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‘Once a Panther, always a Panther’ — Washougal girls basketball team hosts Coaches vs. Cancer game against Woodland

By Will Denner, Columbian staff writer
Published: January 25, 2024, 11:37pm

WASHOUGAL — As Tim Melcher sees it, once you’re a Washougal Panter, you’re always a Washougal Panther long after graduating high school.

That’s why Melcher, Washougal’s girls basketball coach, wanted to honor one of the Panthers’ own on Thursday night during the team’s “Coaches vs. Cancer” game against Woodland.

Prior to tip-off, Washougal introduced three women who have battled cancer, Katie Stevens, Mary Howard and Melissa Franco, and presented each of them with a bouquet of flowers.

Stevens, who was coached by Melcher at Canyon Creek Middle School in the mid-2000s before going on to play at Washougal, was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2022.

11 Photos
Wearing pink warm-up shirts, Washougal girls basketball players run on to the court prior to the Panthers’ “Coaches vs. Cancer” game against Woodland on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024, at Washougal High School.
Washougal hosts Woodland in “Coaches vs. Cancer” game Photo Gallery

When Melcher heard the news, he began planning an event to honor her. Coaches vs. Cancer is a nationwide initiative between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches to raise money for and bring awareness to the disease through the sport.

“I found out the middle of last year she was diagnosed with breast cancer. At 33 years old, that’s a rare thing,” Melcher said. “Katie was a spectacular student-athlete, she was an amazing Panther, so I wanted to honor her. When I reached out to the community, there were others who had fought that battle and won. I wanted to celebrate that. That was what tonight was about.”

Howard and Franco, both Washougal residents and cancer survivors, were named honorary coaches for the game, an ultimate 54-41 Woodland win.

At halftime, Washougal players, who wore pink uniforms for the game, presented a $300 check to the family of Zain Justis, a Washougal High student who died at 18 in 2021 while battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His family has since started the Zain Justis Foundation in his memory.

“I want them to understand we’re all family — once a Panther, always a Panther,” Melcher said of his team. “Whatever we can do to celebrate and recognize those people who have come through here and paved the way for them, I want them to recognize that and be a part of that.”

Woodland (8-9, 6-6 2A Greater St. Helens League) claimed a key road win behind Kennedy Bockert’s 21 points and 17 rebounds. The Beavers also showed their support for the Panthers’ special night, as players wore pink shoes and ribbons for the game.

“We wanted support it somehow, so we did that. That was for them,” Woodland coach Glen Flanagan said. “It was cool to see, people that have overcome cancer. It was huge.”

Jenna Klopman led Washougal (8-8, 6-5) with 18 points and Ireland Albaugh chipped in 12.


WOODLAND — Addi Stading 13, Kennedy Bockert 19, Madison Walker 2, Addi Christensen 3, Lainey Haden 11, Coco MacDonald 4, Ella Lindsay 2. Totals 19 (4) 12-18 54.

WASHOUGAL — Avery Dixson 1, Danica Stinchfield 0, Addilyn Gibbons 4, Brooklyn Chase 0, Isabella Albaugh 2, Lucy Albaugh 2, Jenna Klopman 18, Ireland Albaugh 12, Breauna Alldrin 2, Catherine Dewey 0. Totals 14 (2) 11-13 41.

Woodland 11 13 14 16—54

Washougal 11 5 8 17—41