Oak Grove boys basketball coach Ty Hames eats, drinks and sleeps basketball.

However, one of the biggest games of the season had to take a backseat to a young man who lived out a dream, thanks to Hames and a support group that included the entire Oak Grove community.

Hames and the Panthers honored 15-year-old Jordan Rodriguez before Tuesday night’s Missouri River Valley West home game against longtime rival Odessa – and the outcome was one that surpassed Hames’ wildest dreams.

“I tried to think of the perfect scenario for tonight,” Hames said after Jaxon Althaus’ 30-point performance led the Panthers to a 71-39 win over the Bulldogs, “and this exceeded all them. Our kids were so unselfish and played such a great team game.

“They were inspired by Jordan, and I know he had a great time on the bench with the guys. It was just about a perfect night. I don’t know how it could have been any better.”

With Althaus scoring eight first-quarter points, the 16-5, 6-1 Panthers ran off to a 19-8 lead.

“I’d never met Jordan, but I’d heard he was coming to the game and we were all inspired by him,” said Althaus, who came out hot in the third period and added 12 points. “My mom had cancer. A lot of the guys on the team have parents who have dealt with cancer, and tonight, the game took a backseat to making the night special for Jordan.

“And when we scored, and looked over on the bench and saw him clapping and smiling, we got pretty emotional. I think he was kind of intimidated early on, but he really got into the game and we did everything we could to make him feel like a part of the team.”

Trey Bryant, who added 19 points to the Panthers’ offense, agreed.

“I was so emotional before the game, thinking of a little kid having to deal with cancer, I didn’t know how well I would play,” Bryant said. “But I saw him, and he inspired me. He was inspiration to all of us. He wants to be on the team next year when he’s a freshman and we can’t wait to welcome him back.”

While Hames refused to take any credit for the big night, Oak Grove activities director Darin Sehlke said the coach was the man making sure the night was special for all involved.

“We knew about Jordan, and his battle with cancer, but this night was all Coach Hames – he came up with the idea to get the jersey and the letter jacket and have him sit on the bench – and everyone got involved and made it happen,” Sehlke said.

“And what a night to honor Jordan. We had a standing-room-only crowd, we got a big win and I think Jordan really felt like a member of our team. None of us will ever forget tonight.”