ALBANY, GA (WALB) -
It's the most important stretch of the season at Valdosta High and practice is ending early.
"I couldn't believe it at first you know I was in denial and it hurt me. Coach was a best friend to me you know like if I didn't have a ride he'd come get me or I didn't have a cell phone, he bought one for me the cell phone I have now he bought for me" said Guard Cameron Williams.
Just days after the Wildcats became region champs Assistant Coach Derrick Keaton lost his life to Kidney complications.
"They just at that time they couldn't really handle it and then when I got back I met with the team and we talked and we decided we were gonna try to practice and of course because most of the time I think you need to try to keep your routine normal as possible so we tried to practice and all we did was shoot free throws and we decided we would go home" said head coach Rufus McDuffie.
Two days later the state playoffs began with an empty seat on the Wildcat bench. The Wildcats would win, and then they won again. Now the Wildcats are three wins away from a state championship and coach Keaton is right there with them.
"Every time I run down the court at practice since he passed if I don't do something right it's like I hear his voice in the back of my head yelling at me to tell me to do something right do this or do that. He's still here with us. Even though he's gone you can still feel his presence and what he's done with us the last two or three years" said forward Jay Rome.
"You gotta push, that was his motto. You gotta push and keep pushing till you get there" said Venus.
For Coach Keaton the Wildcats will keep pushing through all of life's adversity.Feedback