Michael Sudbrink sat on the sidelines Tuesday night with his youngest daughter, Kiley. As they waited for the girls varsity basketball game to start, Michael stroked Kiley’s hair, kissed her forehead and held her close.
Kiley, 7, a spitting image of her older sister Shelby when she was that age, wore a Templeton High School basketball jersey with a No. 12 — her sister’s number. Kiley and her father were preparing for a moment neither had ever imagined.
The gym was packed, and everyone taking shelter on the rainy night knew the Sudbrinks’ tragic story. Four days earlier, 17-year-old Shelby Sudbrink of Atascadero died suddenly when her Toyota 4Runner slammed into a tree on Templeton Road.
To honor her, the crowd in the stands Tuesday set aside their Templeton green and wore blue, Shelby’s favorite color. It was a continuation of the support shown in the days following her death. More than $37,000 has already been donated to the family to cover funeral costs.
The tributes kept coming, and they filled every inch of the gym with emotion.
When the Templeton team ran onto the court, each player was wearing a T-shirt with the No. 12 on the back. Scribbled below the number was the phrase “Hell Yeah,” one of Shelby’s favorite expressions.
When starting lineups were announced, Kiley ran onto the floor to join the team in her sister’s place and was hoisted high into the air by captain Annie Elterman.
The crowd cheered. Some choked up.
Templeton then started the game with four players, leaving a spot open for their beloved co-captain.
“It was amazing. It was humbling,” Michael Sudbrink said after the game. “I felt that Shelby was with us tonight. I really did.”
When the game against Santa Maria began, Shelby’s presence persisted. Elterman scored the first points of the game and pointed to the sky.
“Obviously it was in our heads the entire time,” Elterman said. “We just wanted to do it for the family and also for ourselves to know that we can overcome this adversity. She would want us to get through this season and win.”
Templeton head coach Shawn Koehler said it was the team’s idea to start the game with four pla