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Sideline Cancer pulls off another surprise in semis

The Basketball Tournament

Courtesy photo Sideline Cancer’s Maurice Creek fires up the game-winning 3-point shot on Sunday night in Columbus, Ohio.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Sideline Cancer’s Maurice Creek hit the game-ending 3-pointer to clinch Sunday’s 67-65 victory over Overseas Elite in the semifinals of The Basketball Tournament, he admitted he had a little help.

Hollidaysburg graduate and Sideline Cancer assistant coach Jordan Griffith knew what he was talking about.

“We’re trending fifth in the world right now on Twitter,” Griffith said. “That’s pretty wild. That’s something we have always been striving for was to get pancreatic cancer national recognition. Today, because of our players, we were able to gain world recognition, which is something I’ll be forever grateful for to these guys. My dad (Greg) is living through us right now along with Jermaine Marshall, who played for us. When Mo Creek hit that shot, that was Jermaine and my dad putting that ball in.”

Creek is one of several players suiting up for Sideline Cancer because of the late Marshall.

“This was for Jermaine Marshall, the former Penn State player,” Sideline Cancer general manager Billy Clapper said. “Jermaine played for us in 2017 and 2018, and Jermaine really bought into what we were about. He actually recruited Mo Creek and Remy Abell to play with us in 2018, and the following year when Jermaine passed away in January of 2019 due to a heart issue in France, two of his other former teammates joined our team too. It’s been really special.”

Creek finished with 10 points.

“We just kept believing,” Creek said during an interview with ESPN after the game. “We were down 10 going into halftime, but everyone kept saying ‘believe’ and that’s what we did. Every time we could, we came with the strength and energy and gave it our best every time.”

Sideline Cancer has now won four games at this year’s TBT, doubling its best previous win total from a single tournament. The team, named for the Hollidaysburg-based charity organization, will play in its first championship game Tuesday at 7 p.m. against a familiar opponent.

Sideline Cancer will play Marquette alumni team the Golden Eagles in a rematch of last season’s Sweet 16 game won by the Golden Eagles, which defeated Red Scare, 79-70, in the other semifinal on Sunday.

“It’s awesome to see this for Sideline Cancer and for the Griffith family and the foundation,” Clapper said. “Our fan base has been growing exponentially.”

Marcus Keene, who assisted Creek’s game-ending shot, finished with a team-high 22 points for Sideline Cancer.

“I was screaming saying ‘yes,’ when we won,” Clapper said. “My wife had been holding her hands up like Moses for 15 minutes and praying that we were going to come back. Sure enough, we did. Cathy Griffith has used the message from the start that it was going to be like Moses parting the purple (instead of the red) sea. Sure enough, it’s coming. We have this opportunity, and we’re going to try and seize it.”

For the third time in four games, Sideline Cancer had to rally to win after facing a 10-point halftime deficit against four-time TBT champions Overseas Elite and seven-time NBA all-star Joe Johnson, who finished with 18 points.

“The reason why we were losing is because we weren’t trusting each other,” Keene told ESPN. “Coach (Charlie Parker) told us if we came out and trusted each other, we’d get right back in the game, and that’s what we did. We all started making shots and playing defense, and that’s what we do and find a way to win.”

Sideline Cancer has been working around the clock, both in Columbus and back in Pennsylvania, to make the most of this opportunity.

“I stayed up until 12:30 last night finishing up my end of the scouting report,” Clapper said. “I got that over to those guys this morning. Charlie (Parker) and Jordan (Griffith) watched the film this morning and broke it down. With me not being there, I was able to watch Overseas Elite’s whole game yesterday while they were getting ready for the game, which helped us along with advance scouting from a guy we have who is a college coach. We knew we were ready.”

Sideline Cancer advanced to the semifinals with a 65-48 quarterfinal rout of Boeheim’s Army, a Syracuse alumni team, on Saturday.

Creek led his squad with 22 points and eight rebounds, and Eric Thompson had a game-high 18 rebounds. Thompson followed that performance with a double-double Sunday with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Tuesday’s winning team will be awarded $1 million. Part of those winnings will go straight into the Sideline Cancer’s fight against pancreatic cancer.

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