Share This Page

Stewart: High school hoops player an inspiration

| Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Sometimes, you just get tired of reading about athletes getting arrested or pouting about the injustice of multimillion-dollar contracts.

Sometimes you want to read about an athlete who will inspire you and make you realize that there are some feel good stories out there.

Here's one:

While the rest of the W.F. West basketball team in Washington was having an early-morning shoot-around and enjoying a pregame meal, Julie Spencer was tending to other matters. Her story is one that would make for a good Hollywood script.

You see, the reason that Julie wasn't with her teammates was because she was laying her father to rest. James Spencer died Feb. 13 after a yearlong battle with cancer.

Julie sang at her father's funeral and then embarked on a journey that her teammates and coaches never thought she would be able to make.

The team was in Yakima, Wash., preparing for the Class 2A state championship game against a much taller Mark Morris High School team that had defeated W.F. West two of the last three times they met.

Mark Morris High had three starters who were 6-foot-2, and they were heavily favored to claim the state title.

Her teammates and coaches didn't expect Julie, who is their tallest player at 6-2, to be there as they tried to topple Goliath. Her father had just died. They figured they'd try to win this one for her.

Julie felt otherwise. She believed that her father would have wanted her to play.

She said she felt that her father would be looking over her and praying for her. She said that she was playing the game for her dad.

First things first, though. How could she ever make it to the game in time?

Not a problem. Kenmore Air flew Julie and three of her siblings to Yakima, and they arrived 90 minutes before game time.

Julie would not have much time to grieve.

In a Hollywood script, Julie would be the star who played a magnificent game and lead her team to a state championship. You remember the movie “Hoosiers,” right? And how about “Remember the Titans?”

Move over Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington. Here comes Julie Spencer. She scored 20 points, snared seven rebounds and earned tournament MVP honors as she willed her team to a 48-37 win in a rematch of last year's final. Her emotional day ended with her cutting down the net as she celebrated the school's first state championship. Julie acknowledged that it was one of the hardest days of her life, and she was going from one extreme situation to another.

Julie will be back on the court for her senior year, and then she'll be heading to Washington State.

I believe the rest of her basketball career will be a piece of cake. She has endured a most stressful situation and handled it with aplomb. She put the grieving on the back burner for a few hours so that she could lead her team to victory.

She believes her father was watching over her, and I do, too. I believe that W.F. West had six players on the court.

The sixth player was one James Spencer. He's the one who was directly behind his precious daughter all game long, keeping her focused on winning a state championship.

Marty Stewart is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-782-2123 or mstewart@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.