Rockets honor Santa Fe HS seniors, first responders in pregame ceremony

HOUSTON -- Santa Fe High School seniors and administrators, along with first responders, received a standing ovation during a ceremony before the Rockets Western Conference finals Game 5 win Thursday.

The school, located about 30 miles from Houston, was the site of a mass shooting on Friday. A 17-year-old student has confessed to killing eight students and two teachers, and injuring 13 others.

More than 300 members of Santa Fe's senior class, as well as first responders, attended the game as guests of Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, a fellow Galveston County native. Fertitta said the group was given a police escort to the game with more than 20 different law enforcement agencies represented.

Fertitta said he immediately began making plans to honor the victims and survivors and to host the Santa Fe senior class as soon as he heard about the shooting.

"All we're trying to do is give them a memory," said Fertitta, who joined Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo to meet the Santa Fe contingent when they reached the city limits. "I remember my last week in high school and how special it was. To think that these kids, their last week in high school, what they had to remember, we're going to do whatever we can do to take that memory and make it a little more special. They're just kids. They're just like your kids' friends and everybody else, and it's just horrific what they had to go through."

There was an extended moment of silence before the national anthem, which the Santa Fe High School choir performed. Santa Fe honors students held American and Texas flags on the court during the anthem.

The Rockets wore a gray ribbon with "Santa Fe HS" in green and gold, the school's colors, on the left shoulder of their jerseys. Fertitta, his family and Rockets CEO Tad Brown wore green Santa Fe T-shirts.

Santa Fe principal Rachel Blundell attempted the First Shot, a tradition Fertitta started this season in which a celebrity attempts a free throw before the game. Fertitta usually donates $5,000 to that person's charity of choice for a make and $1,000 for a miss, but he committed to giving the larger total to the Santa Fe Strong Memorial Fund regardless of the result of the free throw.

The Rockets also donated proceeds from their 50/50 raffle during Game 5 to the Santa Fe Strong Memorial Fund.

Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said he hoped that the franchise's focus on the Santa Fe victims and survivors would help effect change.

"It's so much more meaningful than what we do," D'Antoni said. "I'm just glad that Tilman and the organization and everybody is behind it 100 percent. If it moves two or three people to understand we've got to have some change, that would be great. But your heart goes out to them, and it puts you back in reality really quick. It's just time for something to change. We just can't go on."