ANAHEIM -- Coach Rickey Roper got teary-eyed as he reflected on what had just happened. His team had captured the CIF-Southern Section Division 2A boys' basketball crown with a 63-48 victory against Mayfair at Anaheim Arena on Saturday night, but Roper was thinking about his wife.
Thinking about how much they've been through together.
"There is no pressure in basketball," Roper said, "when you're dealing with life and death every day."
Roper's wife, Deycie Davis, was diagnosed with a recurrence of leukemia on Nov. 29. It happened to be Gahr's opening day. Roper took time off to tend to his wife, then returned to guide the seventh-seeded Gladiators to the postseason.
Gahr kept winning, even when it wasn't supposed to. The big upset came Feb. 25 against third-seeded Foothill. The Gladiators erased a double-digit deficit and won, 71-70.
Roper's wife was released from the hospital Wednesday. She attended her first game Saturday night.
The teams went into the fourth quarter locked at 40-40, but Gahr outscored Mayfair 23-8. Brian Nebo's breakaway dunk and soaring layup on consecutive possessions helped the Gladiators (24-7) pull away. Davon Potts' 20-foot jumper with 1:08 remaining put Gahr in front by 10.
The celebration began.
With the game no longer in doubt, Roper emptied his bench, hugging each of his starters as they returned to the sideline.
"This means a lot to us," Potts said. "It's been an amazing ride. We've been through ton."