Basketball: A family tradition for competitive spirits
There was no blood, but a toenail might be lost.
The automated external defibrillator, or AED, located just outside the Pine River-Backus High School gym wasn’t required Tuesday, Dec. 24. A plan was in place, however, should its heart-saving qualities be needed to revive the eldest of the Sheley family.
It was the second year for the Sheley Family Christmas Eve 3-on-3 showdown and revenge was in the stale school air. One look at Taylor Flannery’s red face was indication enough that family bonds meant nothing in this clash of lakes area basketball titans.
Between the siblings of Tucker Sheley, Taylor (Sheley) Flannery and Tatum Sheley is a combined 5,013 prep points, two state basketball appearances and three, yes three, Brainerd Dispatch Player of the Year awards.
Between the three non-siblings was a poor father, Dave Sheley, who works too much, Tucker Sheley’s wife Breanna Sheley, who played hockey at Wayzata and St. Olaf, where the two met, and Taylor’s husband Logan Flannery, who does have basketball experience from his time in Lakeville South, but played college football at Bethel University where his wife starred on the basketball court.
Last year the trio of Tucker, Tatum and Breanna won in two games over the squad of Taylor, Dave and Logan. It took Taylor three months to get over the defeat.
“I probably carried (last year’s loss) to about mid-March,” Taylor said. “Winter is long. It’s dark and cold, so it was kind of hard to get over that hump, but summer helped. This year, I would say I really did not do a whole lot until about a week prior. Then we got some shots up. Last year, I came in really, really cold so this year we had at least a week under our belts.”
Tucker graduated from Pequot Lakes High School in 2007. Taylor was a year behind as a 2008 graduate of Pine River-Backus. Tatum graduated PR-B in 2013 and from Bemidji State University in 2017. She wouldn’t mind people knowing she is the all-time leading scorer in school and Sheley history with 2,356 career points. Although, Tucker is the only Sheley to play in a state basketball tournament game.
Taylor was named to the d3hoops.com All-West Region First Team her senior season at Bethel. She was the MIAC’s leading scorer and finished 16th in the nation with 19.4 points per game her senior season. She finished her career as Bethel’s second-leading scorer for points in a season and fifth for a career.
But during the Sheley rematch, it was her husband Logan that carried the team.
“He 100% did,” Taylor said. “I can’t really take any credit, but I’m going to try -- all week long, I told him to get in the gym. Get some shots up. I had him stretch it out this morning. I had him prepped and ready. I knew he could come out and be the MVP if his mindset was right. We worked on that all week and he definitely carried us.”
It didn’t look good early as the Tucker-Tatum-Breanna team claimed the first game with a barrage of 3-point shots. Then things started to falter for the younger group.
“We missed shots,” Tatum said. “I think, honestly, who didn’t run out of energy won. Logan, who had the game of his life, really came through in the end. He had some big 3s and I think maybe saved up some energy where the rest of us didn’t.
“The first couple of games he wasn’t hitting his outside shots so we kind of left him open. We switched screens throughout the whole time, but in the last game, we just weren’t ready for him. He’s a lefty so the shots were pretty ugly coming off his hands so we didn’t think they were going to start to fall, but they did. We just didn’t react well enough to come out with the W on this Christmas Eve.”
During Thanksgiving, Tatum came away with the annual MVP award for the Tuckey Bowl game. During the 4th of July, the game is bean bag toss, but for whatever reason, it took one of the most prolific scoring basketball families in the lakes area to come up with the 3-on-3 tournament. And after watching the ferocity of play one can see why.
“I actually told my sister to buy a mouth guard because I was worried I was going to throw an elbow to her face,” Taylor said. “I wanted to protect that. I will be sore for probably a month for sure.”
PR-B head girls basketball coach Randy Schwegel and his wife were in attendance, but he likely didn’t want anyone to know that. Tucker is an assistant coach for Schwegel at PRB. Tatum is doing some assistant coaching in Pillager and Breanna coached the Northern Lakes Lightning girls hockey team. Taylor and Logan have a young boy who was being entertained by mother Kim Sheley. According to Schwegel, Kim might have been the best player out of the bunch, but she chose not to play Tuesday.
It’s clear, Dave’s Christmas wish is for Tatum to find a boyfriend so he doesn’t have to play either.
“I’ve really had to consider which boys I date just for this game alone,” Tatum said. “I’ve had to be selective who I date because of this.
“Our strategy on my dad was just to leave him open. At least until he made a basket, which he never did. We kept him open and I think that proved useful for the most part.”
The older squad was decked out in red shirts and shorts and green Christmas socks. They all had matching head and wristbands. The younger Sheley’s wore gray shirts because their green ones didn’t arrive in time. They did have green shorts and red Christmas socks.
Teams will be the same for next year’s royal rumble. Tatum Sheley is already planning.
“A month before we’ll get together and get some plays up on the whiteboard,” Tatum said. “We’ll talk strategy and headspace. Where are we at? We’ll meditate, beforehand. We’ll visualize the win.”
Until then, however, Taylor might be a handful for the losing squad.
“So much,” Taylor said about the amount of bragging about to be inflicted. “We lost last year and I have heard about for an entire year. I probably would have acted the worst if we would have lost again so I think mood level will be good since I’m on the winning team. The smack talk will be at an ultimate high.”
And why do this? Why inflict so much pain on your siblings and loved ones? The answer was best summed up by the only non-basketball playing Sheley.
“Anything worth doing,” Breanna said, “is worth overdoing.”