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Brimfield’s Pink Out Night shows fighting spirit in multiple ways

Brimfield girls basketball
The Brimfield Indians girls basketball team lines up for the National Anthem before their Pink Out Night game against Elmwood. Jonathan Michel/Clutch Sports Media

What is a win on senior night like?

Pretty sweet. But winning against a rival in overtime on senior night?

Even sweeter. 

The Brimfield girls basketball team did both of those, but Indians fans made the special night sweeter than ever by showing out in droves on 'Pink Out Night' to support one of the community’s own, as well as a great cause. 

Brimfield senior CJ Troxell was on the court for all of her team’s ups and downs in the 66-59 win over Elmwood on Monday. She made multiple plays near the end of regulation and two overtime periods to help the Indians win in what could be the last time she takes the court at Brimfield High School. 

“At the end there when we started to pull ahead, the emotions just started getting to me and I was just ecstatic,” Troxell said.

Note: This story is free to read on CSM Overtime. You can support more coverage like this of Central Illinois high school sports by subscribing to CSM Overtime here and get access to all of our written content and photo galleries with new stories daily.

The night meant much more to Troxell, who was the driving force behind Pink Out Night. Her mother, Ann Brix, was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Breast Cancer in February of 2023. 

Troxell helped unite the small community, reaching out to local businesses and organizations via emails, phone calls, and even visiting some in person to get the word out. Brimfield head coach Josh McKown made Pink Out Night t-shirts that adorned the gym – on both home and visiting sides – on Monday. 

Brimfield girls basketball
Brimfield's CJ Troxell (right) and Ava Heinz (left) talk after a play with the Brimfield student section donning pink shirts in the stands. Jonathan Michel/Clutch Sports Media

“The community behind us is giving me a lot of hope because there's constantly people asking what they can do for us,” Troxell said. “And I just know how strong she is and she will never give up. So I just know that she’s strong enough and she’s going to be fine.”

However, Troxell and her family didn’t want the proceeds of the night, which included over $2,600 in t-shirt sales, a 50/50 raffle (the winning portion of which was generously donated back) and a silent auction, to benefit themselves. 

Rather, all of the money was raised for the Susan G Komen Foundation to help breast cancer research and support those who are diagnosed.

“When she approached me about it, she's like, ‘I don't want it for self-pity, I want it for the cause,’” McKown said. 

Photos from Pink Out Night: Full photo gallery on CSM Overtime

Being from Brimfield himself, McKown knows the importance of tight-knit small-town communities and how they rally around their own.  

“I just wanted to make sure that people had a chance to see what we're all about,” McKown said. “I think not only did they get a great game, they saw what we do for each other.”

“She hasn’t let me down”

Troxell has gone through a lot for a senior in high school. Her father passed away from breast cancer when she was a toddler. 

Then, after her diagnosis, Brix went through the rigors of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Troxell has been there every step of the way, helping her mother out in any way possible. 

Brix has battled through it all and is in the last phase of her treatment, inspiring her daughter in the process.

CJ Troxell
Brimfield's CJ Troxell watches one of her teammates shots go up in pregame warmups. Jonathan Michel/Clutch Sports Media

“She’s gone through this from both angles so she's just the strongest person I know,” Troxell said. “She hasn't let me down.”

With her already busy schedule, Troxell is taking CNA courses, as well as being there for her mom, just as Brix has always been there at every one of her daughter’s basketball games this season. 

“There's a lot going on, but [the] number one priority is that she's okay and everything,” Troxell said. “I think this just really made her proud.”

Staying strong amidst cancer in the family can take a toll on anyone, especially a high school athlete like Troxell, who’s committed to Spoon River College to play softball. There are good days and there are tough days, but there isn’t a day where it affects how the gritty senior guard plays. 

“If you didn't know that ahead of time, you would not know the situation because she always comes and works her tail off, she's got a smile on her face, she's just hard-nosed, she's a tough kid,” McKown said. “I just have to have the most respect for her because of that.”

Indians make the most of special night

The idea for a Pink Out Night at Brimfield came near the end of the 2022-23 season after Brix was diagnosed. McKown, Troxell and the school put the plan in the works well in advance, and both Elmwood and Brimfield worked together to adjust their schedules to play each other on senior night, and Pink Out Night as well. 

Located less than 10 miles apart, the two schools co-op in football but are rivals in most other sports. On Monday night though, many Elmwood fans donned the pink t-shirts in support and were treated to an edge-of-your-seat game. 

Brimfield girls basketball
Brimfield takes the floor against Elmwood on Jan. 29. Jonathan Michel/Clutch Sports Media

The Trojans took an early 12-2 lead in the first quarter but just as Troxell and her mother have, Brimfield fought back with a 14-2 run to counterpunch. From then on, neither team gained a lead of more than four points and were deadlocked at 37 early in the fourth quarter.

It was then that Troxell embodied her fight by shooting a 3-pointer that bounced straight off the backboard, dashing into the paint to grab her own rebound, and getting a second-chance layup to give the Indians the lead. 

After two pairs of free throws from Ava Heinz and Olivia Kappes, the Brimfield lead was 48-43 with 24 seconds left in the game, a win seemingly secured. Elmwood had other ideas though as Trojans star Mae Herman sped down the court to finish a 3-point play to trim the lead to three. After a missed free throw from Brimfield’s Carly Vaughn, the Indians fouled Herman as she heaved a 70-foot prayer at the buzzer. 

The Trojans guard rose above the raucous gym and made all three free throws with no time remaining to force an extra period. 

“That was a great high school basketball game and win or lose, I would have said that was fun,” McKown said. “It's not so much in the moment, but it’s a rivalry and I think the emotion of the night kind of stuck with us.”

Troxell made yet another big play in overtime, grabbing an offensive rebound that led to a layup from Ava Simpson which gave Brimfield a 55-53 lead. The two teams traded buckets and kept the Hollywood-esque game going into a second overtime after Herman’s runner as time expired was no good.

Elmwood Brimfield
Elmwood's Mae Herman watches her shot with Brimfield's CJ Troxell. Jonathan Michel/Clutch Sports Media

It would be a happy ending for Brimfield though, as Troxell fed Kappes for a 3-pointer to start double overtime, the Indians made six free throws down the stretch, and the team allowed just two points in the frame to joyously leave the court winners. 

“We describe our season as a roller coaster because we've had a lot of ups and downs and this game was definitely one of them [but] I think the way that we all played together really saved us,” Troxell said. “Earlier this season, we probably would have went after each other but in this game, we all really played together and it was really great.”

The win was Brimfield’s 10th in a row and the 19-7 Indians are picking up steam with the postseason right around the corner. If they can win their sectional, they will return to their home court for their super-sectional contest. 

Whether or not the Indians will make it to that point is uncertain, but advice given from the Brimfield seniors to the rest of the team before their special Senior Night will hold true for the rest of the season, their careers, and their whole lives

“All of them said something to the lines of ‘Don't ever take it for granted because you don't know,’ McKown said. “You don't know when an injury comes, you don't know when a diagnosis comes, you don’t know when your playing days are over.”

Perhaps it's fitting that Brimfield’s main colors of red and white mix to make pink. For them, it’s a symbol of never giving up, always fighting and never being afraid, all things that the Indians, and especially Troxell, embody.

“It's tough, but I'm glad I can put something like this together to show other kids that it's not as scary as it seems and to not to be afraid of it,” Troxell said.

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