FLOYD, Va. - After making an unbeaten run to the VHSL Group A state quarterfinals, Floyd County's top-ranked girls basketball team has suffered a terrible loss.
Joshua Cantrell, the 3-year-old son of Lady Buffaloes assistant Travis Cantrell and grandson of head coach Alan Cantrell, died Monday as the result of brain cancer.
Floyd County (25-0) was scheduled to play J.J. Kelly (21-7) at 7 p.m. on Friday at Christiansburg High School. The game has been rescheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday.
No other Group A quarterfinal games were affected. In a Saturday doubleheader at Castlewood High School, the Gate City girls will face Radford at 2 p.m. followed by a 4 p.m. game between the Gate City boys and George Wythe. The Castlewood boys will face James River at Lord Botetourt High School at 5 p.m. Saturday.
The preschooler was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in December. He was removed from life support Sunday night. According to assistant coach Lynette Vest, the team learned of the child's death near the end of practice Monday.
"He was at practices and the games before he got sick. He would come into the locker room after the games and high-five everybody," said Vest, who played under Cantrell for Floyd County's first girls state championship team in 1993. "He was just a beautiful little boy. He's sure going to be missed. It's really hard on everybody."
The 2006-07 season has been a particularly hard one for Floyd County basketball in general. The 4-year-old son of boys varsity coach Brian Harmon was diagnosed with a different type of brain cancer even before Joshua Cantrell fell ill.
The two coaches families created a Web site (samefight.org) chronicling their struggles with the disease.
J.J. Kelly coach Robin Dotson, who last faced Cantrell in the 2000 state quarterfinals, has followed the Web site.
"It's just heartbreaking. There's no other way to describe it. All the little boy and the family has been through in such a short time," Dotson said.
Vest said she planned to put the team through a normal practice Tuesday but intended to shorten practice today, when funeral services for the child are slated.
The team should resume a normal practice schedule Thursday and Friday.
"They're an amazing group, they really are. They're only teenagers but it's like dealing with adults, they've matured so much in the last two months," Vest said.
"They're very positive and they're close. They realize this is something they can do to give back to those coaches who started them toward this goal in November."