Braden rings bell to signal end of chemotherapy

PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles Bearcat faithful packed the gym on Friday night (more so than it has been in at least three years) wearing white and black shirts with “Braden Crew” printed across their chests to support Braden Waterman and the Waterman family who found out at the beginning of the year that their son was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

The Bearcats fell behind in the game to the Tigers in the fourth quarter and eventually lost 46-37 but that was not on anyone’s mind when the clock hit triple zeroes. All of the proceeds from Friday’s game as well as the money from T-shirt sales went to help the Waterman family who has been in awe of the support from their community.

“First thing that comes to mind is humble, 100 percent and just in awe,” Braden’s father Brock said following the game. “Every time I get something, a text message, last night [Thursday night] they had all the cheerleaders at Lewis and they were all wearing the Braden Crew T-shirts and just things like put life into perspective right and it has really brought Michelle and I to our knees.”

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Paso Robles junior Braden Waterman brings the ball up the floor at the Atascadero Christmas tournament in December. (photo by Connor Allen)

According to the Waterman family, Braden has been told he has over a 90 percent chance to make a full recovery but will still need to fight. 

“Some of the things he has gone through the last couple years, he is battle-tested,” Brock said. “He is ready to fight this. The adversity that has come against him — he is ready.”

The junior small forward, who has also operated as the Bearcats starting quarterback for the past two seasons, was present at the beginning of the game and was introduced in the opening lineups as the sixth man and greeted the crowd before making his exit back to a safe location.

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Paso Robles junior Darius Thompson pulls up from the elbow during the Bearcats loss at home to the Tigers on Friday. (photo by Connor Allen)

Waterman was one of only two Bearcat starters to average double-figure points a year ago and without their offense has experienced some difficulty spacing the floor but the big home-court advantage gave them life on Friday night. 

Both the Tigers and the Bearcats struggled to score all evening as it seemed at the times that there was a lid on the basket. After one-quarter of play, the Tigers were up 10-8 but the early part of the second quarter belonged to the home team. The Crimson ‘cats opened with 10-3 run and with every basket that went through the net the crowd grew louder. 

While neither team could get it going offensively, junior point guard Devin Perez looked unphased as he led the way both scoring and playmaking for the Bearcats but couldn’t get enough help down the stretch. Perez went 4-for-10 from behind the three-point line on the night while the rest of the team went a combined 0-16 from the same distance. 

However, even with their offensive struggles, the Bearcats went into halftime down only two points to the 13-8 Tigers at 21-18 and faced the same deficit going into the fourth and final quarter trailing 32-30.

After three quarters of suffocating defense from the Bearcats, the Tigers offense finally started to click in the fourth. The emotion from the evening carried Paso Robles into the fourth quarter but wasn’t enough to push them past a good Tiger team that weathered the early storm. 

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Junior captain Payton Ramos takes a shot from the short corner during Friday’s game. (photo by Connor Allen)

“Braden is an amazing player and we are definitely missing him this year,” Paso Robles head coach Derrick Jasper said following the game. “The support from the community and everyone coming out has just been incredible. All the people showing up in Braden T-shirts and things like that and supporting everything he is going through is awesome and I love it.”

Paso Robles is now 8-13 on the season and 0-3 in the Mountain League with a matchup against first-place St. Joseph on Wednesday night.