EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) – The 19th-ranked Chapin Huskies defeated Ysleta on Saturday night to punch their ticket to the 5A Regional Semifinals for the first time ever.
The Huskies have been playing for a lot more than just championships this season; with every game, they have the mother of one of their most beloved teammates on their minds.
After each and every Chapin playoff victory, Michael Herrera has grabbed the trophy and lifted it to the heavens.
“Everyone will put their hands up pointing to the sky, and they wanted it to show that ‘this is for Mikey’s mom,”‘ Herrera said.
It’s been a difficult year for the senior guard. His mother, Maria, died last summer after a very short battle with cancer.
“She was having sharp pains in her back area, but didn’t ever think about it until she went to the doctor and that’s when she found out,” Herrera said.
Maria’s death was sudden; Michael took some time off from school and basketball to cope with the loss of his biggest fan.
“I always did everything for her to make her proud. She always encouraged me to do my best,” he said.
When he returned, Herrera knew that the season was for his mom; but the rest of the Huskies surprised him; they dedicated it to her, too.
“Mikey has been my glue guy since I took over the program. The team promised him we’d play for him and for his mom,” said Chapin head coach Rodney Lewis.
“We had his back, we told him it’s a family thing,” said sophomore guard KJ Lewis. “That’s what we’ve been playing this whole season for, for him.”
A starter the last two seasons, Herrera has willingly taken on a new role as the sixth man for the best team in Chapin history.
“If we’re not doing well with the first five, I come in and start that jolt, and once we’re going up after I started the jolt, I’m ok going back to the bench and letting the starters do their own thing,” said Herrera.
Maria’s voice has been missed this season – “She’d be yelling crazy things sometimes, stuff that didn’t make sense but I still loved her for it,” says her son – but as the Huskies have gone further than they’ve ever gone before, Herrera can feel her spirit when he plays.
“She’d be happy, man. She went to every game no matter how far, she was there for us rocking the Huskies from day one,” Herrera said. “She’s watching me and blessing me with the strength to keep going out and playing to do it in her memory.”
Herrera and his squad will square off with No. 13 Mansfield Summit in the 5A regional semifinals on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. MT in Andrews, Texas.