Bedford County team rallies behind coach battling cancer

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BEDFORD, Va. (WDBJ7) There was a lot of excitement in the Liberty High School gym Tuesday night.

"It was unreal!" exclaimed shooting guard, Jonathan Slocumb.

The Minutemen were losing by double digits at one point during their matchup with Lynchburg-area powerhouse E.C. Glass.

"I guess we had to get the nerves out," point guard Raheem Anthony surmised of his teams early jitters.

In four quarters, the varsity boys basketball team managed to tie the game and go into overtime, where they ended up winning by one point.

"We had the upper hand, especially with the crowd behind us," said Anthony. "Plus, we had something to fight for."

The team was fighting for their assistant coach, Tony McKinney, who's going through a fight of his own right now.

"I have melanoma," McKinney told WDBJ7.

McKinney was diagnosed in 2014. Last fall doctors discovered his cancer had spread to his lungs.

That's when he broke the news to his team.

"It was shocking because you never know how people that are close to you are doing," Anthony remembered.

"I have family members who have gone through the same thing," said Slocumb. "To see my own coach get diagnosed, that hurt,"

Tuesday night's game was dedicated to McKinney. School administrators and fans showered him with love before the event, and members of the E.C. Glass team huddled with McKinney to pray for him.

"For them to take a few minutes of their time to think of me is very overwhelming," McKinney said.

The fight for "Coach Tony" isn't over. The team says he'll be their motivation, through playoffs and beyond.

"It's a part of our nature now," said Anthony. "We wake up and we thank the Lord for still having coach Tony on this earth."

"It's been my privilege to be on their team, but it's my honor to have them on my team," said McKinney.

Despite his diagnosis, McKinney is still an active part of the team. He has appointments scheduled at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina next week, where he'll undergo scans and learn the next steps for his treatment.