It seemed like just another Tuesday night in the Greater Spokane League as Ferris prepared to host Central Valley for a boys and girls doubleheader.
The Ferris pep band was at full volume. The drill team was warming up in the hall in their sparkly outfits. The cheerleaders were getting the student sections fired up.
Except it wasn’t just another game.
As warmups before the boys game ended, players from both teams met at midcourt and linked arms in a circle. The crowd fell silent as the public address announcer offered the explanation no one in attendance needed.
The players came together to honor Kellen Erickson, a 2019 Ferris graduate and member of the Saxons’ basketball and soccer teams, who died in a car crash on Friday.
Every Ferris player was wearing a T-shirt with Erickson’s name and number.
“I think that some people try to treat it like (just a game) because it helps some people, I think,” Ferris boys coach Sean Mallon said before the game.
“There’s a ‘business as usual’ approach. But our guys know they need to play hard, they all know why and so it’s not just another night at the gym.”
Before introductions for the girls game, each CV player and coach went to the Ferris bench to give a Saxons player a rose and offer support to Kellen’s younger sister, Laney, a starting junior guard on the girls team.
“Our hearts are really heavy for them and it’s been a tough week for a lot of people,” CV girls coach Felice Orrell said. “We just wanted to do something sweet to let them know that we’re thinking about them.”
“You kind of learn what the importance is of being on a team and being a part of a community and a family during these times,” Ferris girls coach Scott Ward said. “The kids have been just great to each other and they’ve really leaned on each other.”
Many members of the Ferris boys team played with Erickson last season. Mallon said the program is grieving.
“I mean, they’re kids, you know?” Mallon said. “I think people forget that sometimes, that these guys are still kids. A lot of them are tough and they’re trying to get through it. We got some guys who are pretty devastated, obviously, and you know I think that’s a testament to Kellen, the kind of impact that he had.
“But we’ve got some guys that were (hurting) pretty bad.”
Mallon has served as counselor as well as coach the past week.
“For me, the most important thing is our guys, taking care of them and trying to be there for them,” Mallon said. “Every guy needs different things. It’s just trying to figure it out and help them get through it.”
“Our guys know them real well,” CV boys coach Mike Laws said. “They’re hurting. We wanted to show our respect. It’s one of the worst things that can happen for a coach for a player or ex-player to go down. It’s heart-wrenching.”
“We’re just trying to be the Ferris family,” Ferris athletic director Stacey Ward said. “One of the messages that the (Erickson) family has wanted to share, just because of all the support, is kind of the theme for the week is ‘Love big.’ ”
“I had Kellen in class two years ago,” Scott Ward said. “I really enjoyed talking basketball with him and just bragging about his sister and how hard a worker she was and is, what a good player she is.”
Just about every team in the league shifted schedules this week to accommodate Friday’s postponement and Saturday’s memorial service for Erickson.
“Everybody has been fabulous,” Stacey Ward said. “The very first conversation with (Mt. Spokane AD) Paul Kautzman when we, you know, knew what had happened and how hard it was going to be to try to play Friday, he said ‘Whatever you need.’ ”
“I think that just really speaks to Spokane,” Orrell said. “We’re a big community, big family and I’m really proud that everyone’s rallying around Ferris.”
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.