SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Basketball teams across Missouri are battling to become the Show-Me Showdown Tournament Champions. Schools played at Great Southern Bank Arena and Hammons Student Center March 9 through 11.
For Salisbury High School, their game against Hartville High School served a bigger purpose. One of Salisbury’s starters London White suddenly passed away on March 6. The district sent out a letter to families and students announcing White’s death.
The district said there were several questions regarding the State Basketball Final Four Game. Salisbury met with White’s family who shared support for the team. The school shared in the letter the Panthers would still compete Friday.
“It’s just been different at school and everything going on there,” senior Tyson Barker said. “You can just feel it around the halls, everyone has their heads down. I know the guys, they’re going to come out here and play, they’re going to give the best. It takes a lot of heart especially it’s nerve-wracking playing in a state game and now they’re playing with this on their shoulders and they want it even more now.”
The team, families and students all wore purple shirts Friday in honor of London. The shirts had his name, his jersey number 20, the Batman logo, and the hashtag #LLL, which stands for Live Love London. Students said White’s grandmother shared at a vigil earlier in the week that everyone should love like her grandson. The Panthers also laid White’s Jersey on the bench.
“The team and the community has rallied around, our surrounding communities have rallied around,” parent of a player Brain Francis said. “They’ve been very gracious and kind and a lot of support going out. The boys really appreciate all the effort.”
Salisbury ended up beating Hartville, but Hartville also wanted to show support for their competitors. The Eagles warmed up in purple long-sleeve shirts with the hashtag #salisburystrong and the number 20 on them. Salisbury players and fans were touched by the sentiment.
Funeral services for White are happening March 14. The district will not have school that day.