It was halftime and West Ranch High boys basketball was leading Hart by 14 points.
The Wildcats student section, dubbed “The Pack,” was already bustling, but when Pack leader and West Ranch baseball player Timmy Josten handed Maya Evans the Pack’s staff, the volume reached a new high as she led the rambunctious group in a “roller coaster ride” cheer.
Evans, a West Ranch senior and lacrosse player, was diagnosed with leukemia this past fall. In support of her, the school had arranged an “orange out,” in which students from both West Ranch and Hart donned the color of leukemia awareness.
“I’m still trying to recover, honestly,” Evans said. “It was incredible. I would have never expected so many people to be down to give me a whole scene. The SCV takes games really (seriously), and I didn’t think anyone would give me a scene and completely turn that whole gym out for me.”
The Cats basketball team matched the crowd, wearing orange T-shirts for warmups and tangerine-tinged signs covered the gym walls.
At halftime, West Ranch Principal Mark Crawford called Evans out of the crowd and presented her with a massive get-well-soon card signed by the student body. Then the roller coaster, Evans’ favorite part, commenced.
“She did a pretty good job,” said Josten, who regularly leads the Pack. “It was so emotional. It was the craziest roller coaster ever.
“We really had to make sure to give Maya the whole night. We had to get it all ready to let her to know there are people that don’t even know her supporting her.”
The night was capped by a one-point Wildcats win on a free throw by Austin Galuppo. The team’s first win of Foothill League play
“The boys started the hashtag ‘#Win4Maya’ (on Twitter) and Austin Galuppo reached out to me that morning and told me he was going to go extra hard and ball out for me, so when he made those free throws and won the game, I was like, ‘Oh my, this is incredible,’” Evans said.
The event was thought up by ASB Commissioner of Spirit Liesl Block, who played lacrosse with Evans last semester.
“I thought having an orange out game just for her, knowing that she’s one of our most spirited students, I thought she would really appreciate that,” Block said.
“She deserved that night. I really thought it was amazing making it so special for her and seeing her that happy.”
Evans is now home-schooled, but she will graduate with her classmates at the end of the school year. She doesn’t leave home often because of her weak immune system. The game was a special exception and required her to wear a surgical mask, but it was worth it.
“It was incredible to hear my name being called and see everyone be so excited to see me and just have nothing but positive energy toward me and love for me,” said Evans.
“When it’s someone’s peer or it’s someone that they just saw yesterday (that has cancer), it’s more encouragement to rally behind them, because it’s like, wow, it could happen to anybody. You can’t take stuff for granted and nothing is promised in life.”