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Julie Spencer is shown with her father James and brother Chris. James died recently after a battle with cancer, and his memorial is the same day as the state championship. (Photo courtesy Julie Spencer)

Washington high school player trying to get from father's funeral to state championship

Update: Kenmore Air has stepped up to help Julie so that she can attend her father's memorial and her state championship basketball game. Read more.

Basketball should be the only thing Julie Spencer is thinking about this weekend when her W.F. West High School team heads to Yakima for the state tournament. But the Chehalis junior has something much heavier on her mind and her heart - her dad's recent death.

Julie's father lost his long battle with cancer Feb. 13, at the same time her team was cruising to the top of the standings and the class 2A rankings.

"He let me know last year after the state tournament that he was diagnosed with melanoma, and so here we are almost a year later and it took him."

It's hard enough for student athletes to balance school and sports, let alone deal with something so devastating. And making things even more difficult, Julie's far-flung family is traveling to Toledo in Southwest Washington for her father's memorial service on the same day her team could be playing for the state championship.

Julie, one of 10 kids, says her family is flying in from all over the country, so the service couldn't be rescheduled. She wants nothing more than to be at the service, then make it to Yakima in time for the championship if her team can win its first two games. That's where the Dori Monson Show comes in.

Dori, who as most know also coaches a high school girl's basketball team, was contacted by Julie's coach about trying to come up with a way to quickly fly Julie from her father's service to Yakima in time for the game. So Dori has put out the call for pilots or companies with a private plane to come to the rescue.

"We'll see if we can lessen the bitter and increase the sweet a little bit for you guys," he told Julie when they spoke on Tuesday's show. And the calls and emails have been flooding in. "As the father of three daughters I just can't imagine that feeling, you know I'm also emotional because I'm a girl's basketball coach," said a tearful Dori.

Nothing is set in stone, but Dori is optimistic someone will come through. And Julie is grateful.

"It has been rough," Julie said. "But you know, good things come out of every tough situation and I'm working through it. And look, we get to go to the state tournament and I know my dad will be watching over me there."

Needless to say, we're all rooting for Julie and the Bearcats. They open play in the state tournament Thursday morning against East Valley of Spokane. If they win, they would take on the winner of Port Angeles and Lynden on Friday afternoon. Julie will then drive back Friday night for her father's service Saturday. If the Bearcats win, they would play for the championship Saturday afternoon at 5 p.m.

Josh Kerns, MyNorthwest.com
Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter/anchor and host of KIRO Radio's Seattle Sounds (Sunday afternoons 5-6p) and a digital content producer for MyNorthwest.com.
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