Molino, 27, was a four-year letter winner for the Cougars girls basketball team and a three-time all High Desert League honoree, twice a first-team pick (2004, 2005). At 5-foot 8-inches, Molino may have been a bit undersized, but she was crafty and smart on the basketball floor and used her head to beat the opposition as much as her left-handed hook shot.
Kyle was the school's leading scorer and rebounder when she finished her prep career. Those marks stood until late this past season when Lyndsey Anderson -- a similar player in that she was an undersized post who knew the value of out-smarting her opponents -- took the lead in both of those categories.
Molino had a big smile, kind of a sheepish grin, that left you knowing she had a quick retort coming to whatever witty banter was dished her way. She could take a joke and flip one back. She made you smile because she was often smiling.
I'll never forget just how big that smile was one night in February of 2004. Spanish Springs found itself facing a 41-28 deficit with just over six minutes left in the fourth quarter at home against McQueen. Spanish Springs ripped off 15 straight points over the next six minutes to go up 43-41. McQueen's Brooke York buried two free throws with four seconds remaining on the clock to tie the game at 43-43, but Spanish Springs, which worked relentlessly on its set fast break, had a little more magic left.
Macy Magstadt pulled the ball out of the net before it hit the floor on York's second made free throw. She quickly inbounded to Cougars point guard Jessica Welch, who took one dribble and fired a long cross-court pass up to Molino, streaking down the left side and Molino dropped in a layup. The final horn sounded as the ball dropped through the net and Cougars players, led by Molino, celebrated like they'd won a state title, with smiles as big as the SSHS gym.
That win was huge for Molino and the Cougars as it gave them a sweep of McQueen, which ultimately catapulted the team past the Lancers in the league playoff race and helped Spanish Springs earn a postseason berth in just the school's third-year of existence, the fastest any new large school in northern Nevada had ever earned a playoff berth.
That would not have happened without Molino.
After playing for long-time Cougars coach Christine Eckles, Molino joined her coaching staff for the 2008-09 season and had been an assistant in the Cougars' program each of the last five seasons. Molino made a positive impact on her teammates and the dozens of young women she coached over the past five years.
Molino is the third former Spanish Springs girls basketball player to pass away too young and the school's just a little over 12 years old. Sisters Jessica and Cassie Welch died in a car accident on the Pyramid Highway, on their way to school and on the second day of hoops practice, in November 2004.
That's not the only dose of early death the Spanish Springs girls hoops program has faced. Sisters Myrissa (2014 SSHS graduate) and Morgan Prince (2012 SSHS graduate) lost their father Alan in February 2012 and last month Jaci Carlsen (2008 SSHS graduate) lost her father John. Alan was just 43 and John 51.
If there were men that were bigger champions of their daughters, I haven't met them.
Certainly all sports teams deal with adversity but from a purely math standpoint, you wouldn't think one program -- at a school that's barely 12 years old -- would see five deaths to players and parents. It's a sad anomaly.
So you can see why Wednesday was another tough day for the Cougars girls basketball family. You don't coach basketball or play basketball to see your players and friends suffer through the pain of dealing with the loss of a loved one. And yet, far too many times, the coaches and players of the Spanish Springs girls basketball programs have had to do just that. Fortunately, the bonds and friendships they've built, and the lessons they've learned about family and perseverance, through their time together on and off the basketball court, have helped all the coaches, girls and young women mourn together and heal together.
For years, the Spanish Springs girls hoops team has finished practices or postgame talks with a simple cheer, one word, FAMILY. It seems very appropriate at this time as I know the dozens of young women in that family have texted and called each other, share messages of inspiration and love on Facebook and even embraced for many a hug. The love of our families always helps get us through tough times and I'm sure the love in the SSHS girls basketball family will conquer again after the loss of another loved one in Kyle Molino.
Dan Eckles is the Sparks Tribune's Managing/Sports Editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org