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Vikings retire #24 in tribute to Neville

Sat, Feb 9th 2019 07:00 am
Grand Island Central School Athletic Director Jon Roth holds his daughter Julie Neville's No. 24 jersey that was retired in a ceremony Friday.
Grand Island Central School Athletic Director Jon Roth holds his daughter Julie Neville's No. 24 jersey that was retired in a ceremony Friday.

By Larry Austin

Island Dispatch Editor

The biggest home basketball crowd in decades packed the Grand Island High School gymnasium for the retirement ceremony of Julie Roth Neville’s basketball jersey Friday.

Prior to the Grand Island Vikings girls basketball scrimmage against Royalton-Hartland Feb. 1, the school retired Neville’s No. 24. Neville, a teacher at Huth Road Elementary School, coach, and the first Viking girls basketball player to break the 1,000 point mark for her career, lost her life to breast cancer last year. The scrimmage was also a fundraiser for the Neville Boys Education Fund to benefit her four sons.

Neville’s father, GI Athletic Director Jon Roth, said he has looked at hundreds of photos of his daughter in the three weeks “and I only found one that she wasn’t smiling.”

Hundreds attended the scrimmage in spite of an incoming blizzard.

“It’s overwhelming,” Roth said of the turnout. “The coaches kept saying, ‘You won’t believe it. Open the bleachers.’ We haven’t had the four bleachers open for a basketball game since the Carlin Hartman days in 1988 and ‘89.”

The game was another in a series of events to honor the late basketball coach. Schools in the Niagara Frontier League have held fundraisers to support her children’s education fund as well.

“It’s one school after another,” Roth said. “You talk about a family in the Niagara Frontier League. We are a family, and we support each other.”

Jeff Roth talks about his sister, who prior to the Grand Island Vikings girls basketball scrimmage against Royalton-Hartland. (Photos by Larry Austin)

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