Advancing to Saturday's Division IV state Final Four was an emotional journey for Buckeye Central senior Sammi Marcum in more ways than one.
Marcum played in last Wednesday's regional semifinal game after spending the morning at calling hours for her grandmother, Barbara Jean Marcum, who died Oct. 28. She attended her grandmother's funeral Thursday before playing in Saturday's regional final contest.
"It was a little difficult (Wednesday), but once the game started, my team started cheering, and we got some momentum, it just kind of dawned on me," Marcum said. "She was watching me and she was there supporting me. She wouldn't have wanted me to hang my head and play bad."
Along with the rest of the Buckettes, Marcum churned out a solid regional tournament performance, helping her team sweep the competition. Buckeye Central defeated Cardinal Stritch in three games in the regional semifinal before beating McComb in three games in Saturday's finale. Marcum recorded 28 kills and 24 digs throughout regional play.
Emotions continued to run high for Marcum early this week, when she heard the news of her Division IV First Team All-Ohio honor. A 5-foot-7 outside hitter, she was the only first-teamer from north central Ohio.
"It meant a lot to me because ever since I was a freshman I've played with good players who've made the All-Ohio teams. I've always strived to be like them," Marcum said. "I've always really wanted it and just never gotten the chance. I finally earned my spot and worked hard all season to try and get that."
Buckettes coach Bill Bonham said Marcum has worked extremely hard to reach her All-Ohio status.
"She's stepped up 1,000 times over," Bonham said. "It's just hard to describe. This is a kid that has been in the shadows of other good players and hasn't always received the credit she deserves. She knew coming into this season it was her chance and her turn. She knew she could be a senior leader on this team.
"The biggest thing is she approached it with the right attitude. She worked hard in the offseason and played in the regular season with a great attitude on a daily basis."
Marcum was quick to credit her team's chemistry as one of the many reasons for success this season.
She said this is the closest team she's been on, and was thankful to have teammates there when she needed them most.
"She knew we were all there if she needed to talk during school," senior Kendra Schultz said. "She knew we were there on the court. If she was having a bad day, we'd tell her to keep her head up, she's got it."
The support meant more to Marcum than her teammates could know.
"They were really supportive and I'm really glad and lucky to have a team that has my back as much as these guys do," Marcum said.
"It really meant a lot for them to be there and support me through that, just helping me play better."
Friday afternoon Marcum and her teammates will return to action at Wright State University's Nutter Center.
The Buckettes (25-2) will take on No. 1 ranked Maria Stein Marion Local (23-3), at 2 p.m. in a state semifinal matchup.