Eli's March Madness Game Rocks High School

Eli Mollineaux just had to be smiling as he looked down to watch last Friday night’s basketball game played out before a near-capacity crowd in Louis D. Giani Gymnasium at Huntington High School.

Trailing by 10 points late in the second half, the Woodhull Intermediate School team staged a furious rally, going on a 16-0 run to topple a confident Huntington High School squad, 45-39, in the annual Eli’s March Madness contest.

Mollineaux, one of the community’s favorite sons, lost a courageous battle with Pearson Syndrome, a rare mitochondrial disease in October 2016, during his sophomore year. His long association with the annual basketball game led to it being named in honor of him. Proceeds from the game are dedicated to the Eli Mollineaux Scholarship Fund.

The two teams of faculty and staff members battled it out as Huntington School Board President Thomas DiGiacomo and Superintendent James Polansky looked on. Woodhull Principal Traci Roethel and her high school counterpart Brenden Cusack both played in the game, with Roethel connecting for a decisive three-point basket to boost Woodhull’s rally.

Woodhull students Michael Donatelli, Ariana James, Samantha Koepele, Reese Rinaldi and Lily Tierney earlier sang a delightful rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” to kick off the festivities. The high school’s Ready Step team performed at halftime. Fans snapped up hundreds of raffle chances and also purchased refreshments and snacks to aid the fundraising efforts.

PTA members worked tirelessly to help make the evening an overall success.

Huntington senior Alex LaBella coached the high school team. The teenager came decked out in a blue suit and tie and gave his players everything he had. Jefferson Primary School physical education teacher Karen Fischer worked the scoreboard. There were even cheerleaders to help keep spirits running high.

Leading 39-29 with the clock steadily ticking down, Huntington High School players must have thought they had the game in the bag. Then the shots starting dropping for Woodhull.

“It’s a great event in memory of a great person, Eli,” Stein said.