When the Dutch Fork girls basketball team steps on the Colonial Life Arena floor Friday night for the Class 4A championship game against Greenwood, the burden of healing a school and a community will be on their shoulders.
On Feb. 18, Dutch Fork senior Da’Von Capers was killed during an altercation after a basketball game at Lexington. The school has mourned the tragic loss since the boys and girls basketball teams entered the postseason.
The boys’ run ended with a third-round loss to Wando. But the girls’ team carries on in honoring Capers.
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“It’s a healing process,” Dutch Fork girls coach Faye Norris said. “He was loved, he was a friend and his friends, family and community are still thinking about him. We will always think about him. They want his name to go for something positive and not negative.”
Capers was one of the biggest supporters of the basketball teams. He was routinely in the front row of a crowded student section at road and home games. Many people called him one of the lead cheerleaders of the student section. The former football player was friends with most of the players on the team.
“We had the tragic experience at school with one of our close friends passing away but after that we felt like the team came together and knew we were playing for him,” senior captain Sydney Shull said.
Dutch Fork players pray and mention Capers before every game.
“It motivates us because we’re playing for something bigger than ourselves,” senior captain Alexis Fraiser said. “He would be the front row at every game and was always there for us. We play for him now and I think it has helped the community and school some.”
Norris has seen the transformation in her team.
“Every game, they’re playing for ‘Cape’,” Norris said. “That night after it happened, when they gathered together in their huddle, they said they’re going to do it for ‘Cape.’ They’ve done that ever since.”
The night after the stabbing, Dutch Fork was scheduled to play the final regular season game of the season. There was talk of postponing the game but options were limited with the playoffs scheduled to begin two days later. The Dutch Fork administration consulted with the Capers family and decided to play the games as scheduled.
The Silver Foxes girls team played its most complete game of the season, beating North Augusta.
“We knew his family wanted us to play that night,” Shull said. “We knew we were playing for him and his family. We had no option but to fight hard. Hopefully with us still winning it has brought an ease to the pain we’ve all suffered. We knew if he was still here, he would be front and center cheering us on.”
WEEKEND OF CHAMPIONS
Where: Colonial Life Arena
TV: Time Warner Cable channels 520 or 323
4A girls: Dutch Fork vs. Greenwood, 7 p.m.
4A boys: Hillcrest vs. Wando, 8:30 p.m.
A girls: St. Joseph’s vs. Latta, 11 a.m.
A boys: C.A. Johnson vs. Whale Branch, 12:30 p.m.
2A girls: Andrew Jackson vs. Bishop England, 2 p.m.
2A boys: Newberry vs. Lake Marion, 4 p.m.
3A girls: Dreher vs. Crestwood, 5:30 p.m.
3A boys: A.C. Flora vs. Darlington, 7 p.m.