Overcoming tragic loss through basketball

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DENMARK, Wis (WBAY) -- One Denmark senior will be carrying the memory of his father with him to the state boys basketball tournament in Madison and he credits his teammates for helping him through a very difficult time.

After their Sectional Final victory Saturday, clinching the Denmark Vikings's first trip to state in 34 years, senior guard Brady Jens had a hard time holding back the tears.

"I know he was looking down on me," said Jens.

It was five years ago this month, during the 7th grade state tournament in La Crosse playing the game he loves, Jens suffered his greatest loss.

His father, Jeff Jens, suffered a heart attack and collapsed in the stands.

"And I remember we all gathered around and said a prayer while Jeff was being helped out of the gym and I remember just being there for Brady and his family at the hospital," recalls teammate Jack Satori.

What had been a bond created through basketball starting in second grade, grew even stronger.

"These are the guys that have helped me through it all and they mean everything to me, and I think that just helps with our relationships and on the court, too," says Jens.

"He's been such a remarkable young man, think his dad obviously would be very proud of him, and I think the support that the team has given Brady throughout the years has helped him get through it," says Vikings Head Coach Cody Stelmach.

"His resiliency is unbelievable, like whatever he does he's always got a smile on his face, always giving the best effort and he's always so friendly to everyone," adds Satori.

It's a trait Jens says he admired most about his dad, always putting others first.

"I hope that I can take that from him and always think of other people and reach out," says Jens.

Over the next few days, the Viking seniors will lace up their basketball shoes one final time.

But it won't be the final score, or the 1,000-point milestone Jens reached this year that Denmark fans and students will remember most about him. It will be his journey, his perseverance, and the inspiration he brings to others, like the 4th grader he posed with for a picture Wednesday at the school's sendoff pep rally.

She lost her dad two years ago.

"My message is just anything that you're going through, whether big or small, that you can get through it," says Jens.