Coach's daughter important piece of team's puzzle

From the sports editor

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He doesn't like to talk much about it, and who would? Why would a father want to recall the day his 5-year-old daughter was hit by a car?

"It was, without a doubt, one of the worst moments in my life. It was a scene that I'll never forget, but I'll always want to forget," mutters Dave Power, head girls' basketball coach at Fenwick, obviously picturing the scene in his head after being prodded on the subject.

It began as a day of sport. Ballgames were going on at the Priory on Harlem and Division. Kids were laughing, playing, frolicking. Dave, in his first year coaching for Fenwick, was prepping his softball team for a game against Regina. He had sent someone to pick up his daughter Erin at a nearby daycare center. The softball game got underway. It appeared to be a pleasant day.

And then came the screeching tires, followed by a loud crash, and then the blood-curdling screams.

The day did not end pleasant, but if you've been following Fenwick girls' basketball the story does.

Erin Power was 5 years old and full of energy, as most 5 year olds are. It was a busy day at the Priory. In one lane on Division St., heading east toward Harlem, cars were backed up at the light. Erin was either eager to see her dad, or excited about watching a softball game, or being a normal 5-year-old when she darted out behind the traffic.

It may be taken for granted that tragedies, or those close to tragedies, usually only happen after an ironic sequence of events. An umpire didn't show up for a Fenwick sophomore baseball game, so the game was subsequently cancelled and many players were leaving the parking lot in their cars. Darn umpires.

If it wasn't for the quick reflexes of one of the ballplayers, Erin may not be alive today.

He hit the brakes, swerved to try to avoid a little girl who had suddenly appeared in front of his car, and smashed into a parked car. But Erin had been clipped. There she was, unconscious, in the middle of the street.

That's a scene parents don't even want to imagine, let alone experience. Try this one on for size: Your only daughter in a coma in the intensive care unit of the hospital for two and half days. Erin suffered head trauma when her body went bounding off the car onto the pavement. The head injury caused small blood spots to form on her brain. She remained in the hospital for 10 days. Her memory and motor skills were jumbled.

"She loved puzzles. Before the accident she could put together a 100-piece puzzle without even looking at the box. Then during therapy, she struggled to put together a small seven-piece puzzle," remembers Dave. "It was heartbreaking."

Erin has long-since fully recovered from her injury. In fact, by the time she was 8 years old Erin was giving her dad, who was quickly building a winning dynasty in girls' basketball at Fenwick, advice on how to prevent turnovers when an opponent shows a full-court press.

"It wasn't long before she was back to being herself," says Dave.

Erin can now do more than put together 100-piece puzzles. She can put together pick-and-rolls, or give-and-goes; she can run an offense. Erin's a starting sophomore on one of the best high school girls' basketball teams in the state, and arguably the country. And watch yourself if you think it's because her father's the highly-regarded coach, for that has only made it more difficult.

"Last year [when she was a freshman] I was adamant about treating her the same as everyone else," says Dad/Coach. "I feel like I overdid it to an extent. I wanted it to be evident to her and to everyone else that she earned her way onto the team. She endured more than the average player. She had to put up with her father treating her like she was someone else's kid."

Erin, whose mother Julie holds records from her days playing basketball at Marquette, now helps orchestrate Fenwick's potent offense and stingy defense. The Friars headed into Tuesday night's first-round playoff match-up against Nazareth with a 28-2 overall record. They're expected to advance to at least the Elite Eight for the fifth time in six years. Erin, 16, averages five points, 4.5 assists, three steals, and two blocks per game.

Now, that's something to talk about.


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