Patch tourney is much bigger than basketball |

Patch tourney is much bigger than basketball

Mike Vidakovich

When Roaring Fork girls basketball coach Nancy Zeigel assembled her team in the school’s community room last Wednesday night to greet a guest speaker, it wasn’t for the purpose of motivating them in the usual rah-rah fashion that many coaches resort to.

The talk was given by former Ram Marcia (Cerise) Villarreal. The topic was her best friend in life, Brenda Patch, who was tragically killed in a car accident on Thanksgiving Day of 1986. Patch was a standout volleyball and basketball player at Roaring Fork High School.

“Marcia was very close to Brenda,” said Zeigel, explaining why she arranged for Villarreal to talk with her team. “She gave a little talk to the kids seven or eight years ago when she was coaching the junior varsity and I was coaching the freshmen. What she said has always stuck with me. It brings much more meaning to the tournament for the girls.”

This past weekend’s Brenda Patch Tournament is held at Roaring Fork High School in early December each year and has kicked off the basketball season for Ram hoop squads the past 22 years.

The tournament honors not just an individual, but the entire Patch family, whose roots run deep in the small community of Carbondale. The family has endured more than its fair share of hardship through the years.

Brenda’s father, Ron, lost his life in the 1981 Mid-Continent mine explosion and Loretta Patch, Brenda’s mom, was killed in the ’86 accident that claimed her daughter’s life.

“The accident devastated the entire valley,” Villarreal told the Rams. “When we found out the tournament would be renamed in honor of Brenda, the girls and boys teams both wanted to win it badly for her. It was hard fought, but both teams managed to do it.”

Current Roaring Fork boys basketball coach Larry Williams has been a friend to the Patch family for as long as he can remember and, consequently, he holds them in very high regard.

“The tournament is very near and dear to my heart,” said Williams. “Brenda and the entire Patch family are special to me and the community. The tournament keeps Brenda’s legacy alive, and it also funds two scholarships for Ram basketball players.”

The Ram girls basketball players were attentive and appreciative of the heartfelt talk given by Villarreal. They thanked her for coming and filed out of the community room quietly, off to practice with a new perspective on the meaning of the tournament hosted by their school.

Junior Shea Courtney said Villarreal’s talk left a lasting impression on the team.

“It was very inspirational and it made me want to play harder,” said Courtney. “We really didn’t know much about Brenda Patch before tonight. Now we know what the tournament is all about.”

It’s about much more than basketball.

Mike Vidakovich is a freelance sports reporter for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

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