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Nate Schneider: Sacred Heart shows family-first values in rallying behind mother of junior Hadyn Terwilliger WITH GALLERY

  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)
  • Mt. Pleasant SHA fell to Pittsford in Class D semifinal action from the Breslin Center Thursday. (PHOTOS BY JIM LAHDE -- MIPREPZONE.COM)

BRESLIN CENTER - The pink shirts Sacred Heart’s players and coaching staff donned as they entered the basketball court at the Breslin Center Thursday night prior to its Class D semifinal game versus Pittsford said all you need to know about the driving force of the Irish.

The front of the shirt reads: “Play 4 Denise”.

On the back are three words that hold so much value.

Faith.

Hope.

Love.

In white letters it is all emblazoned on the Sacred Heart shirts, worn in unity for a season that is dedicated to Sacred Heart community member Denise Terwilliger after she was diagnosed with cancer in early 2016.

Denise Terwilliger is the mother of Hadyn Terwilliger, a junior forward on the Irish who embodies the tough-nosed spirit that has become a staple of Sacred Heart basketball through the years.

The words on the pink t-shirts force you to think, take a step back and realize that although winning a basketball game is special in its own way, life and family are so much more precious than the result of any athletic competition.

Following the loss to Pittsford, not many tears were shed.

It was only the loss of a game to an overwhelming favorite and the Irish know they will have a great opportunity to make another trip to East Lansing next Mach.

Sacred Heart, like all communities, has experienced its fair share of real human loss through the years and cancer has been a culprit far too often.

Cancer sucks. We all know this. It sucks.

It was a topic that came up Thursday night.

The only part of Sacred Heart’s post-game press conference where Irish head coach Damon Brown, Hadyn as well as teammates Scout Nelson and Sophie Ruggles became teary-eyed is when they were asked about the meaning of the t-shirts.

“We talk about team and family,” Brown said. “We’ve rallied around a family member who is battling cancer right now, Hadyn’s mom. We’ve really rallied around each other to not only help Hadyn and her mom through this, but also our entire team.”

It is clear where Hadyn gets her resolve, fight and strength from as a fiery basketball player – her mother.

Hadyn would run through a wall for Sacred Heart basketball, the type of tenacious player any winning roster needs.

If the qualities Hadyn possesses sound familiar, they are the same on-court attributes Hadyn’s older sister Riley showcased when helping the Irish to a state championship in 2014.

Mental toughness in the face of pressure has become an SHA trait and it is one the Terwilliger girls have displayed as much as anyone through the years.

If Riley does not hit a corner 3-pointer in the state title game against Crystal Falls Forest Park three years ago, the Irish do not win their lone state championship in program history.

Brown spoke about what makes the Irish such a tough-minded bunch.

“These players have the desire to win,” Brown said. “This isn’t our first time down here and not our second. We’ve been down here several times and the girls know what it takes to win. They put it on the line each and every day. There is a desire they have to want to be the best.

“When you want to be the best, you want to do the little things that won’t necessarily show up in the stat book, but you can’t win games without them. They’re not afraid to tangle, they’re not afraid to go on the floor and they’re not afraid to go in the stands. It’s those little things that make a difference between an average team and a great team.”

Hadyn is thriving with that tough-minded approach for the Irish and her best is still to come in basketball and on the softball diamond. Meanwhile, Riley is enjoying a fantastic start to her sophomore softball season at Alma College as she is hitting .429 in 28 at-bats with a team-best nine RBIs.

All while excelling in the realm of athletics, they continue to be role models in their much more important roles as excellent daughters in standing by and loving their mother every day as she goes through the difficulties of life with cancer.

How is it even possible to focus on sports when something much more important and dear to them is going on every day in their family life?

The Terwilliger’s – father Mike, mother Denise, Riley, Hadyn, Anna and Karis – are the embodiment of a close-knit family and have dealt with more personal hurt than any family should ever have to deal with.

No parents should ever have to attend their child’s funeral, which is what the Terwilliger family did in March of 2003 after 9-month-old baby Brett Terwilliger died from cancer.

Sadness only brought the Terwilliger family closer together, embracing a family-first approach that much more in the face of tragedy.

Riley tweeted a picture of Brett on March 5, the anniversary of his death, writing: “Can’t believe it’s been 14 years. We miss you every day Brett!!”

The Mount Pleasant and Sacred Heart community rallied around the Terwilliger family 14 years ago when they were going through the pain of watching a baby succumb to cancer.

Now the Irish are right beside the Terwilliger’s again, helping in any way possible through kindness and action. Since Denise’s diagnosis, raising money through various fundraisers and t-shirt sales has been important to Sacred Heart’s small but tight community.

Cancer is an all-too-familiar topic for Sacred Heart and Brown, who lost his wife Keisha in April of 2014 from breast cancer.

“It was a rallying cry for us this year,” Brown said as his voice cracked. “We’re going to play every game for Hadyn, every game for Denise. We’re going to leave it on the floor. She’s fighting and we’re going to fight along with her. We think about her each and every day. We’re going to think about Hadyn every day. We’re going to fight. That’s what we do at Sacred Heart. We fight.”

Sacred Heart lost the game on the court Thursday night to a powerhouse Pittsford team, but they gained plenty of respect from those in the media listening to Brown as he spoke of the devotion to family the Sacred Heart community has for one another.

Love and togetherness within a community is much, much more important than a basketball game. But the games do provide important distractions for the challenges we all face in life.

The games are important in their own way because it allows for those moments where we are together, cheering and smiling and forgetting the stresses of our lives for a couple hours. They provide needed distractions during stressful times, no matter what the circumstances are for each individual.

Brown’s favorite moment after winning the 2014 state championship game was sharing hugs and kisses with Keisha, able to attend the game less than a month before her death.

It was an emotional moment of triumph, celebrating the state championship they both wanted to share so dearly. It also showed the value of athletics in helping us through adverse times.

Now the Irish faithful stand next to another strong woman in Denise Terwilliger, just as they embraced Keisha for so many years.

The Irish t-shirts have it right.

Faith, hope and love - say no more.

We all rally behind the Terwilliger family.

Last Updated: 3/17/2017 2:31:34 AM EST