All Betsy Kneepkens wanted was one picture, of her daughter Gianna, making a basket representing her 11th point scored Friday night in a game played by her Duluth Marshall Hilltoppers at Pine City.
For Gianna, No. 11 would be the 3,000th point of her high school career, an accomplishment reached by only 20 other girls in Minnesota basketball history.
For her heartbroken mother — 90 miles from a gym where pandemic rules limit seating to 44 people and visiting fans are not allowed — it would mean the world to have the milestone documented.
After a much-publicized Facebook plea and some private maneuvering, she'll get the picture. And be able to witness the expected moment herself.
"It's been resolved," Pine City athletic director Richard Engelstad said Thursday afternoon. "Mom and Dad are going to be at the game."
It sure didn't look that way when Betsy Kneepkens went to her Facebook page Wednesday evening.
Her daughter had told her the day before that visiting fans couldn't be at the Pine City game, the latest of many pandemic setbacks going back to the 2020 Class 2A tournament. After beating New London-Spicer 60-56 in the quarterfinals in the Hilltoppers' first state tournament appearance in 20 years, the team was set to play Providence Academy in the semifinals March 13 when they were told the tournament was being canceled because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Acknowledging she was not savvy to Facebook's potential viral power, Betsy Kneepkens started typing with the simplest and best of motherly instincts.
"I am looking for a Pine City parent who can be in attendance on Friday and is willing to take a picture," she wrote in a post, providing details of her daughter's anticipated feat. "We would like one picture taken of her 11th point [if she scores that much]."
A look at Marshall's recent games suggests Mom was being modest about her daughter's chances.
Gianna, a 5-11 senior guard who has committed to play at Utah, is averaging 38.4 points per game this season. Regarded among the top girls' players in the state, she's already had games scoring 51 and 48 points for the Hilltoppers (4-1).
That prolific scoring put her on pace to reach 3,000 points at Pine City, part of a conference that decided before the season to limit spectators to home team fans. The state permits up to 150 people if capacity allows, but Pine City's gym capacity was further reduced by the required 12-foot buffer between players and fans, wiping out five rows of seats, Engelstad said.
Once Betsy Kneepkens figured out how to adjust her post's setting so others could share it, her plea quickly spread. As of Thursday afternoon it had been shared more than 300 times, reaching countless thousands of Facebook users. Among them were members of the parent-loaded, passionate Let Them Play MN Facebook group, with more than 25,000 members.
Several noted that the game would be livestreamed. All well and good, but not the same as a picture, Kneepkens said, something "you can put up and you can take a look at."
The responses yielded four or five Pine City parents offering to take pictures. "Being willing to do that and celebrate for her, that's supercool," Kneepkens said. "That kind of made me cry."
And now Betsy and her husband, Don, will be able to attend the game. Duluth Marshall assigned them some team tasks that allow them not to be counted against the gym's capacity. "That is fine with us," Engelstad said.
The creative solution solidified the Kneepkens' chance to see a historic moment for youngest child Gianna, who sharpened her basketball skills playing against five older brothers, in a season filled with uncertainty.
"We want to be there for her," Betsy said. "It's been a journey. Any parent wants to be there for their kid when they do something that's a little bit of a milestone."