GALLATIN, Tenn. — If you listen closely, in the sea of cheers reverberating from Mt. Juliet (Tenn.) High School’s fans in any basketball gym, you can hear the sound of a cane being hammered into the bleachers.
That’s the property of Kathryn McCrary, a 95-year-old Mt. Juliet superfan who refuses to miss a high school basketball game that involves the school.
And for much of Monday night, McCrary pounded that cane into the Gallatin High gym bleachers as the Bearettes finally found a way to beat Beech 62-53 in the Region 5-AAA tournament semifinal.
“You see,” McCrary said after witnessing her team erase the sting of two regular-season losses at the hands of Beech while also eliminating the Lady Bucs from the postseason. “This is the man right here.”
McCrary – who is affectionately called “Ma” – saved her biggest postgame hug for Mt. Juliet coach Chris Fryer, whose team advanced to Wednesday’s region championship against Lebanon. Lebanon beat Wilson Central 64-48 in Monday’s other semifinal.
“She’s been coming to Mt. Juliet games since I was in junior high school,” Fryer said. “And her presence at our games, all of our games, is such a huge lift for our girls.”
McCrary hasn’t been a lifelong Mt. Juliet fan, but she’s been one since the late 1970s. Her granddaughter, Shana Jones Jennings, played for the Bearettes during their 1986 run to the state tournament, and McCrary hasn’t missed many games in the past 42 years.
“I love the game,” McCrary said. “You know what I love most? I love watching those young kids pour out every ounce of energy they have for a sport they thoroughly enjoy. For someone my age, it’s a joy to watch young kids play something they love.”
Almost nothing stops her from watching her team play. She’s at every home game and travels on the road. On Friday, she made the trip to Paris to watch her team beat Henry County in the region quarterfinals.
And if Mt. Juliet isn’t among the eight teams in Murfreesboro for the state tournament, she arrives at Murphy Center every March to watch whoever advances.
“And I try to sit in the same seat every time,” McCrary said. “I’ve already bought my tickets for the state tournament. Now I’m hoping Mt. Juliet will be there when I get there.”
McCrary will return to Gallatin High on Tuesday to watch the Golden Bears play the host Green Wave at 7:45 p.m.
The Bearettes (26-5) already secured a sectional berth with Monday’s win. Whether McCrary adds more miles to this season will depend on the outcome of Wednesday’s region title game. Mt. Juliet can secure a sectional home game with a win Wednesday.
“You look at her and we see her at every game and it never fails,” Mt. Juliet center Emma Palmer said. “If she’s willing to come out every game at home and on the road, we owe it to her to give our best effort every time out. She deserves to see us at our best.”
A native of Mayland, in Cumberland County, McCrary moved to Mt. Juliet eight years ago and currently lives with family. She lived in Vesta in the late ’70s and early ’80s when Jones Jennings played at Mt. Juliet.
“Actually Shana graduated at Mt. Juliet with Coach Fryer,” McCrary said.
Fryer said he uses McCrary’s presence as a reminder of their ultimate goal.
“She’s going to state regardless of who is there,” Fryer said. “I tell our kids, we need to meet her in Murfreesboro.”