He thought it was senior night, but it was a cancer fundraiser: Easthampton girls basketball team surprises coach Fortier with benefit

Last modified: Saturday, February 22, 2014
The Easthampton girls basketball team pulled a fast one on coach Jay Fortier before a 66-32 win over Turners Falls in Easthampton on Thursday.

He thought it was senior night. They turned it into a cancer fundraiser.

The fifth-year coach has spent the season fighting through throat cancer. He finished treatments last week and is now focused on getting back to 100 percent as the radiation treatments took a toll.

“As of right now, I’m cancer free,” Fortier said. “It was amazing. Apparently they’ve been planning it since before the season. I knew nothing about it.”

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The Eagles made T-shirts for the night in addition to organizing raffles and a bake sale, with all proceeds benefiting Cancer Connection in Northampton.

“There was a sign on my chair that said ‘Fear the Fortier,’ which I knew nothing about,” he said. “(But) I knew something was up when my two assistants were wearing the shirts.”

They weren’t the only ones.

Fortier’s family was in on it and showed up in the same shirts the team was wearing when Fortier walked into the gym for pre-game warmups. The shirts had the cancer awareness ribbon on the front and “Fear the Fortier” written on the back.

After senior night introductions, the team took over the microphone and present Fortier with a shirt of his own.

“It caught me completely by surprise,” he said.

Before tipoff, he changed shirts to take part in the event.

His seniors sealed the night early, combining for 26 of Easthampton’s 28 first-quarter points. Courtney Nelson led the effort with 13 or her 20 points. Kristen Windoloski scored all nine of her points on three 3-pointers, while Alli Dabek (five points) and Ashley Sharp (five points) each added two points before the first buzzer.

The bench carried the team for most of the second half as the seniors took a seat with a 43-13 lead at halftime.

“It was special,” Fortier said.