PHOENIX — The Phoenix High School varsity boys basketball team took time amid its push toward the Section 3 playoffs to shine the spotlight on survivors and those still battling cancer in the community.
The Firebirds held a “Pink Out,” event for the Feb. 10 game against Westhill at the John C. Birdlebough High School gym.
The outing was formed to raise awareness and money for The Baldwin Fund, which works to gather donations toward breast cancer research, and to help support the inaugural Phoenix Basketball Survivor Scholarship initiative.
The Firebirds suffered a 69-31 loss to perennial power Westhill and entered the sectional tournament with a 10-10 overall record as a mid-seed in Class B this week with preliminary games already underway.
“The support in the community has been unbelievable, the parents have been unbelievable so we knew we would get a ton of support,” Perioli said. “We knew it would be a tough game but that this was bigger than the game, so that’s the whole point of it. I’m very lucky to be in this district right now.”
Perioli took the microphone and addressed the crowd prior to tip-off, speaking from the heart and thanking those in attendance for supporting their cause.
The event hit especially close to home for Perioli as his girlfriend, Fern, recently completed her last breast-cancer treatment before expecting to enter full remission.
She was in attendance along with their young daughter, who was sporting her own custom pink No. 11 Phoenix jersey that nearly dragged to the floor as she wore it proudly.
“He’s our biggest supporter, like our big brother, and it’s very cool the connection we get to have with him because he really knows how to touch kids’ hearts, so what we wanted to do was to touch his heart tonight,” Phoenix senior Ben Mendez said of the fifth-year Phoenix head coach.
The Firebirds wore pink jerseys for the occasion while the officials wore black and pink striped shirts and utilized pink whistles.
Both coaches wore pink shirts on their respective benches — Perioli also sported a pair of pink Nike sneakers — and the gym was filled with pink signs and balloons.
Raffle baskets filled the hallway entering the gym, T-shirts were sold, and flat donations were also accepted for the Baldwin Fund and the Phoenix Survivor Scholarship.
“We had a lot of parents help out with this and several families really pitched in, so it was great to see our whole team and our families working together to make this thing a possibility,” Phoenix senior Evan Fox said.
Mendez added: “It was kind of an opportunity to bring out the bad and make some good, put a little positivity in there, because we need that. It’s good to see our local high school do something big like this.”
Perioli brainstormed the concept for the scholarship initiative earlier this year with hopes of rewarding a member of the program who has fought and survived overcoming personal obstacles.
The plan is to award a $1,000 scholarship at their end-of-year team banquet that can be used toward attending college, trade school, or for job certifications, any type of career advancement after graduating high school.
“We decided to name it after all the people who have fought and won,” Perioli said. “There are so many times where we wait until it’s too late to honor everybody, so it came about and immediately we had the support and the donations coming through.”
Phoenix needs just one victory in the Section 3 Class B tournament to assure its third straight season with a winning percentage of .500 or better under Perioli. The previous six seasons all ended with a sub-.500 record for the Firebirds.
“We just got to show up one game at a time, focus on our last (regular-season) game, then we can focus on sectionals,” Fox said.
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