NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck and City Hill Middle School girls basketball teams joined forces on Tuesday night to show support for City Hill girls basketball coach Fred Scheithe, who is battling cancer for the second time in the last three years.
Both teams took to the court prior to the Naugatuck-Woodland girls game at Naugatuck High School donning “Scheithe Strong” T-shirts.
“Most of our players played for Fred, and the Naugatuck basketball team wanted to show our support to Fred as well,” Naugatuck head coach Gail Cheney said.
“This was going to be a total surprise for me, but the game they were going to do in on, we couldn’t be here,” said Scheithe about Tuesday night’s tribute. “Once they had to reschedule, I had to get involved to make sure our kids could be here.”
“I’m glad it worked out that way because I’m not too sure if I would have been able to hold up under the emotions of it all,” he added. “The juniors on the varsity team were the eighth-graders I had the first time I went through this. So Gail felt that this was important to get her girls involved and she set this whole night up.”
What began as a show of support from the City Hill basketball team for the retired teacher and coach has now grown to encompass Naugatuck and beyond.
“We have sold 160 shirts with another 60 coming in the next shipment,” said Jeanne Scheithe, Fred’s wife. “We have even received calls from people out of state requesting a shirt.”
Scheithe was told his cancer returned in October, and he began chemo therapy shortly after the start of the basketball season. After an opening-season loss to Seymour, Scheithe turned around to see his team lined up wearing the Scheithe Strong T-shirts. The back of the shirts read, “We got your back.”
“It was a total surprise,” said Scheithe, who also coached the Naugatuck High girls team. “When I went through this three years ago the tremendous support from the team is what got me through it. They were my angels and most are now juniors on the Naugatuck varsity team.”
The T-shirts are now being sold to raise funds to support a student or family at City Hill that is battling an illness or in need.
The City Hill team hasn’t lost a game since unveiling the Scheithe Strong T-shirts. The Cyclones are 16-1 and have one more regular season game before the playoffs begin in the Junior NVL Middle School League.
“These kids are an inspiration to me,” Scheithe said. “I don’t even know where I would be in my recovery without these kids. They give me a normal kind of life with something other to think about other than my treatments. Being around the kids is the best medicine I could have.”