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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Saturday / June 23.
  • Scottie Lewis, Bryan Antoine dedicating state title game to coach’s 16-month-old son battling cancer

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    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    Forty-eight hours before playing the biggest basketball game of his life, Scottie Lewis spent the evening at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital with the 16-month-old son of his coach at the Ranney School (N.J.).

    Lewis, the 6-foot-5 Class of 2019 star who is being courted by Duke, Florida, Kentucky and Harvard, among others,, and his Ranney teammates will meet Roselle Catholic in the New Jersey Non-Public B state championship game on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Pine Belt Arena in Toms River. But for now they are more concerned with the welfare of Maxwell Holden, the younger son of Ranney head coach Tahj Holden, a member of Maryland’s 2002 NCAA championship team.

    What was originally thought to be a simple ear infection for Maxwell has revealed a diagnosis of Pediatric Neuroblastoma, a tumor that began in his kidney and then spread to his head but not his brain. Maxwell is expected to require 18-24 months of chemotherapy and treatment that will cost “upwards of $200,000,” according to a A Go Fund Me page set up for Maxwell. Maxwell was expected to have surgery Friday morning, Lewis said.

    “[Assistant] Coach [John] Tierney and I went [to the hospital] after practice [Thursday],” Lewis said Friday morning by phone. “They had him on some drugs yesterday so he was kind of tired. He was moving around, he looked pretty good. He looked like Max and we got a couple smiles out of him. He looked like he was in good spirits.”

    Carrie Holden, Maxwell’s mother and a Sales and Education Manager for Boscia skincare, was over-joyed to see Lewis at the hospital.

    “When we got off the elevator, she jumped into my arms and started crying,” Lewis said. “Then we just started crying.”

    Lewis and his teammates learned about Maxwell’s situation earlier Thursday, one day after they beat Trenton Catholic to win the school’s first South Non-Public B championship. Maxwell was in the hospital for that game, and Tahj coached under duress and Lewis said the coach was understandably distracted.

    “Tahj didn’t know that it was this severe, he thought it was something else,” Lewis said.

    Tahj was not with the team on Thursday and isn’t expected on Friday; it’s unclear if he will coach in Saturday’s game. If he doesn’t, Tierney will coach the team.

    “It’s just another person to play for,” Lewis said of Maxwell. “We all love and care about coach Tahj. We FaceTimed him before practice [Thursday] and you could hear in his voice that he wasn’t himself and he was kind of out of it. He was trying to cover it up, but we could all tell.”

    Lewis said he plans to get a T-shirt made that reads, “Play for Max,” and he will wear it for the rest of Ranney’s season.

    Told of the news, Roselle Catholic coach Dave Boff said he and the Roselle Catholic family are “wishing the Holden family all the best during this difficult time.”

    “It just shows how little all this really means in life,” added Boff, who has an 8-month-old son himself. “It’s a high school basketball game.  Everybody should just go and enjoy the basketball game [Saturday] and have fun with it. It’s a great, exciting moment for kids but in the grand scheme of things it’s really not a big deal.”

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.