'Faith, not fear:' Team motto takes on new meaning as Wenonah co - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

'Faith, not fear:' Team motto takes on new meaning as Wenonah coach battles cancer

Source: WBRC video Source: WBRC video
Source: WBRC video Source: WBRC video

For Wenonah girls basketball coach Emanuel Bell, there's one thing that's always been true: “Basketball is my life. I love it, I love it.”

It all started 23 years ago when Bell started coaching at Jones Valley Middle School, but high school is where he found success.

He’s coached the Wenonah Lady Dragons to three consecutive state basketball championships and now with a fourth within reach, he’s put a full court press on his life off the hardwood.

“My mom passed away Aug. 1, A few days later, I got sick with pneumonia. I went to the emergency room and they said I had pneumonia. When they ran some test, they came back and said I had a tumor,” Bell added.

So, doctors ran more tests and gave him the news: stage 4 lung cancer.

“It was devastating. I'm not going to lie. It was devastating. For them to say lung cancer, that was another shock because I haven't smoked in 25 years,” said Bell.

Cancer had spread from his right lung to his stomach, but the hardest part for Bell was telling his daughter and then his team. 

“Coach Bell had kind of disappeared, but we didn't ask questions. He got on speaker phone and told us to not cry, but me being with him since 9th grade, I cried. He said we have to have faith, not fear,” senior forward Kourtnie Smith said. 

“Faith, not fear” is a motto the team adopted before Coach Bell was diagnosed with cancer, but now it has a whole new meaning for Bell.

“It makes my life livable now because I have faith and I don't fear anything. The only thing I fear is disappointing God, but that's about it,” said Bell. 

After being diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in August, Bell immediately started chemotherapy treatment at Alabama Oncology at Princeton Hospital.

"This is what I do for the next hour, have conversation, because everyone here is on the same page so we all have the same conversations about how great God is. I got a devotion I do every morning, so I sit here and do my devotion and put it on Facebook,” Bell added.

A devotion that is inspiring others including his team. 

"I learned how to fight through challenges because this man has been challenged with cancer, and I see him fight every day and for him to be here with us, it means a lot to me so I feel like we get out here and do it for him, we fight,” said point guard Jayla Morrow. 

And that's exactly what the Lady Dragons will do this week at the state basketball championships with hopes of bringing home another blue map. 

"I will probably cry just because I’m going to appreciate how God continues to bless me and the kids that are part of me"

Wenonah beat Sylacauga in the final four Wednesday afternoon. The Lady Dragons are just one game away from their fourth consecutive state championship. 

Wenonah will play the winner of Charles Henderson vs. Arab Saturday morning at 9 a.m. at the BJCC. 

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