The pain and suffering came to an end at 1:15 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 17, in a hospice room at the hospital in Fredericksburg.
Following is an account of those last few days, with a basketball twist, in the words of Coach Hemphill:
“Let me start by telling you this scenario proves this team is more than a bunch of girls wearing black and orange uniforms.
They are a group of young women with incredibly large hearts.
After our win over Tidehaven Tuesday night, Jan. 14 in Tidehaven, we were having our normal team meeting in the locker room.
After we talked about the game, I told the girls I had something I needed to tell them.
I think they knew what I was about to say.
As tears started running down my face, I told the girls that I was going to be gone for a few days.
Tears began to flow from their eyes as well because they knew my mom wasn’t doing very well.
I told them I was not going to be at practice for the next few days and I might even miss the next game.
I told them the most important thing they could do for me was to practice hard, prepare well and win the game against Palacios on Friday night.
My wife and I left Wednesday morning to head to Fredericksburg to be with my mom.
As the day went on, I started receiving texts from the girls saying things such as, “Don’t worry coach take care of your family, we got this here.”
As we sat in the hospital, the girls kept sending me messages to see if I was okay.
I just kept telling them I was fine and to take care of business at home with practice and the game.
They assured me, “We got this coach.”
My mom passed away at 1:15 a.m. Friday morning.
I immediately messaged Coach Green and relayed the message to her because she was concerned about me as well.
As the morning arrived, I messaged Coach Brown as well.
As the day wore on, I started receiving messages from my team again.
“Sorry about your mom, coach, don’t worry about anything, we got this here.”
I was checking in with Coach Green every day to see how practice was going.
She said they were very focused, very serious and seemed very dedicated to win this game.
This game against Palacios was to be the first game I’ve missed in my 29-year career.
I didn’t find out until after the game that Coach Green told the girls in her pre-game talk they didn’t need to go out to play with sad faces and droopy attitudes.
They needed to go out and play super hard because Coach Hemphill would want it that way.
As I was pacing the living room at my dads house, I sent Coach Brown a text asking her when the varsity game was about to start.
She replied, “It has already started. The score is 5-5.”
Following is the string of texts I started receiving from her next, just like this.
They came almost as fast as you are reading.
Kiasha for 3, 8-5; Ding 11-5; Ding 13-5; Ding 15-5.
I was smiling and crying all at the same time. It was unreal.
Then she texted: “Dude, they are doing work for you.”
Ding 17-5; Ding 21-5.
And tears are still streaming down my face.
Ding 23-5; Ding 28-5; Ding 30-5; Ding 32-5 at half time.
Coach Herring sent a text to me and said, “Coach, your girls are playing like studs for you.”
The third quarter starts and it starts all over again.
Ding 34-5; Ding 36-5.
At the end of the third quarter we were ahead 40-5.
The girls played such good defense, Palacios didn’t score a point in the second or third quarters.
When the final buzzer sounded, the girls had won the game 43-12.
What an awesome feeling I was having at this point, with tears still streaming down my face.
Coach Brown said they were going crazy with excitement in the locker room.
She took her phone into the locker room and put them on speaker phone.
They were screaming and shouting to me, “We told you we had this coach. We told you we’d win for you.”
It was an inspiring moment for the team and for me.
I told them I couldn’t be prouder of them.
Coach Green had done an excellent job of getting them prepared.
She told me after the game that they had really stepped up and gotten it done.
As Saturday and Sunday passed, the funeral arrangements had been made.
The viewing was Monday evening.
My mom literally had hundreds of mourners stop by and pay last respects.
As my brother and I stood at the front of the room, my wife said, “Look who just walked in.”
The room was pretty silent anyway, but it fell even more silent as Jackie Gonzalez, Morgan Klaevemann, Kiasha Brown and Kaitlyn Williams walked in with their uniform jerseys on.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the room, including me and my wife.
After they hugged me in the middle of the room, I walked around the corner of the room and there was two more members of the team, Katie Snyder and Haylee Tanguma.
What a surprise for me and my dad, to have these players show up to be there for me in my time of mourning.
Monday brought the funeral mass.
As I walked into the church, following my moms casket, I looked up and there they were.
Those girls were there in the middle pews, dressed beautifully, with caring looks on their faces.
Gaskins had graciously given them permission to stay overnight and attend the funeral mass for me.
After the mass, as we were filing out, I made eye contact with them again.
All of them had tears streaming down their faces.
They met me outside the church and we all had our hugs again.
They had to leave because they had to get to Edna to play another district game, without me.
They proceeded to defeat Edna as well.
What an awesome performance from my team.
People were still approaching me at the luncheon, saying “What an awesome thing it was when your girls walked in.”
This was truly a special gesture by my kids.
The team had been praying for my mom for the past 20 months.
There was no way they were going to miss this and not be there for me.
They touched my heart in a way I’ll never forget.
I am super proud to be their coach.
Proof that they are more than just a group of girls with black and orange uniforms on.
Thank you crew.
I’ll never forget what you did for me.”