PORTSMOUTH, VA (WTKR)- It's been a grueling month for the Manor boy's basketball team, facing adversity that is much greater and weighs much heavier than any opponent.
Mustang senior Amarion Collins passed away last month, leaving his teammates and friends with a void in their lives.
"He was goofy, he was funny, always a positive influence," remembered Manor senior Asa Wilson.
"He was just a jokester, but on the court he was serious," added head coach Gerald Andrews.
"Played a lot, goofy, just made everything positive," Mustang junior Michael Smith recalled.
Collins' number two flies above Manor's basketball practice, a balloon previously placed there. While basketball can be used by these student-athletes as an escape, that was more difficult immediately following the tragedy, as the court is where they would see Amarion the most.
"Coming here just [doesn't] feel the same," Andrews said.
"It was a little difficult coming back here, just having memories of him coming onto the court," Wilson noticed.
The Mustangs are charging forward with Collins' memory ever present around the gym. Coaches wear shirts displaying their fallen player's number two. Tuesday's practice found Smith wearing Collins' number on his practice jersey. Manor pushes ahead to "Do It for 2."
"It's a motivation," Wilson said. "If we didn't have something to work for before, we've got something to work for now."
"It motivates us a lot," added Smith. "It puts a different level of ambition in us to even grind more and know that we're doing something for somebody."
Andrews says the team has made it a point to dedicate the season to Amarion.
"My guys, we got together and we decided that we were going to do it for 2."
Andrews has always considered himself more than just a basketball coach and that has never been more evident than during the last month. As he tries to guide his players through the rough patches, he can't help but notice their drive to honor their teammate.
"To see a group of 16, 17, 18 year old kids handle something like that and keep pushing through, I'm very proud of the guys," the head coach said.
"I'm really proud of my teammates," Smith added. "Just shows we're really tough and we really handle adversity well."
The Mustangs' strength has taken them to new heights. Since the tragedy, Manor has been on a roll, winning eight of its 10 games and goes into the Region 4A playoffs with high hopes. Andrews and company are 15-6 on the season and one of the hotter teams in the area.
"To go 8-2 to finish out the season strong like that and top four seed in the region, I'll take it," asserted the head coach.
It's a season unlike any other for the Mustangs, but no matter how it ends up, the players should be proud of the way they pushed through, knowing that they've done it for 2.
"Our goal is to win a state championship, but if not, I tell the guys just thank God that you have life," Andrews said. "I always tell them, win or lose, thank God that you get to see another day."
Manor is still awaiting word on which team it will face to open up the Region 4A Tournament, but expects to begin on Monday.