HOLDEN – He wasn’t there physically, but all the folks in attendance at Holden’s first-round girls Class B playoff game with Maurepas had to do was look around.
Nathan Raymond showed up in many ways during the Lady Rockets’ 73-22 win over the Lady Wolves at Holden on Thursday.
“It just kind of pushes you to play better in the playoffs and get it done for him because he’s looking down on us now, and you want him to be smiling – you know he’s smiling already, but you just want to make him smile even bigger,” Holden senior Emma Hutchinson said, while noting the importance of the Lady Rockets playing Livingston Parish and District 7-B foe Maurepas in the school’s first game since Holden student-athlete Raymond was killed Feb. 16 in an auto accident.
No. 7 Holden will host No. 10 Choudrant, a 61-32 winner over Weston, in the regional round next week.
Starting with a gym clad mostly in red, Raymond’s favorite color, it’s safe to say Thursday’s game wasn’t about which team anybody was rooting for. Everyone in the gym was on the same team.
“It was really about just helping out a local community,” Maurepas’ Emma Gautreau said. “It wasn’t about the win or the loss … it was all about coming out and supporting another community that’s close to us.”
In a tribute to Raymond, who wore No. 33 for the Holden boys basketball team, the game clock was set to 8:33 before the game started, and 33 seconds were run off as the gym went quiet in a moment of silence.
“I told my girls ‘Hold it together. Be respectful. Try to put yourself in their shoes’, and you could tell by the emotions from their cheerleaders, their basketball players, it was very hard,” Maurepas coach Brittany Lauzervich said. “Even some of our players, cheerleaders, they got emotional, too. You’re together with these kids every day, and we were blessed and honored to be a part of it.
“It was meant to be,” Lauzervich said. “The night before, (the pairings) had us not playing each other, and then the next morning, we woke up and it was there.”
Holden coach Pam Forbes is hopeful the game will help start the healing process for Raymond’s family and the Holden community.
“All I can say is how awesome was it that the two communities came together?” she asked. “Tonight was more about basketball. I think we used basketball to help get through this.
“I want to say that our school administration has done a very good job of helping our kids through this week. We’ve had several things and activities to help our kids and to teach them that as horrible as this is, we have to figure out a way to pick ourselves up and go to the next thing.”
When the game started, it was all Holden, with the Lady Rockets relying on their full-court man defense to score off turnovers during a 16-0 run to open the game that was capped by a 3-pointer from Jaycee Hughes.
Maurepas got its first points when Jaci Williams was fouled on a 3-point attempt and sank all three free throws, cutting the lead to 16-3.
The Lady Wolves got as close as 17-4, but Holden continued its pressure defense, working its transition game as Cambree Courtney’s layup put the Lady Rockets up 33-5 at the end of the first quarter.
There’s that number again – 33.
Kacey Breithaupt’s steal and assist to Megan Breithaupt extended the lead to 44-7, when the Lady Rockets went to their bench for a full set of subs.
Kacey Breithaupt, Raymond’s girlfriend, changed her jersey number to 33 – there it is again -- before the game and scored six points while wearing a red ribbon in her hair, including consecutive baskets late in the second quarter, pushing the lead to 54-13.
“Nathan was always a hard worker, and he always wanted to be the best at what he did, and I just want to be the best at what I do,” she said of her decision to change numbers. “Knowing that he would want me to work hard in this game really helped me get through the whole game and work hard the whole game.”
Maurepas’ Williams, who led the Lady Wolves with 10 points, scored the last three points of the first half, making the score 54-16, while Sloane Bercegeay added six.
At halftime, an impromptu half-court shooting contest broke out, with fans and cheerleaders from both teams gladly chunking down $1 (or maybe more) to participate.
Former Holden basketball player Damien Richardson hit the first half-court shot – and did so in a brace he’s wearing while recovering from a broken leg. Before the contest ended, Maurepas assistant coach Lacy Loupe connected on a half-court shot as music played and coaches and players from both teams soaked in the atmosphere with smiles on their faces.
Just before the third quarter began, Holden co-coach Craig Forbes told the team “Have fun”. On this night, that’s all anyone wanted to hear.
“Basketball is the least of our worries right now, but we’re going to play, and we’re going to play for Nathan, and we’re going to get through it, and we’re just going to do it all for him,” Hutchinson said
Madeline Richardson’s 3-pointer sent Holden into the fourth quarter with a 65-21 lead, and before the fourth quarter started, Holden assistant principal Rusty Hutchinson announced the night’s festivities produced over $2,400 for Raymond’s family.
The game enabled both teams to work their benches, with Holden going on an 8-1 run in the final quarter.
At the end of the game, no one was really worried about the final score. Coming together for a common cause was more important.
“Everybody knew him and everybody loved him,” Hughes, who finished with 18 points, said of Raymond. “Everybody had a story about him and everybody could tell you that he was a great person, and I felt like because we’re such a small community, we can do really big things with how much we care about each other and things like that. I think it’s really amazing that I’m a part of this community. I’m really blessed honestly.
“We love Maurepas, and whenever I heard about what they were deciding to do for Nathan’s family and for our community, it made me feel like us small towns really know what we’re doing even if we don’t have the most. I just really respect them for how they treated us tonight, because it was nothing but love here.”