St. Joseph beats Gonzales in ALS benefit game

Jan. 25, 2012 at 12:02 a.m.
Updated Jan. 24, 2012 at 7:25 p.m.

The "Man Up" motto for the St. Joseph boys basketball program might seem simple to outsiders. It stands for five things the Flyers believe will take them far in their walk through life and jaunt through this season.



Never Give Up.



Tuesday, those terms took on added significance because the team attached those attributes to show their appreciation for those in the Crossroads community fighting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Many of the people in the St. Joseph gym wore blue "Man Up Against ALS" T-shirts Tuesday night in the Flyers easy 51-20 victory over visiting Gonzales.

The shirts, as well as the pregame presentation of flowers, were to recognize the fight Victoria residents Carolyn Shimek and Bill Hassell have waged against the disease. When the two took center court moments before the game, everyone in the gymnasium stopped to applaud the pair and show their love toward them.

"I think the fact that we got the win and had the best hustle we have had all year just shows how much we care about all those afflicted with ALS. They really were the inspiration for tonight," said senior guard Chris Mason. "We were getting loose balls and that's what it came down to, supporting the ALS community. We wanted to do our best for them."

Shimek, diagnosed in 2005, is the wife of longtime St. Joseph baseball coach Mike Shimek. Hassel is the Victoria resident that was instrumental in the "END ALS" series of commercials that ran during the World Series last fall.

"That's why we have athletics in high school," Mike Shimek said. "It gives you ample opportunity to learn lessons about life, not just the specific sport. . It helps to attach appropriate meaning to life. It helps you to prioritize."

The T-shirts, which the school will continue to sell through Feb. 3, raised more than $1,000. Through raffles and donations another $950 was raised Tuesday.

"It's a beautiful thing to have all the support," Shimek said.

St. Joseph Head coach Abraham Garcia wanted to designate a game to raise awareness for a cause bigger than basketball. After hearing about the success the Flyers volleyball team had in October supporting breast cancer he approached Brooke Brooks for her help in coordinating a similar game for the basketball program.

Brooks, 16, is a junior volleyball player and golfer, but she has known the Shimek family for years because her dad coached Shimek's daughter Brianna. She came up with the term "Man Up Against ALS" that hundreds wore Tuesday.

Heading into the Martin Luther King holiday weekend Brooks fretted that she and Mason had only sold 37 T-shirts from their original 200 shirt stock. However, by the Jan. 17 deadline, students, teachers and the St. Joseph community rallied to the point she had to call Victoria Longoria at A-1 Screen Printing and Embroidery for more.

"I am so proud of St. Joe for everything they have done," Brooks said. "The boys have worked with me in everything I want to do. The donations have been amazing from all the people that came out and bought T-shirts, it's just awesome how everyone has come together. It makes me proud to be a Flyer. Without this there is no school spirit and there is nothing to our school."

Though there was plenty of cheering for the on-court action as well. When senior Christian Wenske found his brother Luke with an exceptional pass with 1:53 remaining to set up a 3-point play the crowd roared in appreciation. Luke make the corresponding free throw to give the Flyers a 50-20 lead.

Luke had 13 points four rebounds and two steals, while Patrick Sohrt led all scorers with 16 points. Junior guard Jerry Vasquez added seven points and five assists. Mason, mainly a defensive pest to the Apaches contributed two points and three steals to help St. Joseph improve to 21-9 on the season.

Mason noted there was little coincidence his team played so well Tuesday.

When asked just how much his faith has helped his family through the past seven years Shimek's answer was understated, yet poignant: "the gift of faith can take you all the way home."



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