The Bonney Lake High School gymnasium isn’t normally so packed.
The school’s athletic director couldn’t recall the last time it opened and filled the upper-deck portion of the grandstands. Yet the boys and girls basketball games Tuesday against Sumner was the second time in a week they’ve done so.
It was a sea of gray. So much so that it was difficult to tell which was the Bonney Lake bench and which was Sumner’s. Bonney Lake boys basketball coach Sam Oliver and Sumner coach Brett McDaniel both wore gray T-shirts with “#TEAMCAMRON” printed on the back.
Sumner cruised to a 64-31 victory against Bonney Lake and was up by 20 at halftime. These were the sixth- and eighth-place teams in the 3A SPSL (out of eight teams) entering the day.
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But this was less about who won than it was about Camron Cozzi, a Bonney Lake sophomore who has competed on the wrestling team and plays lacrosse but on Dec. 22 was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.
“It’s a rivalry game, but it’s more about Camron,” Sumner senior guard Kristian Lewis said afterward. “I’ve heard a lot about him through all of this. I don’t personally know him, but this is a really cool thing.”
Some Bonney Lake and Sumner players hugged Paul and Cyndi Cozzi afterward. Paul had coached some of them in youth football and Cyndi is known for taking photos at almost every Panthers sporting event.
They first believed Camron suffered a concussion in a lacrosse match, it was later discovered that his symptoms were actually from Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), which is a type of tumor that begins in the brain stem and cannot be operated on.
All the proceeds from T-shirts sold at the basketball games and last week’s packed wrestling match against Sumner went toward the Cozzi family. The goal was to raise $15,000, with Sport Connection and Sterling Athletics, which is run by Peninsula boys basketball coach Jake Jackson, donating all of the T-shirts.
“You had two Sumner JV kids wrestling each other (last week) and the upper deck was filled. And I have never seen the upper deck filled up for a wrestling match,” Bonney Lake athletic director Jesse Snyder said.
Said Bonney Lake girls basketball coach Dan Lisk: “I just thought it would be a good opportunity for us to show our support for them and all they’ve done in the community. Camron is one of ours. And we want to do whatever we can.
Last week Camron was shaking quarterback Russell Wilson’s hand at a Seattle Seahawks practice. Running back Marshawn Lynch told Camron a secret that he has yet to release. Pete Carroll talked to him about competing (using rookie Tyler Lockett as an example) and a few days later wore a ribbon that read “No one fights alone. #TeamCozzi” in the playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings. Camron plans on attending another Seahawks practice Thursday.
On Tuesday, Camron sat in the Bonney Lake stands, despite the weariness that accompanies his disease, next to his parents to witness the community’s support while he battles his illness.
“I said ‘Hey, they are doing all of this stuff for you.’ He’s like, ‘sweet,’ ” Cyndi Cozzi said with a laugh after the game. “He appreciates everybody doing all of this. Coming here tonight was to show them how grateful we are. To say thank you.”
Camron’s older brother, Jordan, competes on the wrestling team and was also a key member of the football team that reached the Class 3A state quarterfinals for the first time in school history this past fall.
“All of this comes from sports,” Paul Cozzi said. “We’ve always tried to contribute and do what we could and volunteer. Everybody can kind of do their own thing. Everybody gets busy. But to see them all put that on hold and come and do something like this (as he pulls out a donation envelope given to him by the kids from Sumner) for Camron is pretty special.
“I don’t have any words, really. I’m just extremely grateful.”
And Cyndi added that she hoped the games created more awareness for DIPG.
“It’s a terrible disease,” Cyndi said. “I want a cure.”