A community reeling from the untimely deaths of two teens came together Friday night for healing and friendly competition as the Bret Harte Bullfrogs boys and girls varsity basketball teams hosted the Calaveras Redskins in Angels Camp.
Tributes and memorials for Alex and Macaila Marshall, who were found shot to death by their father Philip Marshall, 54, Saturday in an apparent murder-suicide at the family's Forest Meadows home, were scattered throughout the Bret Harte gymnasium.
Alex Marshall, 17, a junior, played junior varsity baseball and varsity football for the Bullfrogs, and his sister, Macaila Marshall, 14, was a freshman. Both were well-liked by their peers, as was evident by the numerous students in both sections wearing white T-shirts memorializing the slain teens.
"I'm from Orange County and this society is a lot different," said Christian Chamberlain, 30, cousin of Alex and Macaila, who arrived in Calaveras County earlier this week. "It's almost like a different culture. They're just such good people. I know tonight (Alex's) friends are here and the past couple of nights there have been like 30 or 40 of their friends just being there for us."
Chamberlain said Alex looked up to him because he was an athlete, so he was excited to hear that Alex had made the varsity football team this season. Through Alex's death, Chamberlain has also come to realize the numerous lives that his cousin touched.
"When he was around 4 or 5, I used to call him "Twinkle Toes" because we would race each other in the hallway, and I just knew then that he was going to grow up to be an athlete," Chamberlain said. "I didn't know he was going to grow up to also have such an amazing personality. He had so many friends, he was nice to everyone and just a good person."
Chamberlain wore Alex's Spiderman hooded-sweatshirt that helped earn him the nickname "Peter Parker," after the alter-ego of his favorite superhero. It was a running theme throughout the night, with the Bret Harte student section even breaking out into chants of "Spidey!" during the Bullfrogs come-from-behind-win in the fourth quarter.
The Bret Harte varsity girls warmed up in homemade T-shirts with Spiderman logos and pictures of cats in recognition of Macaila's favorite critter.
"We're just trying to represent them and show them that we're still thinking about them and they're always in our hearts," said Bret Harte hoopster Haley Warner, who knew Alex through mutual friends.
"Everyday in the halls we saw them smiling," she added. "They were absolutely the hearts our school."
Calaveras Redskin girls' head coach Mike Lewis said despite the rivalry, his players are friends with students at Bret Harte and felt the impact the tragedy had on their community.
"They were pretty upset about it," he said. "We're rivals when we're playing each other, but when something like this happens we come together."
And "Together" was another running theme of the night.
Bret Harte student C.J. Singh worked with teacher Zack Abernathy on the idea for T-shirts with the word printed across them on both sides featuring both team's colors and had 50 made to hand out at the game for free.
"The purple and red represents that, even though we are different schools, we are one community," he said.
Following a speech between the girls' and boys' games by Bret Harte Superintendent Michael Chimente, in which he thanked Calaveras High faculty, students and parents and led a moment of silence, both teams burst out of the locker room side-by-side through a banner that read: "Two schools, one community, one heart," while students from both schools lined up on the court to form a makeshift tunnel.
"Mr. Abernathy, some of the other basketball players and I all kind of organized that introduction," said Bret Harte senior Rodney Riner. "We called (Calaveras head coach Kraig) Clifton and he said they would love to do something like that. I think it was awesome the two teams could come together and show the unity between our schools."
The Bret Harte boys also warmed up in specially made T-shirts. One featured a screen-printed Spiderman logo on the front and the face of a cat on the back with the words "We are Marshall" printed above it, in reference to the rallying cry of the 1970 Marshall University football team of which 37 players were killed in a plane crash.
Another shirt worn by some players was purple with "I am playing," in yellow writing on the front and "In memory of Alex and Macaila" on the back.
Much to the delight of Chamberlain and other friends and family of the Marshalls, the Bullfrog boys were victorious 51-47. The girls were edged by Calaveras 52-46 in a hard fought game.
"Tonight was a special moment for both schools," said Chimente in a post-game interview. "It really shows the ability we have as a community to come together as one family to help all of us heal. And when the basketball game started, we became the kind of competitors we've always been. It was a fitting way to end this week."
"It's a tragic story and I feel for all of the Bret Harte community," said Calaveras hoopster Brian Golston. "We just wanted to share the love they have for Alex and Macaila and we were honored to come out of the locker room with them. It was a great moment."