By Randy Whalen
Marist coach Tim Trendel was just fine his first game at Providence since leaving to coach the RedHawks was upstaged by the return of another former Celtic.
Former Providence standout athlete and current Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Miles Boykin was in attendance for the matchup, which also served as the backdrop for a fundraiser for The Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. The event held Feb. 26 raised $16,500 for the cause, with the RedHawks contributing over $4,000.
They also handed the Celtics a loss, putting together a late run and holding on for a 56-54 win in New Lenox.
"This is such a great cause and it was a great atmosphere," Trendel said. "I know it wasn’t the playoffs and it was a nonconference game, but it had a little bit of a playoff atmosphere, and both teams wanted to win. Our guys shared the ball and played hard. We let a lead slip away, but we held our ground and stuck with it."
Providence honored Timmy O’Connell as part of the evening’s proceedings. O'Connell, 9, has battled brain cancer and got to take part in a jump-ball ceremony to start the game.
"That was the best part of the night," said Providence coach Kyle Murphy.
Boykin, a 2015 Providence graduate who in addition to his exploits on the gridiron played four years of varsity basketball, made sure to go shake hands and say hello to Timmy O'Connell.
He also got to see his high school basketball coach. That is Trendel, who was the head coach at Providence for eight seasons through the 2017-18 campaign. This is his second season as head coach at Marist and the game marked the first time he faced his old school.
"I have great memories of the 2015 team we had here," Trendel said of the Celtics 21-win team that won the school's most recent regional title. "Miles was a heck of a basketball player, too."
On Trendel's mind now is that this season’s squad is on the upswing. The win was the third in four games for the RedHawks (12-15) to close the regular season.
Junior guards Dan Reed (16 points) and Alex Knight (15 points), along with freshman guard Xavier Sulaimann (10 points) and senior forward Josh Morris (8 points) led Marist.
Senior guards Joe Alfirevich (12 points) and Noah Vassal (10 points, 5 rebounds), along with sophomore forwards Jack Wajda (9 points) and Owen Moran (8 points) and senior forward Jack Ruddy (4 points, 9 rebounds) paced Providence (12-18).
"It was important to pick up the win," Reed said. "We just wanted to push the ball and get our teammates involved. That's when we are at our best."
The RedHawks led 32-21 at halftime and 47-42 after three. But Ruddy scored all four of his points during an 8-1 Celtics run that put them in front with 5:13 to play in the game.
Marist answered with an 8-0 run of its own to grab a 56-50 lead with 2:30 to play in the game. The RedHawks missed a trio of free throws after that but hung on as Providence had an opportunity to tie the game on three free throws with 1.6 seconds left.
But Moran made only the middle of the three. He tried to bank it off the rim on the final attempt but only hit the backboard. So Marist got the ball out of bounds and was able to inbound it and run out the clock.
"They hit some big shots," Knight said of the Celtics. "But we shared the ball and started getting to the rim. Now [in the postseason] we just have to stay focused and continue to fix up some things."
The postseason opened this week and Marist is the No. 12 seed in the Class 4A Bloom Sectional.
The RedHawks opened play at 7 pm. Wednesday, March 4 at their own regional with a matchup against No. 6 seed Oak Lawn. The day before, Tuesday, March 3, No. 3 seed Homewood-Flossmoor squared off against No. 14 seeded Shepard. The semifinal winners face each other on Friday, March 6 at 7 pm. for the regional title.