Freeland leads Vikings past Rancho

Vikings’ bench looks on during Monday night’s win at Rancho Cotate. (JEFF KAN LEE / PD).

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

ROHNERT PARK — Brian McCammon wasn’t on the basketball court for the Montgomery High Vikings on Monday night, but he was there in spirit — and in voice, and in fashion statement.

Truth be told, McCammon was a consistent presence for the Vikings during their 63-37 victory at Rancho Cotate.

“We kept him in mind the whole game — we played for him,” senior forward Erik Gyving said. “And I think we played a little harder than usual.”

Indeed, Montgomery jumped out to a 9-1 lead and never looked back against the Cougars, looking inspired but thoroughly under control while improving to 7-0 in the North Bay League.

The basketball team had spent the past 24 hours worrying about McCammon, celebrating his incremental medical victories and desperately seeking updates on his condition. The junior was behind the wheel of a Ford Bronco that crashed into a metal gate and a tree off of Bennett Valley Road on Sunday, seriously injuring the driver and his friend Chris Mentch, another Montgomery student.

As of Monday evening, Mentch remained in critical condition at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. McCammon has been transferred to UC Davis Medical Center, where he awaits surgery. That procedure was originally planned for Monday, but doctors pushed it back a day to let the swelling subside.

“He’s feeling OK, but he has a lot of facial damage,” Montgomery coach Tom Fitchie said.
Teammates reported that McCammon is alert, communicative — and very hungry.
McCammon may have daunting work ahead of him, but his teammates are convinced the worst is behind him. They spoke to their friend before the game, passing him around on a cell phone. The forward said he wanted a win — and the Vikings delivered, texting quarterly updates to McCammon’s father at the hospital.

Every Montgomery player took the court wearing a wristband emblazoned with the initials BM, courtesy of T&B Sports in Santa Rosa. They dedicated the game, and the rest of the season, to the teammate they call “The Beast” for his tenacious defense and rebounding.

“Together we’re a family,” said center Ben Freeland, who led Montgomery with 22 points. “We rely on each other. It’s kind of like geese, and how they fly in a V. When one man goes down, two go down with him and support him.”

It had been a difficult day for the Vikings, to say the least. Athletic director Dean Haskins called the athletes together for a special lunch meeting, giving them an opportunity to vent their feelings. The communication helped immensely. But in the age of Twitter, it also got a little out of hand from time to time.

“Zack called me at one point and said, ‘Mom, Brian isn’t going to be able to blink again!’” said Tiffany Templeton, mother of senior point guard Zack Templeton. “I told him, it’s just rumor.”
This is an especially tight-knit team, and McCammon is a big part of its fabric, on and off the court.
“We did the team dinner last week, and they’re like brothers. Always giving each other crap,” said Ana Becker, mother of senior guard Anthony Becker. “Brian — he’s goofy as heck, but he’s the sweetest kid. He has the greatest laugh. He’s everyone’s little brother.”

After the game, Tiffany Templeton called the Montgomery players over to the bench area and passed on another request from McCammon’s dad. He wanted as many players as possible at the 8 a.m. mass at St. Eugene’s in Santa Rosa — each wearing his Vikings jacket. And maybe even a certain wristband concealed underneath.

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com.