DES MOINES — Seemingly everything went Waverly-Shell Rock’s way in a substate win over Forest City last Monday.

Not only did the Go-Hawks punch their ticket to the Class 3A state tournament for the sixth time in seven years, their decisive 71-55 victory made it possible for 12 different players to see the floor before the game was over.

Unfortunately, outside circumstances prevented the win from feeling like a total team effort.

Jordan Gayer had been through this before. When he was in fifth grade, Gayer, now a junior at Waverly-Shell Rock, needed a bypass operation after a clot in his left leg stopped the blood flow to his foot.

Though he came out okay, Gayer was told the issue would likely resurface in the future. Unfortunately, that day came quicker than anyone expected.

“They figured I’d be able to get through high school and college before they needed to do anything,” Gayer said. “But I guess things happened a little bit faster than they thought.”

Problems arose on Thursday, Feb. 23.

While his teammates were advancing through the postseason with a 54-39 district win over Decorah, Gayer was rendered virtually motionless in a hospital bed in Iowa City, fearing another major operation would be needed.

He remained hospitalized the following Monday, the day of the Forest City game. Sensing he may need a pick-me-up, players and coaches did their part to make him feel like he was part of the action.

Before going out for warmups, the team spoke with Gayer on FaceTime. They also arranged for the game to be streamed live on YouTube, with two Waverly-Shell Rock students providing commentary.

For Gayer, the pregame interaction provided a welcome sense of relief during a trying time.

“By the time they played their game I’d been flat on my back for two days straight,” he said. “So it was really cool to catch up with them for a little bit. Especially before the game.”

The conversation also provided a morale boost for Go-Hawk players.

“That’s more motivation for us,” star center Austin Phyfe said. “We want to win for him because we don’t want to end the season with him not being with us.”

From the looks of it, they won’t have to.

Doctors were able to remove the clot without having to subject Gayer to a strenuous operation. He was discharged Tuesday and placed on a blood thinner.

The day after his release, less than a week after the ordeal began again, he was back at practice, welcomed with open arms by a team excited to be seeing him in person.

He isn’t completely in the clear, and there remains a real possibility another operation will still be needed in the future.

Luckily though, Gayer, who also plays football and soccer, won’t be inactive for long. Not only is he expected to be able to return to the playing field without limitations, his doctors were able to lay out a plan that will allow him to begin offseason training “within about two weeks.”

And while he won’t be able to participate in the state tournament, he anticipates being healthy enough to travel with the team.

Gayer admits he’d love to be in uniform when the top-seeded Go-Hawks open the 3A tourney against Atlantic on Tuesday. But after the events of recent weeks, simply seeing a game in person will provide a welcome change of pace.

“I’m just excited to be in the environment and to be a part of a team with a chance to do something this year,” he said.

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