Marlene Valcin was in the passenger seat in Denay Poole’s car when her basketball season was ripped away.
The two were hit when another car jumped the intersection near 30th Avenue East and Fifth Street East and struck them as they headed to Southeast High for the Seminoles’ basketball game against Sarasota Riverview on Monday, head coach John Harder said.
Both Valcin and Poole, who takes stats for the Noles basketball team, were injured.
Valcin was sent to the emergency room at Manatee Memorial Hospital for a broken left arm.
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That occurred when Valcin’s instincts took over. She extended her arm in front of the smaller Poole, a cousin of Atlanta Falcons defensive back Brian Poole, to block the airbag from crushing her skull, Harder said.
“It’s miraculous that a girl would have that kind of composure and strength,” Harder said. “Denay is her best friend and she is very, very small. In the back seat was Denay’s 3-year-old and 5-year-old brothers and sisters. It was like she was on the court protecting everybody involved at her own expense is the way I look at it. She’s always been that way.”
The Florida Highway Patrol was on the scene, which involved a black Mitsubishi Mirage and a Honda, but no other details were immediately available.
Harder said both cars are totaled. He added Valcin is in a cast for the next couple of days until she sees an orthopedic surgeon when the swelling goes down.
“There’s at least one surgery, if not more,” Harder said. “And then a more permanent cast will be put in before there is therapy.”
Harder said he wasn’t given a timetable on her recovery, but his vast coaching experience tells him it’s at least 10 to 12 weeks.
That rules Valcin, who is Southeast’s leading scorer with 11 points and 10 rebounds per game this year, out for the rest of the 2016-17 season.
“She was the only senior that stayed with me when everybody else left,” Harder said. “She was holding her own for a college scholarship, and it’s heartbreaking after three years of varsity work of washing cars and going to camp to see it all end like this. It’s awfully sad and we’re all having a hard time with it.”
A multi-sport star with the Seminoles, Harder said Valcin was the basketball captain, most valuable player of the volleyball team, co-MVP of track and Southeast’s seniors selected her as the best athlete among the senior class.
Harder and his team headed to the ER to see the two following Monday’s loss to the Rams.
“My thought was immediately for her sadness and what she would mean to her teammates and her school,” said Harder of Valcin. “My joy inside was that she lived. It could have been much worse. Obviously, her legs are her gift. She’s as fast as there is in Manatee County. She’ll have a chance to run track, I pray the therapy will be done by then. I don’t know. I’m not privy to the doctor’s MRI. But what I feel and what I know about sports and athletic injuries ... she’ll recovery fully.”
Harder added: “May 20th, she graduates. She’ll walk down the aisle. She lived through a two-car collision that totaled both cars.”