Junior varsity and varsity girls basketball games were only half of the reason members of the Fredonia community filed into the high school gymnasium Friday night.
There was a much more important cause.
Seven months ago, Class of 2012 alumna Alice Moore was diagnosed with leukemia. And with the girls' basketball season under way, varsity coach Carol Zirkle - and others - decided they needed to do something to help in Alice's fight. The final product ended up being a schedule of three games to be played for Alice's Army, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Kaely's Kindness, a cancer support group for teenage girls.
OBSERVER?Photos by Justin?Goetz
Above, the Moore family gathers to support Alice Moore, seated, who is fighting leukemia. The Fredonia Lady Hillbillies hosted “Alice’s Army:?Winning the Battle Against Leukemia” on Friday. Below, Fredonia’s Krista Wheelock, right, drives to the basket while being defended by Immaculata’s RayAnn Call during the non-league game.
OBSERVER?Photo by Justin?Goetz
Rachael Smith, left, is guarded by Leslie Niebel during Friday’s Fredonia girls basketball alumni game.
"It's amazing," Alice said of the support she's received. "I can't even begin to put into words how cool it is."
The night featured a double-header between the Fredonia and Immaculata jayvee and varsity teams, which was followed by a Lady Hillbillies' alumni game. All of the proceeds from the ticket sales to the concession stand, silent auctions and everything else in between went to benefit Alice Moore's battle against cancer.
"I think coach (Zirkle) and the girls decided they wanted to do this for me," Alice added. "It's just so amazing that they did all this for me. I just couldn't believe it."
By the end of the night, an estimated $4,800 had been raised to help Alice, Roswell and Kaely's Kindness, proving once again that small towns have big hearts when it comes to helping out one of their own.
"It's just overwhelming when you stop to think about it," Alice's father Kevin Moore said. "Cancer is one of those things that you know people that have it, you hear about it and you feel for them. But you never think it's going to happen to you and when it does happen to you, it changes your life. And it changes your life too, with events like this, seeing the type of compassion that people have. You live in a place and you work there and your kids go to school there. And you know you're a part of the community, but when something happens like this, you feel extra special. And to me, that's the type of community Fredonia is. We're lucky to live here and have such great people that live in the community."
Zirkle was pleased to see her former player out and enjoying herself.
"It's just nice to see her here," Zirkle said of Alice. "The girls all know who she is, they know what we're doing this for and it was nice that she could make it."
Kevin Moore and Alice's sister, Grace, were happy to see a smile on Alice's face given what the last seven months had brought her.
"I know she gets worn out and she gets tired a lot," Grace said. "But to see her just being with her friends and having a little normalcy in her life is really great."
"Since Carol had brought the subject up, she's been looking forward to it," Kevin said of Alice. "And it's been a good focal point for her to get to as well. So it was nice. It was really nice."
There was even an extra special guest on hand Friday night - Olympic Gold Medalist pole vaulter, Jenn Suhr, who was a Class of 2000 alumna, and a pretty good basketball player in her day.
"We drove in for Christmas with my family and spent the night," Suhr began on how she heard about Friday night's activities. "And I opened up the sports section (of the OBSERVER) and saw orange and that caught my attention."
After reading the story about Alice in Thursday's edition of the OBSERVER, Suhr and her husband Rick wasted little time in deciding to stay a couple of extra days.
"(Rick) said that this is definitely something that we want to be a part of," Jenn Suhr said. "It's something that is close to our hearts. And from what we heard about Alice and the good things we've heard about (the event), we just wanted to show our support for it. "It was a no-brainer that this was something we were going to be a part of," Suhr continued. "I actually had to work out (Friday) so we went back and I jumped and we (drove) back here as fast as possible. We just knew that we couldn't miss this opportunity (to show support for Alice)."
Playing in the alumni game, which had representatives from the Class of 1999 on up to the Class of 2013, were former standouts Kathy Meder, Ashley Scudder and Sarah (Bogardus) Burnett, who is now the girls varsity head coach at Dunkirk.
"It's great to be a part of something like this," Burnett said. "I think it really does speak volumes to the Fredonia program that this many people showed up to support Alice. I really think this is wonderful that everybody showed up to show their love and support."
As Burnett's buzzer-beating 3-pointer fell through the bottom of the basket to give the Orange Team a 38-35 win over the Black Team, a night that Alice Moore surely won't forget came to a close. But the love and support she received will last her a lifetime.
"It's not easy, I just take it one day at a time," Alice said. "There's a lot of days where it's hard to get up in the morning, but then I think about everybody that's out there thinking of me and praying for me, and it just gets my butt out of bed."
As for the varsity game, Immaculata sophomore forward Jordan Heinold scored 27 points as the Bears defeated the Lady Hillbillies, 55-40, in a non-league contest.
"Their big girl had 27 points," Zirkle said of Heinold. "If you take away half of her points, we're right in that ball game. I think we have to learn how to stop the big girl. We have to do a better job boxing out and in the first half we didn't do a very good job of boxing out. Especially in the second quarter."
Heinold made her living at the free-throw line as she made 15 of 16.
"She can play in the backcourt, she posts up for us, she knows how to handle the ball, she can shoot from the outside" Immaculata head coach Andrea Drabik said. "She can do a little bit of everything."
In the first quarter, the Lady Hillbillies jumped out to leads of 9-3 and 12-6 before the Bears charged back to take a 13-12 lead into the second quarter. Immaculata outscored Fredonia, 15-9, in the second quarter to take a 28-21 lead into the break.
"They kept pushing it inside and I had both starting forwards on the bench in foul trouble," Zirkle said. "And they were in foul trouble because we weren't playing it quite right. We didn't have enough pressure on the guards.
The Bears started the second half just as strong as they had finished the first, increasing their lead to 34-22, before the Lady Hillbillies were able to slow them down.
Fredonia found itself down 38-30 heading into the final quarter, where Immacualta was able to pull away for the win.
Morgan Genovese led the Lady Hillbillies with 17 points while adding five rebounds, Alicia Deering had eight points and a team-high seven rebounds and Hannah Cybart chipped in seven points off the bench.
"We're getting there,"?Zirkle said. "We're just going to keep plugging away. We play tough teams like Immaculata to get us ready for our league and the playoffs."