Coach's cancer battle inspires Frisco Wakeland

The Frisco Wakeland Lady Wolverines would have felt guilty this season if they'd taken a possession off, had a lazy practice or failed to meet their obligations off the court.

A simple glance at their bench would remind them what it means to persevere against long odds.

Wakeland assistant coach Jenny Mills was diagnosed with breast cancer last summer and began chemotherapy just as basketball season began.

Despite her condition, Mills missed just one game this season.

"She handled it like a champ," said Wakeland head coach Darilyn Krempin. "She's one of the strongest people I know. I think a lot of it is because she kept on going and didn't allow it to hold her back."

The Lady Wolverines (23-10, 11-1 in District 9-4A) rallied behind their coach this season. After losing the star players from their powerhouse 2010-11 team, Wakeland had a relatively slower start to the season and some outsiders began questioning whether it was the same team it had been the past two years.

But after surviving a difficult nondistrict schedule, Wakeland closed the season by ripping off eight straight wins, capped by Tuesday night's 61-35 victory over Carrollton R.L. Turner to clinch the District 9-4A title.

According to Krempin, Wakeland's success has come because of its belief in the team mentality that's developed around the program because of Mills. The Lady Wolverines rarely have the same leading scorer twice in a row as Alana Aguirre, Faith Hunt, Bria Platenburg, Danielle Westerfield and Darian Dunn have all shared the load during district play.

"We've had the success we've had this year because of the real team, family bonding, because of the things outside of basketball," Krempin said. "It's been a really unique, cool, special season, not even because of anything to do with being district champions."

In turn, Mills has drawn strength from her team. Krempin said the assistant's condition has improved and that "the worst is behind her."

"She's doing great," Krempin said. "I think it's helped her get through it. I think it's good that it was during the season instead of during the summer when we're all away from each other and sitting around doing nothing."

Wakeland opens the playoffs at 7 p.m. Monday at Prosper High School against McKinney North.