Templeton girls basketball team wins first game since Shelby Sudbrink's death
It was clear from the beginning that Shelby was at the game in spirit. Her teammates wore blue - her favorite color - with her number 12 on the back. Fans supported the team by also wearing blue. They came in droves to watch the Lady Eagles play the biggest game of their lives.
"There's no playbook for this," said head coach Shawn Koehler. "We got together as a team last night. A tragic accident. We just try to focus on the positives and positive memory of Shelby and go forward."
Shelby's parents addressed the crowd at halftime and the Templeton cheerleaders performed a routine that was a tribute to Shelby. The biggest honor the team provided for Shelby came in the opening minutes. The Eagles made sure that their captain would be a starter. They began the game with only four players - the fifth spot occupied by Shelby.
"We just wanted to feel her again," said team co-captain Annie Elterman. "Just have her with us on the court. Four people and her. It was for her."
"She's been a starter since her junior season," said Coach Koehler. "She was one of our captains. That was the team's idea. I was real proud of them for wanting to do that."
Perhaps the most emotional moment of the game involved Elterman. She hit the first shot of the game, then quickly pointed to the sky to thank Shelby for the assist. "It meant a lot," says Elterman. "The beginning of this game, I was like, 'I'm going to shoot this shot for her and I'm going to point to the sky because it's what she'd want.' I knew she was looking down, watching me shoot that. So I was like, 'This is for you.' If she was out there, she'd do the exact same thing. She'd shoot the first shot. So I wanted to do it for her."
The Lady Eagles came away with the win over Santa Maria High. But in the bigger picture, no one could say anyone lost on a night like this.