It was a storybook tale for what could have been a heavy night. Siobhan Manning dropped a season-high 15 points during a breast cancer awareness event, just months after her mother was diagnosed with that very disease.

The story begins back in November. Bernadette Manning, mother of McMaster women’s basketball guard Siobhan, was diagnosed with breast cancer. The news shook Manning, but she was not alone.

The women’s basketball team is no stranger to breast cancer. Head coach Theresa Burns was diagnosed with the disease and beat it – she’s been cancer-free for nine years. Manning had support from her coach and teammates during the tough time and continued to play.

Then came the Think Pink game against Waterloo. The CIS launched a breast cancer awareness campaign in 2007, pairing with the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Nearly all CIS basketball teams host the event. Some universities wear pink jerseys, while others teams outfit themselves with pink accents like wristbands, socks and shoelaces.

During warm-ups for Mac’s Think Pink event, Marauder players wore pink t-shirts with the Marauder logo on the front and text on the back: “I’m playing for _______.” Mac wrote that they were playing for Mama Manning, a touching moment for a family that has dealt with a tumultuous few months. And although it was just a regular season match-up, the pre-game feel was not the same.

“The mindset was different. It was more than a game for our team. In past years, it’s been more than a game, but this year especially, it was really close to home,” said Manning. “I was ready to play for what the game represented.”

Forwards Clare Kenney and Linnaea Harper were sidelined with injuries, opening a couple spots in the starting line-up. Siobhan Manning got her first start of the season and the second of her career.

Manning took the opportunity and made the most of it. She opened the game with a three, confidently pulling the trigger and splashing a shot from the right wing.

“One of my teammates, ironically enough, came up to me and said ‘let the game come to you,’” said Manning. And she did just that.

Playing with a ton of confidence, Manning led the team in minutes played (35) and finished third in scoring. Mac beat Waterloo, 81-67. Coming into the game, the Health Sciences student was averaging 13.5 minutes per contest and 3.2 points per game. To the casual observer, it was a surprise. The coaching staff was not taken aback by the performance.

“Sho has had some good games for us this year. She’s been steady, but that was one of the best games I’ve seen her play,” said Burns.

“We knew she was capable with that. She put a lot of work in over the summer … she had definitely added to her game. It was a matter of time for her to put it all together and she did it on Saturday.”

Now, Manning’s mother has already completed one surgery, but radiation therapy awaits. Siobhan has learned how to cope with the situation, but she admits that she struggled at the beginning.

“The first game where I saw my mom come in, I looked into the crowd and I just started tearing up,” said Manning. “But as time has gone on, not that it’s become normal, I’ve reflected and learned how to deal with. It’s just become the way it is and we’re going to get through it together.”

Following the game, Manning says her mother gave her a hug and was “speechless.”

The Think Pink game and Manning’s stand-out performance provided the family and team with a feel-good moment during one of the more difficult times the group will face. You can’t find that in a box score.

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