5th Quarter to Give Student a Shot

South Holt and North Nodaway played what seemed like a typical junior-varsity basketball game Tuesday night, but it turned into a game that no one in the bleachers will forget.
MacKenzie Bohart runs around and plays like a normal kid, but when she was born 26 weeks premature, it was not clear if she would live to see her teenage years.

"Considering that she started out weighing a pound and 13 ounces when she's born, and now we have her 14 years later in a basketball uniform going up and down the court, where we were praying at one time that she would even live," MacKenzie's dad, Kent Bohart, said. "Now she can run and play with the other kids and be just as normal with them and play basketball means the world to me."

"Whenever she first went out there, it was like, 'Oh my gosh, I can't believe this is happening,'" Rana Bohart, MacKenzie's mom, said. "You just don't ever think that you're going to be at this point where she's going to be able to do this."

When MacKenzie was born, her stomach was not connected to her esophagus. She's gone through 17 surgeries including one removing a portion of the right side of her brain resulting in the loss of peripheral vision in her left eye.

"She has to scan with her head more than a normal child would, so seeing her being able to play basketball and turn her head to see a ball coming from that direction has paid off," Kent said.

MacKenzie's made a habit of overcoming obstacles. She made her debut on the hardwood in a junior-varsity game Tuesday night, and she did not disappoint. MacKenzie scored six points in an extra quarter played between South Holt and North Nodaway.

"She's put in a lot of hard work coming to practices along with every other girl, so it was just nice to see that practice pay off," South Holt's girls basketball coach Steve Waigand said.

Special education teacher Bryana Haugen works with MacKenzie in school, and also attends basketball practice with her. Haugen was also proud of MacKenzie's achievement.

"She gets to work with the girls and works with the coaches, and you just see the joy in her face. It lights up the girls and lights up practice."

MacKenzie's chance to suit up for the Knights would not have happened if not for the sportsmanship from North Nodaway.

"High school athletics isn't all about winning and losing," North Nodaway's girls basketball coach, Doug Freemyer, said. "It's about giving kids a chance to compete and have fun."

"Both teams cheering for one student on the opposite team, that's pretty exciting," Rana said.

Coach Freemyer was able to use Tuesday night's game as a life lesson for his players.

"There's a lot of things in life that are important, and it's not just about that winning and losing. It's about working together, working with people."

It was a night that the Bohart's will never forget.

"I never dreamed that it would actually come true," Kent said. "I knew she wanted to. She wants to run and play and be like a normal child. That's what we tried to offer her. It just means a lot to see how happy she was tonight on the court. I wouldn't trade this for the world."
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