On Monday afternoon, Brendan Hempstead found himself facing one of the most significant trials of his life, sitting in the front pew at his father's funeral. Sat next to Hempstead was the entire La Canada (Calif.) High basketball team, showing solidarity for their suffering teammate.
Hours later they were on the court together, with Hempstead refusing the opportunity to sit out a game while he grieved for his father. Instead, Hempstead took control of the game, scoring 29 points to lead La Canada to a 62-51 win against Besant Hills (Calif.) High.
To say that the sophomore's performance was inspiring would be an understatement. For his part, Hempstead told the La Canada Valley Sun that competing on the basketball court was more an escape from his troubles than an additional responsibility.
"I have a real good base with my family, friends and teammates," Hempstead told the Valley Sun "I look at playing basketball as an outlet and my dad has always supported me. It meant a lot to see my teammates and coaches attend the funeral. It showed that they cared, and I thank my teammates for pushing me."
Hempstead's father, Todd Hempstead, had suffered from cancer since being diagnosed in January. Still, the elder Hempstead refused to stop attending La Canada games, watching his son in all the days he had left.
On Monday, after laying him to rest, the younger Hempstead honored his father's memory on the court. On Tuesday he did more of the same, again leading La Canada with 17 points in a 60-51 victory against Arcadia (Calif.) High.
Add the sophomore's totals together and he scored 46 points in two games played within 18 hours of his father's funeral.
The victories have served as a fitting memory for the late Hempstead. Both have come in pool play during the ongoing annual La Canada Tournament, and have set the stage for a further fairy tale run for the team just days removed from Todd Hempstead's death and funeral.
For Brendan Hempstead and his family, nothing could be more fitting.