Draped over a chair at the end of the Frontier bench was a white jersey.
Sitting in Frontier High’s cheering section only a chest pass away from Vanessa Rocha’s unused jersey was Trenton Molina. His head was bald, his face swollen from the chemotherapy drugs that he’s taking, but there he was at State Fair Arena, cheering on his older sisters.
On the night Frontier opened the Class A state basketball tournament with a 79-71 victory over Arkoma, these girls were playing for more than a spot in the semifinals. They were playing for Vanessa. They were playing for Trenton. They were playing for a tiny community that has been through a lot.
“Our town’s really close,” Trenton’s older sister and Frontier freshman guard Kristan said.
When one much less two of the school’s own are hurting, it takes a toll on folks in Red Rock and the surrounding areas that feed into Frontier schools.
The troubles started in the fall. The Molinas were attending a Halloween party, and after eating some candy, Trenton started feeling sick. Everyone just figured the sixth grader had eaten too much. But when he started throwing up, then began having seizures, the family went to the emergency room.
Tests determined that Trenton had tumors on his brain, including one that was inoperable.
“It was really scary for our family,” older sister and junior forward Alivia said. “That was the last thing we wanted to hear.”
The tumors, though, were benign.
“Everybody sort of breathed a huge sigh of relief,” Frontier coach Bob Weckstein said, “but he’s still got a huge tumor on his brain. It creates all kinds of problems.”
Many trips to the doctor and nights in the hospital have followed. Alivia and Kristan would go to school and practice during the week, then travel to Oklahoma City to spend the weekend with Trenton in the hospital.
He is now taking chemo pills to try to eradicate what remains of the tumors. He returned to school on a more full-time basis recently and even got to play in the last two basketball games of the season. He excitedly reported before the game Thursday that he’ll play his first baseball game of the season Monday at Pawhuska.
But challenges remain.
The same goes for Vanessa.
A junior at Frontier, she worked hard all summer to get ready for basketball. She regularly wore herself out, coming home after practice and sleeping for hours. Her mom, Velda, thought it was normal.
“She never complained,” her mom said.
Then around the time that basketball practice began in the fall, Vanessa had a spell where she briefly passed out. That, added to her ongoing fatigue, prompted a round of testing.
In early November, less than a week after the spell that prompted the tests done on Trenton, doctors determined that Vanessa had a heart valve that had probably been leaking for nearly a year.