MIDDLETOWN – There was some great basketball played inside Brookdale Community College’s Collins Arena on Wednesday night, as the Ranney School staked its claim as the No. 1 high school team in New Jersey with a 61-49 victory over Roselle Catholic.
But the loudest cheers of the evening came during a standing ovation at halftime.
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That was when Ranney head coach Tahj Holden walked to midcourt holding his son, Maxwell, a 2-year-old battling pediatric neuroblastoma, who was presented with the National Guard Hero of the Game award, producing the most poignant moment of the Jersey Shore Challenge doubleheader. Max was presented with both a medal and a red cape, symbolizing his warrior-like battle over the past 11 months.
A portion of the proceeds from the event will go to the MaxStrong, a nonprofit that helps raise money for Max’s care.
It was just before Ranney’s game against Roselle Catholic in last year’s NJSIAA Non-Public B final that Max was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, with the Ranney players sporting MaxStrong T-shirts during the pregame warmups in what was an emotional scene at RWJ Barnabas Arena in Toms River.
Just eight days ago Max was back at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York for surgery, and faces more chemotherapy and radiation as part of his treatment.
There is another MaxStrong fundraiser set for Feb. 9 at Red Bank Regional, Tahj Holden’s alma mater. It’s part of a double-header featuring Rumson and Red Bank at 1 p.m, with Ranney taking on Asbury Park at 3 p.m. All of the proceeds from that event will go to MaxStrong.
A GoFundMe page also has been set up to help offset the cost of Max’s care, with more than $171,000 having been raised as of Saturday afternoon.