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February 28, 2021

Prep Basketball: Lady Cougars to host first charity game

GILROY — The Christopher girls basketball team is spreading the love this Valentine’s Day.
The Cougars, led by seniors Cydney Caradonna and Dejah Raoof, are hosting their first ever charity game with all proceeds benefiting Rebekah Children’s Services.
Caradonna and Raoof wanted to do something special for their senior year. They had two goals: To help those less fortunate than themselves and to leave a legacy that would linger long after their graduation this year. Coach Heather Stewart was more than willing to help the girls give back, but had a condition of her own — they had to do all the work themselves.
On the evening of Feb. 13, the duo’s hard work will materialize in the form of their charity game. The Cougars will host Monte Vista Christian at 7 p.m. and all proceeds from admission and concessions from both the JV and varsity games will go directly to Rebekah. Both teams will also be making different Valentine’s art and crafts that will be for sale in addition to a collection bucket to be passed around during the game.
For Caradonna, this game hits close to home.
“I went to school right across the street from Rebekah’s at South Valley Middle School. It kind of has always stuck with me seeing the unprivileged kids and that’s what really made us want to do Rebekah’s,” the senior said.
The fact that the game is against MVC also means more than meets the eye. Caradonna said that her sophomore year the rivalry between the two was so heated that when the charity game was announced, even the football coaches were surprised — it was that well known. But this past summer, the relationship between the teams changed for the better.
“We didn’t like each other very much,” Caradonna said with a laugh. “Their coach (Jennifer Keathley) ended up being part of my club (team), so it was a really unique experience. They have a lot of freshman that are coming up that are some of my best, best friends. It’s kind of funny how things work that way. I never hated the woman, but she was obviously not on my list of most favorite people.”
Stewart, on the other hand, has always had a good relationship with Keathley and said the visiting coach was more than happy to have her team participate in the game. The Cougars coach also saw this as a chance for both teams to get to know one another and form a bond that most opposing teams don’t get the opportunity to do.
As a kid’s camp coach for the Golden State Warriors, Stewart and her team were invited to attend a game and extended the invitation to the Mustangs as well.
“A lot of times in leagues where you have matchups and you have rivalries, the kids don’t really ever get to know each other,” Stewart said. “It’s more this rivalry thing. I feel like these kids have so much in common.
“It’s all about connecting — connecting to another team, connecting to Rebekah, connecting to another team, connecting to other people going through what you’re going through. It was just a great fit.”
Caradonna, Raoof and the rest of the Cougars have a great role model when it comes to giving back. Stewart, who works for the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative (BAWSI), was the main inspiration for what the seniors wanted their legacy to be. Caradonna said she just hopes her younger teammates can keep the idea of a charity game going for years to come.
“Heather has left a huge legacy here as far as us girls,” Caradonna said. “She’s definitely rubbed off on me and Dejah. That was a big part of us deciding to do this.”

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