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Kellenberg goes above the rim for Long Beach

Kellenberg's Mike Sullivan, left, looks to pass around

Kellenberg's Mike Sullivan, left, looks to pass around Long Beach's Stefan Pitts during the first quarter of a game. (Jan. 20, 2014) (Credit: James Escher)

Earlier this season, Kellenberg boys basketball coach Jack McCutcheon asked Long Beach coach T.J. Burke how his team was doing.

The reason McCutcheon was reaching out to Burke was because the Marines had been through a lot with superstorm Sandy.

“I told him we got the gym back at Long Beach and we got new uniforms,” Burke said. “But that was about it.”

McCutcheon and the Firebirds made sure there would be more.

On Martin Luther King Day, prior to their 56-45 win over Long Beach in the 27th annual George Emma Classic at Freeport High School, the Firebirds presented Burke and company a $1,000 check toward new warm-ups for the team.

“If you watch us play, you can see we are wearing different color T-shirts every day when we’re warming up,” said Burke, whose team will soon be sporting royal blue and white warm-ups. “Jack wanted us to have more money to work with and we couldn’t be more appreciative.”

Long Beach (4-8) officially got to use its high school gym floor at the end of last summer. During the 2012-13 season, the Marines played a few games at Island Garden Basketball in West Hempstead.

Traveling and raising funds were all part of the journey toward rebuilding Long Beach’s athletic program.

“We raised about $8,000 to help the kids for their athletics,” Burke said. “It was used to offset the cost for uniforms, the electric for the high school, to take care of the gym. The school set up its own funds.

“On top of that, a relative of mine bought all the kids sweats, shorts, shirts, reversibles, practice jerseys and sneakers,” Burke said. “We had our own gym back for the fall 2013 season. “

After being named Kellenberg’s team MVP following a 26-point, six-rebound and five-steal performance, Steve Torre said giving back is what the Firebirds have always been about.

“It definitely helps our spirit,” Torre said. “It’s always good to do a good deed.”

And because of the Firebirds' good deed, the Marines will soon be sporting professional-looking warm-up gear, like their counterparts at Kellenberg.

“To me, this means more than the win-loss of the game and is in the spirit of what Martin Luther King Day is all about,” McCutcheon said. “It’s for the kids. It’s all about the kids.”

Tags: chsaa , boys basketball , kellenberg , long beach

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