COLUMBIA — The juxtaposition of emotions wasn't lost on Rock Bridge girls basketball fan Lisa Miles.
The aunt of Rock Bridge senior co-captain Hannah Dressler and the wife and daughter of cancer survivors, Miles wore her bright pink "Play 4 Kay" shirt with pride as she pointed out family members in the crowd who had battled the disease or were immediately related to someone who had. The shirt, meant to honor former North Carolina State coach Kay Yow, who lost her battle with breast cancer in 2009, was seen around the stands.
Visit the Kay Yow Cancer Fundraising Page or call (919)460-6407.
Moments later, Miles redirected her gaze, ignoring Bruins junior guard Chayla Cheadle as she sprinted past Jefferson City defenders, finishing at the bucket for two of her game-high 22 points.
"There's a lot of people here who have battled cancer," said Miles, who has been coming to games for 12 years. "It shows up everywhere."
Basketball became less of a focus Thursday evening as Rock Bridge eased away from Jefferson City for the second time in as many weeks en route to a comfortable 62-16 triumph.
On the sidelines, Bruins coach Jill Nagel wore a white shirt with pink trim while players on both sides sported pink shoelaces and several wore pink hairbands. Jefferson City coach Shane Meyer wore a pink tie that his wife "ran out and bought him" after Nagel told him about the plan. Even the referees got in to the act, using special pink whistles for the game.
When halftime arrived with Rock Bridge (17-5) on top 43-12, several fans filed down to the court and made donations for cancer research as Bruins athletic director Jen Mast looked on.
In all, Mast wasn't sure how much money the school had raised in what was believed to be the seventh evening dedicated to cancer awareness during Nagel's eight-year tenure. The coach was happy with the support from the fans on an emotional night for her program.
"Everybody's been touched in some way by cancer," said Nagel, who has dealt with losing her grandfather to cancer and actively supported her grandmother that survived the disease. "Either an immediate family member or friend, someone that they know, it affects everyone that's here, and I think that personal touch makes it so that you can identify with the disease."
Almost to illustrate Nagel's point, a handful of spectators currently fighting cancer stood up and were given a hearty cheer after the Rock Bridge public address announcer acknowledged them during the pregame ceremonies.
The defending Class 5 state champions took care of business on the court, as well, controlling the matchup from the opening tip. Less than three weeks after limiting the Jays to 21 points in a 51-point victory, the Rock Bridge defense was somehow able to top that performance, shutting down Jefferson City and allowing just two players to make a field goal as Meyer's team managed only four points in the second half.
"I was very pleased with our effort tonight," Nagel said. "We talked a lot before the game about execution and being purposeful with our movement ... the kids did a very good job of that tonight."
And while the Bruins' performance certainly warranted cheers, it only seemed right that the crowd's loudest applause went to those warding off something far tougher to handle.
One can only hope that they can find the same success that the Bruins did.