Girls basketball annual Coaches vs Cancer game: The game with a deeper meaning


Credit: Tina Su

The varsity girls basketball team huddles during their game. Although masks were not required for outdoor sports, all winter sports were required to wear masks this season.

The Wayland girls basketball team played in its ninth annual Coaches vs. Cancer game (CvC), beating Weston 55-38. That’s almost a decade of fans coming to support one of Wayland basketballs’ most anticipated games of the season, ready to cheer on the players and help with fundraising towards finding a cure for cancer.

Although the game is a fun night for many families and friends to come together and cheer the basketball team on, the game originally was started to honor the late Jim Griffin.

“We started this the first year I started coaching the varsity team nine years ago in memory of a former Wayland freshmen basketball coach and guidance counselor, Jim Griffin, who died of pancreatic cancer,” girls varsity basketball coach Amanda Rukstalis said.

The CvC game is not just a way to honor Jim Griffin, but a way to commemorate those who are currently fighting cancer and who have fought it in the past.

“To me, the CvC game means a lot because I have lost people due to cancer, but I also use it to celebrate the people I know who have beat cancer,” junior Lila Powers said.

Every year, Coaches vs. Cancer is a highlight of the season for the girls. Not only is the game special, but also the events leading up to it.

“I really enjoy decorating the field house with my team and wearing the t-shirts as our warm up shirts,” Powers said. “It is a good way to team bond and honor the people we’ve lost at the same time.”

When it comes to CvC, rivalries are forgotten for those two hours when Wayland faces off against Weston. Both teams understand that the game means more than your average high school basketball game.

“I love how everyone comes together to celebrate this tradition,” sophomore Lilly O’Driscoll said. “We play Weston, and I like how although we are rivals, we come together to celebrate and honor anyone who has ever fought cancer.”

Although only the varsity team plays in the special game, it’s an event that many girls in the entire program look forward to. At the game, spectators could find the JV team working at the donation table and helping decorate the field house. Basketball players of all ages pack the field house to cheer on the girls.

“This year was my first year on varsity and my first year [playing in] the Coaches vs. Cancer game,” O’Driscoll said. “When I was in elementary and middle school, one of my teammates’ siblings was on the team and would always buy us shirts to get us excited, so I’ve been going to the game for years.”

When Rukstalis, who played basketball herself throughout high school, talked with her captains about what organization to help raise money for, they chose the American Cancer Society. This year, they’ve raised over $4,500, and more money is still being sent in.

“Our team recognizes that this is bigger than basketball,” Rukstalis said. “It is something we take a lot of pride in, trying to raise more money than the previous season for the American Cancer Society.”