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poca feature

Poca’s Isaac McKneely throws down a dunk during the Dots’ victory over Bluefield during the state tournament.


It seems like such a trite, mundane way of life. Or at least it once did until about 14 months ago.

That’s when normalcy abruptly turned into an antique concept with people hiding behind masks and closed doors in fear of COVID-19. Ever since, we have aspired to regain the normalcy we once took way too much for granted.

Just ask Poca’s Isaac McKneely.

Perhaps no one has missed the concept of normalcy more than the Dots’ basketball star. McKneely endured, endured and endured some more, but even the 6-foot-3 junior could take only so much.

That’s why McKneely’s fondest wish is merely to live a normal life again. It sounds pretty darned good to him. It’s easy to see why.

It all started a year ago last March. That’s when the coronavirus reared its ugly head, forcing the Secondary School Activities Commission to halt the state high school girls basketball tournament and cancel the boys state tournament that was scheduled for the following week.

So, McKneely and his Poca teammates lost their chance to play in the 2020 state tournament. Then it just kept getting worse.

So has this been as tough a year for McKneely as he has ever faced?

“Yeah,” he said firmly. “Our whole team really faced a lot of adversity this year. We had a player leave us [point guard Noah Rittinger, who was an NCAA Division I prospect], a COVID shutdown and lost a couple of hard games.”

Actually, Poca was forced to endure a pair of COVID-induced stoppages.

“Yeah, we did,” said McKneely. “We had a two-week one and then we had one where we had to shut down for a couple days. We lost the last two weeks of the season. We [didn’t get to play] our last four games.”

That was the straw that just about broke McKneely’s composure. He couldn’t take any more. The ongoing situations had piled up until McKneely finally reached enough-is-enough frustration.

“Yeah, that was kind of out of nowhere,” he said. “But it gave us time to rest. That’s what we always do, look at the positives. And it gave us time to rest and get ready for the state tournament.”

McKneely was able to put that positive spin on the calamity after the fact. But at the time? He was highly upset.

“It was really frustrating,” admitted McKneely.

His initial reaction was to wonder, first, how much more would he have to endure and, second, when was this merry-go-round of negativity going to end?

Well, now maybe the end is near.

The masks are coming off, the protocols are lessening and we’re actually getting to see people smile again. Which begs the question: Hey, Isaac, how much are you looking forward to next season and — be still my heart — normalcy?

“I can’t wait,” answered McKneely with a relieved smile. “I cannot wait. We had a big crowd during the state tournament, but I’m just ready to get the crowds back and I’m ready to get the jump balls back ... just everything. I mean, this season is one to remember for sure.”

Normal never sounded so good.