It had been six days since Los Angeles Roybal basketball coach Danny O’Fallon lost his battle against cancer, but his players offered the final tribute on Wednesday: they played as if he was still training. They were selfless with their passes, rushed in defense and congratulated their teammates after each basket.
When the final bell rang at RFK High, Roybal had come out with a 59-37 victory. The players pointed to the sky in celebration.
“It was probably our best game because we played for him,” center Emmanuel Sánchez said.
O’Fallon died last Thursday at the age of 49. He led Roybal to the City Section Division III championship last season while receiving treatment for stage 4 colon cancer.
Superior guard Moises Gamboa received the news in a text message.
“I went to my room, looked at my ring and cried,” he said.
On Monday, players joined for the first time in three weeks to practice.
“It was difficult,” said Gio Dagher, a freshman in the junior college team. “My teammates were crying. The coach left.
Enter the interim coach Gina Capobianco. She was assistant athletic director and former girls basketball coach. A woman who trains a child’s basketball team has only rarely happened in the City Section or the Southern Section. His dark blue nail polish gave an idea of how different things looked on the sidelines.
She ran to practice the last two days. She did not look for work, said there was no one else.
“The boys have been great, they really accept,” he said. “I just want to help them overcome emotional things and let them be the high school kids they are.”
There was a moment of silence before Wednesday’s game. The players promise to follow the teachings of O’Fallon.
“Nothing changes,” said guard Paul Welch.
Robert Moore scored 24 points to help Roybal improve to 3-3 in the Central League.
O’Fallon has left a great legacy.
“He was more than a basketball coach,” Capobianco said. “He dedicated himself to helping these children become great young men.”
Sanchez was screaming in the fourth quarter after the baskets and pointing to the sky.
“He always wanted us to play as a team,” Welch said.
O’Fallon would be proud.
New contestants of the city
The Colosseum League was the zero zone for the ascent of the City Section basketball. Crenshaw, Manual Arts, Dorsey and Fremont used to fight for supremacy.
This season, two recent league additions, Washington and King / Drew, have got into the talk for the title. They played for the first time in the league on Wednesday night.
King / Drew (14-4, 3-0) received a great game from Biko Johnson, who scored 23 points in a 55-50 victory.
“We call it Hollywood because all his works are from Hollywood,” coach Lloyd Webster said.
Fidelis Okereke, a 6-foot 6-inch center, finished with 11 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks.
Johnson usually leaves the bench but goes to the initial lineup because guard Kalib LaCount was ill. He took a lack of charge with 2:52 remaining and Washington ahead 47-46. His three-point basket with 1:10 to play gave King / Drew a 52-48 lead. D’Anthony Ward scored 19 points for Washington (10-10, 2-1).
King / Drew lost to Fairfax 61-60 and could be the second best team in the city right now behind the Lions.