DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — An LA high school basketball coach is in the fight of his life against stage four cancer and his battle has inspired his team from Roybal High School to go undefeated going into the playoffs this season.
There were two defining moments in the Roybal Titans’ season — the December afternoon when Coach Danny O’Fallon told them he had stage four intestinal cancer and the game last week when after losing the lead with a minute to go, they scrambled to win the first city title in school history.READ MORE: LAPD Breaks Up Large Party In South LA
But in truth it was all the moments in between that seemed to matter most.
This is the story of some downtown kids at a school that has never won a division basketball title, who refused to say “no” – and a coach who led them, pleading with the school to let him keep coaching after a grim diagnosis.
“I told them, I said, ‘Please don’t take this away from me because if you do you will kill me’,” said O’Fallon.
The players got the message and played for their head coach.
“If it’s a loose ball or some rebound I was like, ‘We gotta win because we can’t not win for coach. We have to win for coach’,” said Roybal senior Elijah Wescott.READ MORE: 'It's Just Not Working': Women In The Workforce Hit Hardest By Pandemic
The Roybal Titans were the only unbeaten boys basketball team in Southern California.
When coach was at times too weak to stand, too ill from chemo to speak, the boys would run the practice themselves.
“I couldn’t believe it. I was like, ‘What is going on coach? Are you OK?’ And then he looked at me and he put his hand up. And I was like, ‘You know what? I got to work hard’,” said Roybal senior Jesus Rios.
And game after game they did until they were 19-0. Their assistant coach mindful that what was playing out on the court was mimicking what was happening off.
“You’re gonna have challenges. You’re gonna have problems. But the people around you, your family, which is your basketball team, they will always be there to help you through it,” said Travon White, assistant coach.
And in the end with the city title on the line, the Titans and their coach persevered until the moment when Coach O’Fallon collapsed from joy and exhaustion.MORE NEWS: Poet Amanda Gorman Says Security Guard Followed Her Home, Called Her 'Suspicious'
O’Fallon said he doesn’t feel any pain and despite the stage four diagnosis and the cancer spreading to his liver, he said his doctors are optimistic this is curable.