Dilbeck signs with Cumberlands

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By Robby O'Daniel

Madison Dilbeck hit the game-winning free throw with three seconds left to lift the Lady Blue Devils past Hancock County, 35-34, in the first round of the district tournament at Washburn School back on Feb. 14.

The team celebrated after the win, which clinched the team’s first trip to region since 2009, according to head coach D.J. Osborn.

The win also cemented for Dilbeck that she wasn’t ready for her basketball-playing days to end.

“When we won that game, I was like, ‘I can’t stop playing ball because I love playing basketball,’” Dilbeck said. “So I asked D.J. if he could help that night, and I got a text from her [University of the Cumberlands graduate assistant Olivia Farmer] that day. So I texted her back right after that game and said, ‘Yeah, I’m interested in playing.’”

So Dilbeck signed to play junior varsity basketball at the University of the Cumberlands on Tuesday afternoon in the Jellico High School gymnasium.

“At first, I really didn’t think that I was going to play ball in college,” she said.

She initially planned to attend East Tennessee State University, but Dilbeck said Osborn had approached her about playing at the next level.

“It feels really at home and it’s not far away from home, so I could come home any time,” she said on ETSU. “And I know a lot of people up there, so it’s easy to fit in.”

Osborn said, “I think it’s a really good honor for our program, but I’m happy for Madi, something that she wanted to do. And I’m happy that she’s got the opportunity to go to the next level and continue playing basketball. And hopefully it turns into something bigger for her. So I like it for the program, but most importantly, I like it for Madi.”

He praised her character.

“Madi’s a fantastic person,” Osborn said. “Her parents have done a really good job raising her, and she’s a fantastic, fantastic person. She’s been a leader for us all year, all basketball season — and not necessarily, she wasn’t always vocal — but she always led by example, whether she would twist her ankle in a game, she’d tape it up, go back and play or just in practice, she would push herself and play through some things that a lot of players aren’t tough enough to play through. And so I’m just really just excited for this opportunity for her, that she’s got the opportunity to prove to other people the kind of person that she is. And I, no doubt, believe that she’ll do great with this opportunity.”

She plans to pursue becoming a physical therapist by getting a bachelor’s degree at the University of the Cumberlands and then getting her doctorate from ETSU.

“Honestly just playing sports got me interested in that because I’ve hurt my ankle a lot throughout my career of playing sports, and I’ve been through a lot of physical therapy getting it healed and stuff, and it really interested me to help others, especially younger athletes,” Dilbeck said.

She thanked Osborn.

Dilbeck, who turns 18 in days, is going through conflicted emotions as she graduates. She’s excited for the next chapter but enjoys this one, as well.

“I really don’t want to graduate high school,” she said. “I love high school, but I’m happy.”