PROVO — Sometimes you win even when you lose. Just ask members of the Provo High girls basketball team.
On Feb. 7 Provo played Salem Hills, and, as expected, Salem Hills won very comfortably, 63-30.
But that night was more than a game between two Region 8 programs. It was about service and an outpouring of love for Hayley Francis, a ninth-grade student at Provo High School recently diagnosed with stage-two Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
It was about raising money for cancer awareness and supporting Hayley and her family.
For the second year in a row, Provo head basketball coach Lance Moore and Salem Hills head coach Mike Conner worked together on a “pink” game for cancer awareness.
The genesis of the idea was purely coincidental; two years ago the pair saw Moore’s daughter playing with a pink basketball and thought it would be a great idea to have a game dedicated to raising money for cancer research.
Then came along a situation that made the game a bit more personal, especially for Moore.
Hayley is a student in one of Moore’s English classes. When he heard about her diagnosis, Moore felt he should use this cause to help Hayley.
“When I found out about Hayley’s diagnosis, I asked the basketball girls if they wanted to honor her and support her. And, of course, the answer was yes,” Moore said. “Hayley is a wonderful, talented young lady.”
Getting Salem Hills on board was no problem, either.
Then the event took on a life of its own.
The student body officers and cheerleaders at Provo High School decorated the gym with a pink motif and hundreds of balloons.
Faculty members and others in the community started donating items for a silent auction. Salem Hills’ program came to the game with pink accessories such as shoelaces and wrist bands for both teams to wear. Moore, who is the head coach of the baseball team as well, got players from that team involved. His assistant coach Cesar Cardoso, also the boys head soccer coach, did the same with his program.
Before the game, Betty Clark, former Provo girls basketball head coach and member of the Utah Sports Hall of Fame, was honored, she a cancer survivor herself.
Then there was the special tribute to Hayley.
First, the Salem Hills team gave her a bouquet of red and pink flowers. Then Provo’s team did the same, and team captain Alison Barnes shared some words of encouragement. Hayley's cousin and baseball team member Joe Francis moved the crowd with a few heartfelt words of his own.
Hayley then received a signed ball from the basketball team along with a pink T-shirt with her name written on the back. Members of Provo’s coaching staff wore the same T-shirt to coach the game.
Finally, the girls from both teams, along with the members of the Provo High baseball and soccer teams, huddled at center court and gave a loud cheer: “Fight hard, Hayley!”
“I want to thank (Salem Hills) coach Mike Conner and his girls,” said Moore. “They are a class act, for sure.”
Moore then went on to heap praises on his school and community.
“I’m really proud to be a Bulldog. The students and faculty really came together to support Hayley and this cause."
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Moore and his team visited Hayley at her home the next day, presenting her with more gifts, hugs and shows of support, including a banner signed by hundreds of well-wishers. Hayley greeted them in her new pink T-shirt.
In all, more than $3,300 was raised specifically to help the Francis family with expenses. But in the end, the game was more than about raising money and the final score. It was about supporting a young lady who has touched many lives.
Brian E. Preece is a freelance sports writer. Donations to help Hayley are still being accepted at Provo High School. Inquire with Colette at the Provo High business office by calling 801-373-6550 ext. 3302.