Jacksonville Daily Progress
On Tuesday the Bullard Lady Panther basketball team defeated the Rusk Lady Eagles in a non-district basketball game that took place in Bullard.
Perhaps, what the evening will be long remembered for will be what took place prior to the start of the contest.
Before the customary player introductions were made, the Lady Eagles presented the Lady Panthers with a bouquet of roses that were tied with red and blue (Bullard's school colors) ribbons.
The roses were given in remembrance of Haley Lombardo, a Bullard freshman and a student-athlete who tragically lost her life in the early morning hours of last Saturday, after being severely injured in an automobile accident the previous afternoon that sadly claimed the life of her mother, Hollie Warren, 39. as well.
Miss Lombardo, 15, took part in volleyball, basketball, softball and cheerleading at Bullard. Her funeral services took place Wednesday afternoon in Bullard.
Rusk head girls basketball coach Baldemar Ruiz said the idea to remember Miss Lombardo came from one of the Lady Eagle team captains, senior Kelsey Blankinship.
“Kelsey Blankinship brought the news of the tragedy that happened in Bullard to my attention and from there we, as a team, wanted to do something to show our love to the Bullard team,” Ruiz said. “At times like this basketball takes a back seat and our players got behind the idea immediately and it meant a lot to them to be able to do this.”
Blankinship had a first-hand knowledge of the feelings that many in the Bullard community have been dealing with the past few days, as she herself lost her mother and a sister at a very early age, as they too, like Miss Lombardo, perished in a car accident.
The Lady Eagles' gesture seemed to be greatly appreciated by many in Bullard.
“Rusk community, your Lady Eagles are first-rate,” Linda Slayter of Bullard said. “The flowers were a very thoughtful and kind gesture — one that our community will not soon forget.
“Kudos to the Lady Eagles. You gave East Texas sports a big helping of class!”