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Play in Pink game has raised more than $24,000
Olivia Vezaldenos spearheads the East Union fastbreak against Ripon during the 2015 Hoops for the Cure Classic. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

RIPON — Leslie Agostini may be cancer-free, but the game still goes on.

She was the inspiration for East Union varsity girls basketball coach Jim Agostini, her husband, and many others to begin the Hoops for the Cure Classic, which is now in its sixth year.

Leslie was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in 2009. The first “Play in Pink” game between the East Union and Ripon girls hoops programs took place in the 2010-11 season and has since raised more than $24,000. The money, managed by the local chapter of Triple Step Toward the Cure, benefits local women and families affected by triple-negative breast cancer.

“We didn’t know it would get that big,” said Ripon head coach George Contente, a fellow East Union graduate and longtime friend of Jim Agostini. “That first year we did a good job; we had committees and a lot of help from people.

“Now, it has just taken a life of its own. People want to be involved and the kids are involved. It takes quite a bit of people to put it together and it’s gotten so much bigger.”

This year’s contest takes place Saturday at Ripon High’s North Gym and begins with the freshman game at 3:30 p.m. The sophomore contest is scheduled for a 5 o’clock tipoff with the varsity following at 7. A special presentation honoring cancer survivors will precede the varsity game. Also, a check from last year’s proceeds from gate and concession sales will be presented to Triple Step Toward the Cure.

Saturday’s event will feature over 60 basket raffle prizes, silent auctions, a 50-50 raffle, T-shirts and cotton candy. One of the big prizes is a week-long vacation stay in Cabo San Lucas valued at $2,800.

If past games are any indication, attendees should also be treated to competitive games.

The East Union (5-0 Valley Oak League, 16-1 overall) and Ripon (5-0 Trans-Valley League,12-7 overall) varsity squads are in first place in their respective leagues. Agostini’s Lancers boast a 4-1 lead in the Hoops for the Cure Classic series, but their last two wins over Ripon were by a combined six-point margin.

“Two first-place teams going at it, we’ll see how we do,” Contente said. “Last year we had the lead all game except for the last few minutes and that’s where we lost it. Every game has been a battle and I expect it to be like that again. It should be an exciting game for people to come and watch.”