Benjamin HS siblings carry on after tragedy

After the sudden passing of Jimmy Barrientez (right), his three high school children are all leading their basketball teams into the playoffs / Source: KAUZ
After the sudden passing of Jimmy Barrientez (right), his three high school children are all leading their basketball teams into the playoffs / Source: KAUZ

BENJAMIN,TX (KAUZ) - The Benjamin Mustangs are having a great season on the basketball court, but it was marked by tragedy early in the year.

A week after Thanksgiving, the Barrientez family was changed forever.

"It was like, 2 in the morning and so I was kinda out of it, because I had been asleep," remembered Caleb Barrientez.

"Caleb woke me up and I went to [Jalen]'s room with Emmy and 'Jay'," said his younger sister Madison. "And I sat in there and I heard my mom crying."

"I got up and followed her, not really thinking anything," Caleb added. "But then it hit me what was really happening. And it was just shock."

Their father Jimmy Barrientez, president of the Benjamin school board, had passed away in the middle of the night.

He left behind his wife Michelle and five kids, with three still in high school, and the youngest, Emmy, just three years old.

Caleb is a senior and the point guard of the Mustangs basketball team.

"The days after were like, a blur," he said. "Just everything happening. Still going to school and stuff. The basketball games, we chose to play because I didn't want to just sit at home, not be a part of it."

The Mustangs had a basketball tournament starting the next day in Guthrie. Caleb and his sophomore brother Jalen were in the lineup and played the whole weekend.

"I think I was more at a loss than they were," said boys coach Shannon Waters."Because they just held their composure, and they just went on playing, exceptionally well."

Madison, a freshman, sat out the first few games, saying she just wasn't ready. But eventually she returned to the lineup, where she is the 6th man on the outright District 8-1A champion Lady Stangs.

She credits their mother with keeping the family together.

"It was hard at first, but we're better now," Madison said. "She's helped us a lot by going everywhere, to all our games and stuff."

The Mustang boys, led by the Barrientez brothers, are the district co-champions. They'll play rival Knox City on Monday, back in Guthrie, for the number-one seed.

"It's really exciting," Jalen said. "I've never been this close to the playoffs and a gold ball and all that. So it's exciting."

"I've been going after a district championship, a gold ball, my whole high school career," Caleb added.

As is so typical in Texoma towns, the community rallied around the family. Now they are excited to give Benjamin something to cheer in return.

"Small places seem to bond together, and that's what they do here," coach Waters said. "It's been really nice seeing everyone pitch in."

"It would be great to reward them with that," Caleb said. "With everything that they've done for us, after everything happened."

Jalen wears number 22 on his jersey, which was Jimmy's old number from high school. So you know dad will be with his kids in spirit Monday night and throughout the playoffs.

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