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Sideline Cancer team makes it to quarterfinals

Courtesy photo Hollidaysburg graduate Jordan Griffith is an assistant coach for the Sideline Cancer team.

From Mirror reports

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Sideline Cancer, which has played in The Basketball Tournament all seven years of its existence, is headed to the quarterfinals for the first time.

After trailing by five heading into the fourth quarter of its Round of 16 game against Challenge ALS on Tuesday, Sideline Cancer earned a 76-66 win at Nationwide Arena by outscoring its opponent, 24-9, throughout the final quarter and the Elam Ending, which stops the clock and sets a target score with four minutes to play in the contest.

Remy Abell, who played college basketball at Xavier, hit the game-clinching 3-pointer for Sideline Cancer, and Hollidaysburg graduate and Sideline Cancer assistant coach Jordan Griffith was the first to run out on the court and congratulate him.

Griffith’s mother, Cathy, is the president of Sideline Cancer, which raises awareness toward pancreatic cancer, which claimed her husband Greg’s life when he was just 50.

“This is one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had a coach or a player,” Jordan Griffith said. “It’s hard to say how much this means for the foundation. The exposure we have gotten through our social media exploding has been crazy. To survive this game and move on is priceless for the foundation. The national exposure we’re bringing to pancreatic cancer is so important. People are starting to realize that this year, 47,000 people will die from pancreatic cancer, and that’s a problem and why we continue our fight.”

Sideline Cancer has now won two games in TBT for the second straight year. The field was smaller this year due to teams being forced to drop out due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so there is one less round.

“To have three (games on national TV) last year and now to have three again, it’s special,” Sideline Cancer general manager Billy Clapper said. “It’s great for our area, because this was created in Hollidaysburg. It’s not something from some other part of the country that came here. The Ottaway family went to Cathy Griffith and said they wanted to create a foundation. They came up with Sideline Cancer, and now it’s a brand. I hope that this is inspiring for other people. These basketball players may not be the ones to actually cure cancer, but it could inspire a young boy or girl to say they are going to be a doctor and be the one that does.”

Sideline Cancer will play Syracuse alumni team Boeheim’s Army, a 76-69 winner Tuesday, on Saturday at 4 p.m. on ESPN in another national showcase for the local foundation.

“Considering the opportunities on this stage for the foundation, this is pretty special,” Clapper said. “We’ve always said it’s about getting hot at the right time. We have been very fortunate to come back and beat two very good teams. Our guys could have folded in either game, but they definitely have an attitude of ‘I can’ and they are in it until the end.”

Sideline Cancer played Tuesday without forward Diamond Stone, one of two players on this year’s squad with NBA experience, due to a foot injury suffered in the team’s first-round win.

Eric Thompson, who was named the player of the game, stepped in and had 15 points and 13 rebounds.

“He was huge with a double-double,” Sideline Cancer coach Charlie Parker said in an ESPN interview. “I had a conversation with him before the game about how big he was going to be for us. We knew he was going to have to play major minutes, and he was the only true big left on the roster, but I knew he’d have finishing opportunities on the inside with our perimeter game, and he came up big for us.”

Parker was hooked up to an ESPN microphone during the game and gave an emotional speech to his team prior to the fourth quarter.

“We need to get this thing back even going into the Elam,” Parker said. “It’s going to take heart and hard work. It’s going to take putting your ego aside and playing team basketball. We need to hit a couple shots and get a couple stops.”

Abell, who has played with Sideline Cancer for the past three years and scored a team-high 17 points Tuesday, was looking forward to some time off before the quarterfinals.

“First we need to get some rest,” Abell said. “It feels good to move on. This is a great tournament, and there are a lot of pros out here. It’s good to get the win.”

Jordan Griffith said this year’s run has been generating plenty of attention on social media.

“Marcus Keene’s (game-ending) shot in the first round when we won 93-91 got over 200,000 plays on ESPN’s social media,” Griffith said. “Marcus has been with us two years, and you know how important this tournament is not only to the foundation but to these guys because their contract situations. Their money increases because of this tournament, and the exposure the foundation gets is unbelievable, and some of that pent-up energy really goes out when that game-ending shot goes in.”

The impact of playing in the TBT over the years on the foundation continues to grow annually.

“Brad Lear from Hollidaysburg launched a Sideline Cancer AAU basketball team called Purple Fever,” Clapper said. “The whole thing just keeps growing, and it’s awesome to see how many people are getting involved in this. There are so many people involved in this now, it’s special, to say the least.”

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