Dallas Gibson riding the Carroll County bench since his injury on Jan. 2. (Courier file photo)
Dallas Gibson riding the Carroll County bench since his injury on Jan. 2. (Courier file photo)
Earlier this season Carroll County head coach Carroll Yager bought a brand new basketball that would travel with his team to road games for a special occasion that he and everybody else in the Panthers' program knew would come even if they didn't know when.

A couple of days after the Panthers' Jan. 2 basketball game at Henry County, Yager put the special ball away because it's intended purpose in all likelihood would never happen.

The "when" was when senior center/forward Dallas Gibson would score his 1,000th career point. The special ball was to be swapped to the host school for the game ball so that Gibson could have it as a memento of the milestone.

All that became a big "if" after Gibson - the Courierarea's leading scorer through December - tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against the Wildcats to end his senior season just 13 points shy of 1,000.

Gibson, who was averaging 20 points per game, was a cinch to reach well over 1,000 points in his career entering January but then came the knee injury.

"I literally did cry when I met with his parents and the doctor on the day they told Dallas his MRI showed the torn ACL and that his season was over," Yager said. "He's just a special person - really as nice of a young man as you'll ever find and basketball is just very important to him."

Nearly a month later with the 2012-13 season winding down and the Panthers preparing to play one of their most-heated rivals when Carroll visits Trimble County tonight, Yager is going to make sure the "special ball" makes the trip to Bedford, Ky.

Dallas Gibson may have lost his senior season but he is going to get his 1,000 points - the rival Raiders are going to see to that.

Trimble County head coach John Leep III has known Dallas Gibson since the 6-foot-4 standout was a middle schooler. He was Gibson's middle school coach at Carroll before Leep left last season to take the varsity job at Trimble County.

"As soon as I found out about Dallas and that he'd torn his ACL I gave him a call," Leep remembers. "I was trying to talk to him and console him and tell him that it would be OK. My best friend in college went through three torn ACLs and I know how tough it is. Dallas is one of the first kids I ever coached - his entire group. His teammates have been great but I wanted to make sure I was there, too, for Dallas."

A couple of weeks after the injury, Leep was scouting Carroll County's game with Anderson County and spent a few minutes catching up with Gibson's father. Joe Gibson noted how disappointed his son was in not getting to play and how he had looked so forward to reaching 1,000 points his senior season.

"He said, 'Boy, I wish there was some way he could make it,' and it got me to thinking," Leep remembers.

Soon after, Leep came up with a plan that would get Gibson his 1,000th point when the Panthers visit Bedford tonight. But first he had to take the proposal to his administrators and then he had to get the blessing of his players because few teams give up points willingly.

"I talked to my seniors first to see if they were on board," Leep said. "They were just overly excited to do it. We've got a heated rivalry with Carroll County, but that has more to do with the parents and the adults than the kids. The kids are all friends, they respect each other and every one of my kids thought this was something we should do and that they wanted to do."

So when the Panthers and Raiders tip off in Bedford tonight, the first 28 points of the game will go quickly and uncontested - Dallas Gibson will sink seven shots to get the 14 points he needs to break 1,000 and Trimble will get the 14 points it needs to keep the game tied.

Gibson will then leave the contest during an injury timeout with the score tied 14-14 and it will be announced that he has reached the coveted 1,000 points. The two teams will then go head-to-head, shoulder-to-shouder, step-for-step and fight tooth-and-nail to the finish - just like always - with the best team winning.

"Scoring 1,000 points is a goal a kid sets when he puts in the hard work and time it takes to become a really good basketball player like Dallas," Leep said. "You've got to play outstanding to do that and there was no question Dallas was going to eclipse that if he had not been injured. We're just going to make sure it happens. It's not so much about the points as it is about helping out a really good kid."

"I've never heard of anything like this before. I've seen teams put in an injured player to shoot free throws on technicals and such to get to 1,000 points if they were a couple short but we knew that was not an option with him needing 13 points," Yager said. "This is definitely thinking out of the box.

"The whole thing probably won't take 40 or 50 seconds out of the game," Yager added. "It's a really good thing we're doing to help a kid that's always been an outstanding citizen, player and student."

Yager conceded that some basketball traditionalists - those who think every point should be contested and every milestone should be forged by competition - might object to the decision. However, he said even the most hardened fan might see things otherwise if they got to know Dallas.

"Some people may not see this as the way this should be done but if those people would stop and get to know Dallas I think they will step back and see this as helping a young man realize his dream after having a great season cut short," Yager said. "Rather than him go through life thinking about the would'ves and should'ves, he's going to get this opportunity. We really appreciate coach Leep and his players for doing this and hope all our fans on both sides will look at this and appreciate it the way we do."

Ironically, Dallas Gibson was originally scheduled to have surgery on his injured knee today but that has now been rescheduled for a few days later. The recovery is expected to last well into the fall but several colleges including Mount St. Joseph, Thomas More and Asbury are still showing interest in Gibson.

And no surprise to Yager - Gibson has always been one of his hardest working players - Dallas took the floor after a Carroll practice the other day to shoot a few hoops ahead of tonight's "start."

"He took a few shots and missed a couple that he rebounded and put back in," Yager laughed. "I told him he better start hitting. We're not going for a double-double here so he better shoot straight."