Cuba-Rushford community comes out to support the return of Wight with a win and Heart Disease Awareness Night



CUBA — Right after Christmas, at the annual Scio Christmas Tournament, the Rebels of Cuba-Rushford were preparing to take the floor for warm-ups. Before that, head coach Pat Wight was pulled aside to take a glimpse at something his team was going to wear onto the court. Something that only he had seen at that point.

It was a shirt. But it wasn’t just a shirt. It was a red one. On the front, it read “Cuba-Rushford Basketball”. Displayed on the back, a Heart Disease Awareness ribbon. Something that captured, and put a tear in his eye.

The very next time they would see that color was inside their own gym on Thursday in a night dedicated for that sole focus — Heart Disease Awareness Night against their rival, Bolivar-Richburg.

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Before the game, the school’s Athletic Director, Chris Cappelletti gave a formal and warm welcome back to Wight in front of a packed Wighthouse, receiving a loud round of applause from many in attendance, after missing the team’s first 11 games of the season due to a medical emergency, one that had kept him away from the sidelines until his official return to coaching back on January 13.

To see that bright red color resonate all across the gym from many fans within the Cuba-Rushford family in the stands, to his own players wearing them on the bench, even his fellow coaches, Wight said it was a very special night filled with tons of support for someone who didn’t really know at first, how much he had meant to the Cuba and Rushford communities, as well as the surrounding areas in between.

That someone was himself.

“I thought about it all day. It makes you realize that no matter what goes on in life, this is just a game. I came in here tonight wanting to enjoy the night, watch these kids play, and then win or lose, tip your hat to the opponent and then tomorrow’s another day,” he said. “There are bigger things in life aside from basketball and a game, especially at the high school level. I have to shout out my wife Elise, Robby (Wight), Coach (Bryce) Ryan, Mr. (Chris) Cappelletti for putting this on tonight. It was a cool thing to see all that support,

Wight continued on the evening, noting that “Not a lot of people get to see how much they mean to people when they’re gone, and I kind of got a dose of that. With the outcry of support that I’ve gotten, I mean so much to everyone from the school, to the community itself and even neighboring schools. It’s very humbling to say the least.”

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The atmosphere from within the Wighthouse was electric right from the start. Although the Rebels found themselves in a halftime hole after an early lead became a back-and-forth battle with the Wolverines, the second half would provide a whole new perspective on the game.

It would start with the defense.

The Rebels re-entered onto the playing surface with a new look, one that would throw Bolivar-Richburg off-kilter in the third quarter, as they held the Wolverines to just six points to pull ahead, as Jacob Smith and Finn Ricketts took control of the team’s offense to feed off the defensive success to record a split in the season series with a 57-49 win.

“I would say a little turnaround from the third quarter on Monday to tonight really helped,” Wight said. “We flipped the script with that third quarter, and it was huge. I have to give credit to our defense first and foremost. We went straight man in the first half, and then we switched it to a 3-2 to key on their shooters. My brother Rob put that in while he was coaching. They really showed out, and we held our own despite being worrisome at times with their size underneath. We had 13 offensive rebounds in the first half, which was unbelievable.”

The Rebels (14-3) came out swinging with their biggest frame of battle led by a Braeden Wight three, which then saw an avalanche of points between the two foes rain down, leading towards an early 9-9 tie. Cuba-Rushford would find another narrow opening against Bolivar-Richburg to escape away towards a 6-0 run off some key turnovers forced on defense.

Bolivar-Richburg (13-3) would follow with a strong quarter of their own in the second, overtaking the Rebels with a 20-10 run to close out the half. Fronting the efforts was Aydin Sisson, who helped lead the charge with a 21-21 game-tying basket, as the team went on to score nine of the first 12 points of the frame, taking a 32-28 lead at the break.

Upon their re-entry onto the floor, the hosts in white made a change. And it was one that was of game-changing magnitude — their defense.

Shifting from strictly man-to-man coverage into a 3-2, the Rebels held down the fort with an outstanding third quarter run — a 17-6 jaunt in all, ignited by Jack Frank, who recorded a solid pass inside to Luke Brooks down low before converting a massive three-point play at the stripe on the next possession. As a result, Cuba-Rushford’s lead would grow even further, to seven entering the fourth quarter.

As the Wolverines were attempting one final effort to cut their deficit down, the Rebels continued to respond to every basket in return, with the majority of them being delivered by Smith. The Rebels senior led all scorers on the floor with a game-high 26 points, 16 of them being in the last 16 minute session, as they kept their lead intact to even the season series down the middle at the end of the night.

“There was a time where I had thought this might get away from us. I felt like in the fourth quarter, we started to move it really well after executing some zone sets,” said Wight. “Their press gave us trouble, but we sprinted down the sidelines and attacked the middle. Jake (Smith) was unbelievable in the second half with some tough finishes, and I can’t say enough about Jack as well. He doesn’t score a lot, but he does all the little things right. He’s a huge piece of what we do offensively.”

Following behind Smith, was Finn Ricketts and his 10 points. Luke Brooks concluded with eight points.

For Bolivar-Richburg, Aydin Sisson fronted the attack with his team-leading 20-point performance. Evan Pinney sank three triples on his way towards 11 points, while David Baldwin had seven points.

“Bolivar’s done a great job with JT (Justin Thomas) looking after them his first year. I know what that’s like being a first year, and it’s hard to win guys over, to put your stuff in place,” said Wight. “I’d be a fool if I didn’t mention Aydin Sisson. He averaged 25 points between our two games this year. He’s going to be really, really good the next two years for his program.”

Both teams will have a quick turnaround tonight in a pair of 7:30 p.m. tip-offs on the road, with Cuba-Rushford paying a visit to Hinsdale, while Bolivar-Richburg heads to Houghton Academy.

Bolivar-Richburg 12 20 6 11 – 49

Cuba-Rushford 18 10 17 12 – 57

BOLIVAR-RICHBURG: Aydin Sisson 9 1-2 20, Reiss Gaines 1 0-0 2, David Abdo 1 0-0 2, Trevor Pforter 1 0-0 2, David Baldwin 3 1-2 7, Evan Pinney 3 2-2 11, James Margeson 2 0-2 5. Totals: 20 4-8 49.
CUBA-RUSHFORD: Braeden Wight 2 0-0 6, Jacob Smith 12 0-0 26, Luke Brooks 4 0-0 8, Jack Frank 2 2-3 6, Finn Ricketts 5 0-0 10, Peyton Joy 0 1-2 1. Totals: 25 3-5 57.

3-point goals: B-R 5 (Pinney 3, Sisson, Margeson), C-R 4 (Wight 2, Smith 2).
Total Fouls: B-R 11, C-R 10. Fouled out: None.

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