When Ranney boys basketball coach Tahj Holden found out he and his youngest son, Max, were facing the fight of their lives, it did not take long for the Shore Community and beyond to show their support to the former Red Bank Regional and University of Maryland standout.

Two-and-a-half months later, Max’s fight continues against a rare form of childhood cancer called neuroblastoma and the Shore Community is once again helping out on Saturday, May 19 with the Max Strong Charity Alumni Basketball Game at Red Bank Regional High School, followed by a silent auction at Red Rock Tap and Grille in downtown Red Bank.

The alumni game will pit former standouts from around the Shore Conference against some distinguished alumni from Holden’s three main teams – Red Bank Regional, Ranney and the University of Maryland.

The headliner on the Red Bank/Ranney/Maryland alumni game is Steve Blake, who starred on the 2002 NCAA championship team at Maryland with Holden and went on to play 13 seasons in the NBA with eight different organizations.

Former Red Bank football star and Penn State running back Eric McCoo will also play on the Red Bank alumni team, along with Mark Donnelly, Will Guerin, Milton Gray, Ryan Johnson, Tony Raciopi, James Jones, Shawn Agee and Mike Canning

Savior Akuwovo will also play with Red Bank’s distinguished alumni after playing for Holden this past high school season at Ranney. The 6-foot-9 Akuwovo is headed to Division I Howard in the fall and was a Shore Sports Network All-Shore Third Team Player for a Panthers team that won its first Shore Conference Tournament championship and lost to Roselle Catholic – the No. 1 team in N.J. – in the NJSIAA Non-Public B championship game it what is regarded by many to be the best game of the season in N.J. high school basketball.

On the other side, the Shore Conference alumni team will boast Raheem Carter, Darnell Tyler, Nick Brown and Bobby Scott – all of whom were standouts at Long Branch, with Carter going on to play at Seton Hall.

Christian Brothers Academy head coach Geoff Billet opposed Holden in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals but will play for his son’s benefit when he suits up for the Shore alumni team as a former CBA and Rutgers University standout.

John Tierney played for Ranney’s fiercest rival – Mater Dei – before the rivalry took hold and now Tierney is Holden’s assistant at Ranney. He will suit up on Saturday for the Shore alumni squad as well.

The rest of the team includes Eric Beshore (Shore Regional), Feron McGhee (Neptune), Jeff Hemschoot (Red Bank Catholic), Paul Marcotte (Mater Dei), Matt Kukoda (St. John Vianney) and Sean Tague (St. Rose).

The game tips off at 10 a.m. with the doors at Red Bank Regional opening at 9:30. The scene shifts to Red Rock for a silent auction that will run from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Tickets are $10 for the game, $45 for the auction and $50 for both. They are available in advance by going to Paypal.me/MaxStrongNJ or via Chase QuickPay at WarriorMaxStrong@gmail.com.

Proceeds raised by the game and the auction go to the Max Strong N.J. Non-Profit organization.

Max Holden was diagnosed with neuroblastoma during the first week of March and shortly thereafter, a family friend started a GoFundMe page to raise money for the Holden family. The page raised more than $100,000 in the first 48 hours.

Holden returned to coach his team against Roselle Catholic after a three-day absence to be with Max and his wife, Carrie, and his team – as well as many of the 3,000-plus fans in attendance in Toms River – wore yellow shirts that said “Max Strong” on them over their game jerseys.

Since the diagnosis, Max has had successful surgery to remove a tumor from his liver and undergone three rounds of chemotherapy. According to Tahj Holden, his son is in the midst of what doctors told him will be an 18-month treatment process.


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