LELAND — This was no ordinary game.
Sure, two rivals clashed on the basketball court, but for all the battling on the hardwood, everyone was reminded sometimes much more important battles are being waged.
Eric, Keegan and Gavin Royston have gone through that for over a year. Monday night, they not only did together, but with two communities behind them.
Eric Royston has stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He wanted to see his sons play basketball together next year on the Comets' varsity, but now that length of time might not be a luxury he'll have.
"If they were to put me in chemo now, they'd put my liver in failure and I'd die anyway," said Eric Royston, 47. "I can't get chemo until this number comes down. But is this number going to come down before the tumors outgrow me? There's nothing I can do. It's not a Hail Mary, but it's definitely going to have to be a long touchdown pass."
Monday's junior varsity game had a bigger attendance than the varsity contest that followed. There's very good reason for that.
Lake Leelanau St. Mary cooperated and allowed Keegan — a Leland junior — to play on junior varsity for one game to share the court with his brother with their father in the crowd.
"It was amazing," Keegan Royston said. "I thought I might've gotten that chance this year, but (Gavin) fell just a little short. He's grown so much this year. It was just a gift to be able to play with my little brother in front of my dad and give him the opportunity to see that for his last time, I don't know."
Monday's junior varsity game between Leland and Lake Leelanau St. Mary was packed on both sides of the gym.
"Tonight has been one of the best nights of my life," said Gavin Royston, a 6-foot-6 freshman. "I'd like to thank everyone for coming out. It's been a hard time."
The Roystons moved to Leland from Holt in September of 2016, although the boys' grandfather, Rick, served as Leelanau's fire chief until retiring. The basketball game was attended by numerous first responders from Leelanau County.
"It was a blessing," said Keegan Royston, who also plays football for Glen Lake. "It really was. We wouldn't have gotten this as a family downstate. The support of this community is amazing. I'm so happy that I'm able to live here and be a part of everything."
Both schools sold T-shirts and rubber wristbands as a fundraiser. The Comets wore warm-ups with pink cancer ribbons on them.
The boys played junior varsity and the outcome of the game became nothing in comparison to the outpouring by two communities.
"It was very cool," said Eric Royston, the head of school at Leelanau Montessori Public School Academy. "My oldest son, Keegan, knew I was excited to see them play together next year. I really was. Since this not-so-good cancer has taken a toll ... it was good to see them tonight."
Diagnosed in May of 2018, Eric's early treatment showed positive signs. Then the liver tumors grew faster than expected.
Now, he's clinging to hope while also accepting that might not be enough to see next season.
"I didn't keep track of stats," Eric Royston said. "I was just excited to watch them play, try to take every moment I could. The score of a high school basketball is small potatoes."