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No. 8 C. Milton Wright boys basketball beats Aberdeen, 78-69, in Coaches vs. Cancer game

Jan. 23—By Sam Cohn — scohn@baltsun.com

PUBLISHED:January 23, 2024 at 9:53 p.m.| UPDATED:January 25, 2024 at 12:09 p.m.

Basketball was simply the backdrop Tuesday night — a vehicle for a greater cause.

That was most evident in C. Milton Wright's blinding pink warmup shirts. The new Under Armour jerseys, too, all white with pink trim on the logos. Mustangs coach Mario Scott, before coaching his No. 8 Mustangs to a 78-69 win over visiting Aberdeen, flexed his suit and sneakers combo — a staple of the Coaches vs. Cancer movement, a 30-year-old initiative more common at the college level partnering the American Cancer Society with the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

Both teams circled around center court, players linking arm in arm with one another. The public address announcer gave a brief explanation of the night's cause. A moment of silence followed.

Tuesday night's game was a chance for C. Milton Wright to raise money and awareness for breast and prostate cancers. It is believed to be the first Coaches vs. Cancer high school game in Harford County.

"We constantly talk to these kids about things being bigger than them," Scott said. "Using whatever platform they have, obviously today with social media, to do some good. We don't just want to play for wins — that's all good, we want to compete for sure — but their holistic development, I'd love to be able to leave them with this idea of doing it for causes that are bigger than you."

Scott's day job at Pfizer connected him with someone from the American Cancer Society who had been interested in organizing a Coaches vs. Cancer game at the high school level in Maryland. The second-year coach jumped at the opportunity to get his guys involved.

The Mustangs chose breast cancer with it being one of the most common cancers in the world with a well-branded switch to the pink color way. But Scott additionally wanted to include something prevalent from the men's side, with many of his players having fathers in the stands. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer found in men, according to ACS, and its colorway is blue; a perfect fit for C. Milton Wright.

The game's front-end purpose shouldn't be lost. In fact, the team has raised over $1,500 for cancer research and will continue to crowdsource through the remainder of the season.

But the unsuspecting battle between Harford County's former most fearsome program visiting this year's undefeated top dog won't be lost either.

The visiting Eagles blitzed first, pushing the tempo at both ends and catching the Mustangs flat-footed with their 2-3 zone. To which, CMW responded. Sun Tzu should've written about the 3-point shot.

Dylan Sander, right, and other members of the boys varsity basketball team warm-up in their pink C. Milton Wright vs Cancer shirts before game against Aberdeen at C. Milton Wright High School. (Brian Krista/staff photo)

Members of C. Milton Wright boys basketball team warm up before a game against Aberdeen. The Mustangs utilize a DJ to make their pregame warmup playlist, while other teams in the county mix hip hop and rock songs to get them ready for the ensuing game. (Brian Krista/staff photo)

C. Milton Wright head coach Mario Scott, left, stands in a line with the rest of his team as the national anthem is sung during a boys basketball game against Aberdeen at C. Milton Wright High School. (Brian Krista/staff photo)

Coaches and players from both C. Milton Wright and Aberdeen come together in a circle at center court for a moment of silence, paying respect to those who've lost their battle with cancer, before a boys basketball game at C. Milton Wright on Tuesday. (Brian Krista/staff)

A pink and blue Mustang is seen on the shorts of a C. Milton Wright varsity basketball player before a boys basketball game against Aberdeen at C. Milton Wright High School. (Brian Krista/staff photo)

Aberdeen's Jomar Camacho gets past C. Milton Wright defenders Kyle Ashman and Dylan Sander, left, for a two-point bucket during a boys basketball game at C. Milton Wright High School. (Brian Krista/staff photo)

C. Milton Wright's Dylan Sander gets under the bucket to put up a successful two-point shot during a boys basketball game at C. Milton Wright High School. (Brian Krista/staff photo)

C. Milton Wright's Shawn Lauderdale takes aim at a three-point shot during a boys basketball game at C. Milton Wright High School. (Brian Krista/staff photo)

C. Milton Wright's Michael Holcomb fights to get a shot off between Aberdeen defenders McKinley Turner and Justin Franklin, right, during Tuesday's game. (Brian Krista/staff)

Aberdeen's McKinley Turner pulls down a rebound during a boys basketball game at C. Milton Wright High School. (Brian Krista/staff photo)

C. Milton Wright's Brodie Hichkad gets in position to block a shot by Aberdeen's Daion Parris during a boys basketball game at C. Milton Wright High School. (Brian Krista/staff photo)

Aberdeen's Darion Parris goes to the hoop for two points during a boys basketball game at C. Milton Wright High School. (Brian Krista/staff photo)

Aberdeen's Justin Franklin, left, tries to get a shot off while pressured by Mustang defenders Larry Thompson and Dylan Sander, right, during a boys basketball game at C. Milton Wright High School. (Brian Krista/staff photo)

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The Mustangs buried 13 3-pointers in the win, accounting for exactly half their points. Senior guard Cayne Woodland sank nine of them — hitting four before his first miss — on his way to a team-high 29 points. He was pulling every one of them with confidence and finding the bottom of the net from all over the floor.

"He's a heck of a player," Aberdeen coach Bill Jones said. "He proved that tonight. I don't know if I've ever seen anyone shoot that well."

Scott anticipated Aberdeen going zone so he hoped his group could rely on its shooting. That was the plan despite a poor shooting effort their last time out. But it quelled their slow start and reignited any gash to the home team's momentum.

Junior Dylan Sander was able to feast from the paint while his teammates shot the ball well from beyond the arc, extending defenders up by a step or two. Noah Clarke and Larry Thompson piled on to the prosperous shooting with a pair each.

But this game being as much of a battle as it was surely came as a surprise to some. Aberdeen has individually talented pieces but had yet to show this season they could put it all together. The Eagles are winless since Dec. 19. And when these two teams first met days before that, C. Milton Wright won by 31.

What changed in this one? Jones partially credits their pregame discourse from the locker room.

"We talked about playing for Aberdeen," Jones said. "We talked about how much support we have in the community, the alumni, the former players. And to consider all that when we take the court tonight. We didn't have anything to lose. ... They laid it on the line."

Jones took his dejected group back to that locker room postgame to say he felt it was the first time all season they had competed for all four quarters. There are no moral victories and "everybody wants to get wins," he said, "But I don't think I've ever been more proud of a team."

Aberdeen senior Darrion Parris walked away with a game-high 32 points, an aggressive offensive force for the Eagles as he has been all season. Parris buried two triples and got 10 more from the free throw line.

The Mustangs turned a 3-point lead to open the fourth quarter into a double-digit advantage by the final minutes — surprise surprise, by way of three fourth quarter treys — and effectively put the game on ice.

"We give credit to C. Milton Wright," Jones said. "I think they're going to win a state championship this year."

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