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Without Wortham, Eagle’s Landing continues on

Photo by Derrick Mahone: All tests so far have come back normal for Eagle's Landing guard Eric Wortham, Jr., who had a seizure on Friday at the school. He is expected to miss the Golden Eagles' semifinal game on Friday against top-ranked Columbia in Macon.

Photo by Derrick Mahone: All tests so far have come back normal for Eagle's Landing guard Eric Wortham, Jr., who had a seizure on Friday at the school. He is expected to miss the Golden Eagles' semifinal game on Friday against top-ranked Columbia in Macon.

By Brian Paglia

bpaglia@news-daily.com

Friday’s meeting between No. 6 Eagle’s Landing and No. 1 Columbia in the Class AAA semifinals was already well-stocked with compelling storylines — from the re-re-match, to another DeKalb vs. Southern Crescent showdown, to the individual match-ups between talented players — before Eric Wortham Jr. had a seizure last Friday.

Despite numerous tweets to the contrary, Wortham Jr., the Region 4-AAA Player of the Year, is all but ruled out of the Golden Eagles’ 8:30 p.m. game Friday at the Macon Centreplex as he continues to recover and doctors search for answers to why he had a seizure Friday afternoon during school lunch and went into cardiac arrest.

“We know he won’t play this weekend,” his father, Eric Wortham Sr., said. “He still believes in his mind he’s going to play. Right now we’re trying to find out why this happened so we can prevent this from happening again.”

Indeed, Wortham Sr. said all MRIs, including one early Monday morning, have come back normal. Doctors are expected to have an answer for the Wortham family Tuesday.

Some of Wortham’s classmates thought he’d simply passed out Friday, but it was far worse. He required CPR, was shocked twice, stabilized at Henry Medical Center and air-lifted to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Wortham didn’t open his eyes until 1:30 a.m., Saturday morning. He didn’t fully wake up until 4 a.m.

“It was about as bad as you could imagine,” Eagle’s Landing coach Clay Crump said.

And yet, 16 hours later, the Golden Eagles — many of whom spent hours at the hospital Friday night waiting for news about their teammate — had a basketball game to play. Crisp County waited, hoping to avenge its loss to Eagle’s Landing from last season’s state tournament.

Crump said he hoped the shock of the previous hours wouldn’t spill over to the court, and it didn’t — save for this Eagle’s Landing team’s penchant for last-minute dramatics. The Golden Eagles let a 13-point third quarter lead slip away, and needed, yet again, some heroics from Marquis Griffin.

Against Central-Macon in the second round, Griffin hit back-to-back 3-pointers in overtime to spur Eagle’s Landing to a 67-65 win. On Friday, he made a fourth-quarter 3 to bring the Golden Eagles back against Crisp County.

Without Wortham Jr., Crump knew his team needed to raise their performance collectively. And so Keith Colquitt, the team’s lone senior, carried Eagle’s Landing offensively in the third quarter against Crisp County. And Jordan Sessions, the 6-foot-8 sophomore called upon to replace Wortham Jr., finished with a team-high 15 points.

“That was huge,” Crump said. “Eric is such a huge player for us — I mean, he’s the region player of the year — and to get scoring out of that position was just huge.”

But, undoubtedly, Wortham Jr.’s rapid recovery has been even bigger for Eagle’s Landing’s peace of mind. He is back to walking and maintaining conversations. A stress test Monday came back normal. Playing in Friday’s game against Columbia appears doubtful, but Wortham Sr. said they hope to attend the game.

Just four days ago, Wortham Sr. had the shock of his life. Speaking on the phone Monday, he sounded calm and reflective.

“We’re getting better,” Wortham Sr. said, “because as he gets better, we get better. Now it’s just wait and see, trying to see what caused it.”