Varsity girls basketball works hard to honor player’s death: Team currently on a 25-game winning streak

Gabriella Backus, Online Editor-in-Chief

Since the sudden death of Malaysia Porter in the summer of 2017, the Bear Creek varsity girls basketball team has been working harder than ever to honor her — and their hard work has earned them their first national ranking this season.

Porter died upon impact July 6, 2017, in a car crash on southbound Interstate 5. The car, with four passengers, spun out of control and overturned after a tire blew out, according to an official statement from the California Highway Patrol. Her grandmother, Cornea Baker, died in the crash as well.

In addition to basketball, Porter, who had planned to enter her senior year at Bear Creek, was a well-known shotput and discus thrower and runner; she was known by her teammates as the player who always showed a positive and upbeat attitude. However, most notable of all her achievements was her love and dedication to the varsity girls’ basketball team. She played post and was one of four upcoming seniors on the team.

Stricken by the loss, Porter’s basketball team has set up game-time rituals to help honor her memory.

“[At] our home games, we put her jersey at the end of the bench, and on our shooting shirts we have her number, 34, and we got an honorary banner for her,” senior Maya Price said.

Varsity basketball coach Anthony Matthews says that Porter’s death, as tragic as it was, has motivated the team to improve and reach their goals.

“I’ve coached for 20 years and I don’t think death is on anybody’s radar,” Matthews said. “It shook the staff, our girls, the school. It left a big imprint in our minds and hearts and a lot of what we are doing right now is inspired by her death.”

“I definitely feel that this has always been a hardworking group, but behind everyone’s success there usually is a higher purpose.”

Players agree that Porter’s death has motivated them to honor her memory by playing harder.

“Our practices have become really intense,” senior Vanessa Cochrane said. “It’s for Malaysia. We’re doing it for her. I think we all get along really well, our chemistry is really good.”

The team is currently 25-2, losing only to Clovis North on November 30, and Fairfax on December 2. The team is currently at the top of their league, with a winning streak of 25 games. They have also won all four attended league games.

The team ranks third in the San-Joaquin sectional rankings and an impressive 46th in state rankings. For the first time in Bear Creek basketball history, the girls have also earned a national ranking, 279th place out of over 1000 schools, according to MaxPreps, an online high school sports profiler.

Coach Matthews offers his insight to the sudden success of the team.

“We have a good crop of girls who take the game very seriously, they’re very focused,” Matthews said. “Ultimately the weight falls on the players. If the players don’t execute, you’re not successful as a coach. It’s 70 percent players and 30 percent coach at the end of the day. I come in with the vision and the kids come in every day and the girls put in a lot of time in and desire to be successful.”

“Since we lost a player this season, everyone is really knit together now,” Price said.