CHANDLER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - It was a moment of greatness, a moment of reflection, a moment of remembrance.

The 6A championship for the Hamilton Huskies will create memories for a lifetime.

"It meant everything to us. We worked so hard this season. And that was our goal the whole season," said Hamilton senior guard Raelin Denning.

For Denning, it provided an outcry of emotion and was the culmination of her journey to find normalcy.

"There was definitely extra motivation for her. You know that motivation to do it for her and her mom," said Hamilton coach Trevor Neider.

On July 28, 2017, Raelin was forced to become stronger than ever after her mom, Shirley Denning, was killed in a tragic car crash on U.S. 93.

Her mother was traveling to Las Vegas to watch Realin and her brother play in club tournaments.

"My mind just went blank. I couldn't process anything; it was so hard," said Raelin.

"I know it was a struggle. Her (sic) and her mom are extremely close. Her mom was heavily involved in everything that we did at school, basketball, whatever. She was a great parent and always there for her kids. It took Raelin a while to get back to life I think," said Neider.

A life-changing loss for Raelin as the Hamilton community lost one of its own. On campus, Shirley was beloved and made a difference, working in the special education department for 10 years.

"Coach unified sports and Raelin and Jenny, and other girls had been involved in forever. Raelin would be sitting with her mom at high school, which you don't see mother and daughter sitting together hanging out at high school a whole lot," said Neider.

Going through such trauma would cripple some, but this soft-spoken athlete picked herself up and fought through the suffering.

"I just thought what my mom would want. She would want to continue to play basketball because it was my passion. So that's what motivated me to continue on," said Raelin.

"She really tried to stay positive and just try to keep moving forward and make her mom proud, which I think she's done every day since," said Neider.

She exuded an unexpected strength and courage, basketball and her extended family helped every step of the way.

"At practices, if I was down, they would pick me up, and say, 'Hey are you OK? Do you want to talk?' They would talk to me," said Raelin.

"Having such close friendships on the team, kind of gave her an outlet to take her mind off things a couple of hours," said Neider.

On championship night, Raelin gave everything to honor the wonderful woman that made a difference in her life.

It was a history-making moment to celebrate a coronation and walking off fully drained, knowing she accomplished a championship for her mother.

"I won my freshman year and she was there. She watched me play and I really wanted to win for her. I think she would say, 'I'm proud of you. You're the incredible woman that I've raised,'" said Raelin.

 


Copyright 2019 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

 

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