RICHFIELD — Normally rivals in just about every way, the residents of Monroe and Richfield joined forces Wednesday night to defeat an even more menacing foe than either face in athletics — breast cancer.
The First Annual Pink Game between South Sevier and Richfield high schools was a huge success as hundreds turned out in pink to support the teams and support the cause of breast cancer research.
After a rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" that featured singers from both schools, the girls' teams played in what turned out to be a nail-biter, with Richfield earning a 36-35 win over South Sevier. Cancer survivors were honored after the girls game and then the boys teams played. Both bands played together and both schools' drill teams and cheer squads performed together at halftime in both games.
Despite the opportunity for distraction, coaches and players enjoyed being a part of the fundraising event that is also meant to raise awareness.
"I love it," said Richfield coach Marc Peterson after the Wildcats came from behind to defeat their crosstown rival at the Sevier Valley Center. "The kids have had fun, and we got the message out. It's a great start, and we've already learned some things for next year."
The fundraising effort was evident, but the girls game proved a change in classification did nothing to minimize the rivalry between these two schools. Richfield moved to 3A and is at the top of the rankings, while South Sevier has struggled after losing all but one starter to graduation.
"The story is Richfield and South Sevier," said Peterson. "Rankings don't mean anything; records don't mean anything. I knew they would give us 100 percent, and we didn't do the same."
The Rams led the entire game thanks to some great defense and big effort on the boards. With less than 30 seconds left in the game, however, Brooke Bliss intercepted an errant South Sevier pass and got the ball down the court to Andrea Christensen, who sunk a basket in the paint with about 18 seconds left in the game.
The Rams' last-second shot bounced off the rim as the buzzer sounded. The crowd was so loud the players did not hear the final horn and officials had to wave off the extra effort that followed.
"South Sevier outplayed us in the first half," said Peterson. "They played with more heart and determination. We did not look good."
Richfield has played well up to this point in the season and with Wednesday's win is now 7-0.
"I thought we were playing well," he said." This is our wake-up call."
The Rams were led by sophomore Kayla King, who scored 18 points and was huge on the boards for South Sevier.
Richfield relied on a balanced offensive attack led by Shacari Hinck, who scored eight points; Tanisha Armstrong, who added seven points; and Bliss, Chelsee Willardson and Christensen each added six points in the win.
"We didn't work at all," said Bliss of their effort. "We overlooked them big time."
Added Willardson, "We thought it was going to be an easy win."
Asked when they felt the game's momentum was moving in their favor, Bliss and Willardson just smiled at each other.
"Maybe the last 10 seconds," said Bliss.