30th edition of annual Brenda Patch Tournament hits close to home
Roaring Fork High School’s annual Brenda Patch tournament is a chance to remember, but also to look ahead.
It has been 30 years since 16 year old Brenda and her mother, Loretta, were killed in a car accident on Thanksgiving Day.
“It’s a milestone, but not a welcome one,” said her younger sister, Stacey Bernot. “Any distance from seeing them and hearing their laughter hurts.”
When the Roaring Fork Invitational took place the week after the accident, the Rams were still reeling from the loss, but managed to win the tournament that would thereafter bear her name.
Her number was retired, but returned to the court a few years later when Stacey played on the team. Now it’s back again on Stacey’s daughter, Kendall, a sophomore. Her son, Hayden, also donned the family number when he played JV, but there’s no corresponding jersey for a senior.
“I never dreamt that I would see my kids play in her tournament,” Bernot said. “The fact that they kept it going is amazing.”
It brings new meaning to an event that she acknowledges can be bittersweet.
“You see all this bright future ahead and she wasn’t able to have that,” she said. “She was just starting out and her life was cut short.”
The sweetness comes from the support of the community and reminder of how much Brenda gave while she was here.
“From the start, she was a dynamic person. She could beat most of the boys at athletics, but she also had a good sense of humor and she was a good student,” she recalled. “She was a shining example of those character traits you hope students will have, because it will carry them far into the future.”
Indeed, all gate proceeds go to fund a pair of $1,500 scholarships for students who embody those traits.
“It’s such a beautiful legacy in that it gives other athletes a little step ahead,” Stacey said.
The school usually sees relatively robust attendance for the event, though not always as much as in years past.
“The schools always used to be the hub of the community, but Carbondale has grown and changed a lot,” Stacey observed. “It’s still some of the best entertainment for the dollar you can get.”
A supportive crowd also makes a big difference for the kids on the court.
“As a player, you feed of people’s excitement,” Kendall said.
“It’s meaningful to connect to something she did and kind of have a piece of her,” she added. “We might not have met her but she’s a huge part of our lives.”
“Just being part of it is something to really cherish,” Hayden agreed. “Seeing the support that there was and still is is really cool.”
Without a bracket and honor a legacy rooted in sportsmanship, there’s less competitive pressure on the Rams than there might be, but they still hope to notch some wins.
Girls’ coach Jade Bath remembers that from the days when she used to play on the team.
“It’s more than just another basketball game,” she said. As a player, you really want to put all you had on the court and represent Brenda and everybody before you.”
Though it’s her first year as head coach, she’s been involved with the program long enough to know the whole team.
“I’m ready to get all the pieces together and get going,” she said. “We have all the starters from last year as well as some girls who are going to have to step up and have a huge role, but I think I think these girls are ready.”
Boys’ coach Larry Williams had similar sentiments.
“It’s a little unknown,” he said. “We have some experience veterans returning but we also have some sophomores that haven’t seen much varsity time playing significant roles.”
In honoring Brenda, however, winning is secondary.
“The wins are great, but it’s more important for the kids to be determined and have a work ethic and act with class than it is to be a state champion,” he said.
It’s personal for him, as well, as a friend of the family who began coaching the year Brenda would have been a senior.
“For a lot of people it’s still very important,” he said. “We’re showing that we’re in a new building with new uniforms and new faces, but we still honor what came before us. It’s also a reminder that whatever you’re doing you need to do to the best of your ability, because you don’t know if you’ll get to do it tomorrow.”
Roaring Fork v. Coal Ridge (Girls JV): 5 p.m.
Basalt v. Rifle (Girls JV): 5 p.m.
Roaring Fork v. Rifle (Boys JV): 6:30 p.m.
Coal Ridge v. Basalt (Boys JV): 6:30 p.m.
Rifle v. Durango (Girls Varsity): 3 p.m.
Rifle v. Ponderosa (Boys Varsity): 4:30 p.m.
Roaring Fork v. Steamboat (Girls Varsity): 6 p.m.
Roaring Fork v. Steamboat (Boys Varsity): 7:30 p.m.
Rifle v. Basalt (Boys JV): 9 a.m.
Roaring Fork v. Rifle (Girls JV) 10:30 a.m.
Basalt v. Fruita (Girls JV): 10:30 a.m
Durango v. Steamboat (Girls Varsity): 1 p.m.
Steamboat v. Ponderosa (Boys Varsity): 2:30 p.m.
Roaring Fork v. Rifle (Girls Varsity): 4 p.m.
Roaring Fork v. Rifle (Boys Varsity): 5:30 p.m.
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This game. This rivalry. This season. It hasn’t meant this much in a long time.