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Pueblo County Basketball Hosts Games Honoring Coach With Cancer

Mark Villegas coached basketball in Pueblo County High School for over 16 years.

He faced adversity on the court during this time, but a year ago Villegas discovered he was facing one of life’s greatest adversaries – cancer.

It all started in an open gymnasium. It was then that Villegas and assistant coach Gil Lucero noticed a lump on his back. Within weeks, he was diagnosed with sarcoma, a type of cancer that attacks the bones and soft tissues of the body.

Villegas immediately began treatment. He has since been able to return to the sidelines to coach this season, although he is not yet cured of cancer.

To honor and help the coach through this process, Pueblo County and La Junta High School hosted a base match on November 29 in Pueblo County. The idea was to raise funds for Villegas to help him continue his fight against cancer.

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“It took us about a month to put everything in place,” Lucero said.

He and Hornets boys coach Matt Andenucio, with the support of athletic director Dennis Downs and the entire Pueblo County school and staff, hosted the event.

The event also included a silent auction, a Miracle Minute, and all proceeds from the sale of tickets and food were donated to Villegas.

Villegas was surprised by all the support from the school and the community.

“It confirms that maybe you did something right,” Villegas said.

Villegas said he got texts and calls from former players before the game but he believed it was all because of the holidays and had no idea what was going to happen.

“There are players here that I haven’t seen in years,” Villegas said. “County of Pueblo really supports all of its staff and that is just great”,

The other Pueblo County sports team also contributed to the event, donating a basket to each for the silent auction that took place during the game.

Villegas said he was grateful for all the support.

“I’m thankful that people think enough of you to do something like this,” Villegas said. “It’s pretty amazing.”

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Christopher Abdelmalek is a sports reporter for the Pueblo Chieftain and can be contacted at [email protected] or on twitter @chowebacca