Thompson tribute brings solemnity to opening night

Canyon Springs’ boys basketball team walked off the court celebrating a season-opening 79-72 victory over Cimarron-Memorial on Monday night.

More importantly, Canyon Springs celebrated the life of longtime coach Freddie Thompson, who died in April of pancreatic cancer.

“It meant a lot to us,” Canyon Springs coach Freddie Banks said. “We wanted to show the community that Freddie T is a special person to all of us.”

Both teams wore warmup jerseys with Thompson’s name and No. 24 on the back, along with a purple ribbon on the front to raise awareness for pancreatic cancer. The cheerleaders and band along with many in the stands wore the shirts, as well, and the coaching staffs for both teams were decked out in purple.

First-year Cimarron coach Darryl Branham previously was head coach at Canyon Springs. He led the Pioneers to the 2011 state title, and Freddie Thompson was an assistant on that team. He said he and Banks made the decision early to start the season against each other in honor of Thompson, who was a prep legend known as “Machine Gun” at Las Vegas High in the 1970s.

“We decided the first game off the year should be between each other and dedicated to Freddie, because he meant so much to us and to Canyon Springs,” Branham said.

There was a moment of silence before the game, and a halftime ceremony honoring Thompson, who also coached cross country and track for the Pioneers.

“The thing about Freddie was he was always about the kids,” Branham said. “That’s what made the most impression on me. He cared about the kids and always trying to get the hard-headed ones to go right and do the right thing. He was just a very good man.”

Banks hopes to continue the tradition of honoring Thompson.

“I like what we done, and I like the results of what was done,” Banks said. “And hopefully we can continue on doing this every year.”

While Banks was a happy with the ceremony, he wasn’t as pleased with his team’s performance. The Pioneers led by as many as 18, but struggled to hold on for the win.

Derrick Legardy had 13 points, four rebounds and four assists to lead a balanced attack for Canyon Springs, which won despite 23 turnovers.

“We threw the ball away a couple times,” Banks said. “We probably had 50 turnovers tonight for no reason.”

Joseph Haulcy and Jovon Coleman each added 12 points for the Pioneers.

Ja’Don Brown scored all 14 of his points in the second half to lead Cimarron, which closed to within five at 77-72 on a three-point play by Brown with 31 seconds to go.

— Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at 702-380-4587 or Follow him: @DamonSeiters