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12/20/17 8:32pm
12/20/2017 8:32 PM

Well before the festivities began, Al Edwards was shaking hands with friends in the stands when all of a sudden, a round of impromptu cheering erupted: “We — are — proud of you! We are proud of you!”

Those words were directed at Edwards.

The night was all about Coach Al, as the former Greenport High School boys basketball coach is known. Edwards, whose retired No. 33 jersey hangs high on a wall at the school’s Richard “Dude” Manwaring Gymnasium, now looks down upon Coach Al Court.

Edwards is Greenport basketball royalty, now more than ever.

The court was officially dedicated in Edwards’ name Wednesday night. “A long time in coming,” said athletic director Chris Golden, who called Edwards “a true Greenport legend.”

When Edwards joined Golden at center court for the pregame ceremony, he received a standing ovation. Then he whirled around to recognize the applause from all quarters and reciprocate.

Standing in the middle of a bigger, brighter gym than the one he played in when he wore a Greenport uniform, Edwards, 63, addressed the crowd. He expressed thanks to Greenport staff members, other coaches, his former players and his wife, Denise. He choked up when he spoke of how his parents taught him to “work hard, to always be the best you can be.”

The Porters (4-1) took those words to heart and beat Mattituck, 80-59, in a non-league game, with a career-high 40 points and eight assists from Ahkee Anderson and 23 points and 12 assists from Jaxan Swann. Jude Swann, Jaxan’s brother, collected 16 rebounds to go with six points, six blocks and four assists.

“Everyone was calling it Coach Al Day, so we all wanted to try to put on a show for him today,” said Anderson.

Xavier Allen, who is Anderson’s cousin, led Mattituck (5-2) with 18 points. Ryan Seifert added 13 and H’Nadahri Joyner had 10. Isaiah Johnson had eight points and 10 assists.

But, first and foremost, the storyline was about Edwards, who starred for Greenport as a player before going on to play for East Carolina and then returning to coach the Porters for 34 years.

After the game, Edwards said, “It adds a little extra touch that my name’s on the floor in Dude Manwaring’s gym.”

There’s a good reason why Edwards has been called Mr. Greenport Basketball. As a player, he scored 2,117 points for Greenport (all before the three-point shot was introduced) and was recognized as a New York Daily News All-American. After taking over from Manwaring as the team’s coach in 1979, his teams won 383 games, 12 league championships and 10 Suffolk County titles. He also guided the Porters to three straight trips to the state final four, including an appearance in the state Class D final in 2009. Edwards was among those in the first class inducted into the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame.

“It’s really been a pleasure to say that I coached at Greenport High School,” Edwards told the fans in attendance. “I really appreciate the support from everybody out here.”

Being in the glare of the spotlight is not something Edwards prefers, those who know him say. “I know Al doesn’t like the public stuff, but I could tell this meant a lot to him,” said Greenport coach Ev Corwin.

The first thing Mattituck coach Paul Ellwood mentioned when asked about his thoughts on Edwards was how he maintained his calm demeanor while coaching.

“Everyone would be going crazy, the players on the floor and the fans, and he was always calm and he was always even keel no matter what was the situation,” Ellwood said. “He had been there, done that. So the kids really fed off that. That’s why I think Greenport always played so well in big games, because of Al’s confidence and calmness.”

In a postgame interview, Edwards said: “The turnout was overwhelming. I just hope that the Porters can continue their winning ways and put another banner on the wall.”

It would go well with the name on the floor.

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Photo caption: Former Greenport player and coach Al Edwards applauds the fans during the pregame ceremony in which the school’s basketball court was dedicated in his name. (Credit: Garret Meade)

01/06/15 10:53pm
01/06/2015 10:53 PM
Al Edwards, center, was presented with a plaque during a pregame ceremony that included Greenport coach Ev Corwin, right, and assistant coach Rodney Shelby. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Al Edwards, center, was presented with a plaque during a pregame ceremony that included Greenport coach Ev Corwin, right, and assistant coach Rodney Shelby. (Credit: Garret Meade)

FIRST SETTLERS 53, PORTERS 38

Coach Al.

That’s what his players called him. It was at once a sign of respect for the iconic Al Edwards and recognition of his personable nature. (more…)

10/03/14 10:00am
10/03/2014 10:00 AM
Al Edwards talking to his players during his last game as Greenport's coach. (Credit: Garret Meade, file)

Al Edwards talking to his players during his last game as Greenport’s coach. (Credit: Garret Meade, file)

Now that recommendations have been made to dedicate an indoor basketball court to retired coach Al Edwards, Greenport School District officials are looking to develop a policy for naming school facilities.  (more…)

01/02/14 7:00am
01/02/2014 7:00 AM

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Al Edwards, talking to his players during his last game as Greenport’s coach, retired in May after 34 years of running the team.

In early March 1971, while he was still a junior on the Greenport boys basketball team, Al Edwards launched a jump shot in a playoff game against Islip that sank through the bottom of the net just like so many before. That basket vaulted Edwards to the position of all-time scoring leader in Suffolk County, a record that would stand for 17 years.

The game was momentarily stopped and Edwards was presented the basketball as the crowd cheered in a standing ovation. It was a sterling achievement but, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t ready to celebrate.

The story in the next edition of The Suffolk Times reported, “As he was presented with the basketball, the radio announcer commented that despite this great honor, Edwards didn’t look too happy because his team was behind. Everyone who knows Edwards agrees his main concern was Greenport’s winning first.”

That mentality and dedication to his work never eluded Mr. Edwards in the decades that followed. As a coach and teacher, he always strived for excellence. And in doing so, he happened to become one of the most recognizable and beloved figures on the East End.

For his three-decade career in coaching Greenport’s basketball teams, his work as a teacher at Eastern Suffolk BOCES and his ability to lead generations of young men, The Suffolk Times has chosen Al Edwards as 2013 Educator of the Year.

In May, after an illustrious 34-year career on the bench for Greenport, Mr. Edwards announced his retirement.

“He’s an icon,” Greenport athletic director Robbie Costantini said earlier this year, following Mr. Edwards’ announcement. “Are you kidding me? Greenport basketball, Al Edwards.”

Few people got to see Mr. Edwards in as many lights as Ev Corwin. As a kid growing up in Greenport, Mr. Corwin first met Mr. Edwards at youth programs. When he got older he became the ball boy for Mr. Edwards’ teams before eventually playing under him for the Porters. He went on to coach with Mr. Edwards as Greenport’s junior varsity coach and has now succeeded him as varsity coach.

“I think Al has a lot of patience, number one,” Mr. Corwin said. “He has a real good ability to listen to people and to not make snap judgements.”

After an all-American career during his high school days at Greenport, Mr. Edwards played college basketball at Eastern Carolina. He returned to Greenport following college and became varsity coach there in 1979.

He held that job until this season.

“I learned a lot, other than basketball X’s and O’s,” Mr. Corwin said. “I learned a lot about his class, his dignity.”

For as much as Greenport’s teams could be counted on to win each season, they did so with class. Mr. Edwards led by example and his teams followed.

“He took pride in the fact we won three or four county sportsmanship awards,” Mr. Corwin said. “He won those while winning Class D Long Island titles as well. He wanted our teams to try to represent the school with a lot of honor and pride.”

Mr. Edwards spent a majority of his teaching career at the Westhampton Beach Learning Center as a physical education teacher for special-needs students. He most recently worked at the Port Jefferson Academic Center.

Mr. Edwards also retired as a teacher, a position he started at BOCES in the fall of 1978.

A few months ago, Mr. Edwards was already back on a court, working with Mr. Corwin at a basketball clinic for students in grades three to six.

“It didn’t take him long,” Mr. Corwin said, “because that’s what he does.”

Mr. Corwin and Mr. Edwards have developed a close friendship over the years, so it was no surprise when Mr. Corwin received a phone call from his idol on the eve of coaching his first varsity game.

“He gave me a little pep talk,” Mr. Corwin said. “He’s always at the games still. He’s not going anywhere.”

After all, in Greenport, Al Edwards is Mr. Basketball.

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01/01/14 7:00am
01/01/2014 7:00 AM
GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Al Edwards, talking to his players during his last game as Greenport's coach, is retiring after 34 years of running the team.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Al Edwards, talking to his players during his last game as Greenport’s coach, is retiring after 34 years of running the team.

Al Edwards never thought he would even become a JV coach when he returned to Greenport High School following his playing career at East Carolina.

Almost immediately, though, Edwards was in charge of the varsity and the rest, as they say, was history. After 34 years, Edwards decided it was time to retire following the 2013 season.

Edwards graduated from Greenport in 1972 and was Suffolk’s all-time leading scorer at the time he graduated with 2,117 points. The record stood for 17 years before Kenny Wood of East Hampton broke it during the 1988-89 season. Edwards’ jersey was retired in 1992.

In his time as coach, Edwards guided the Porters to three New York State final fours in Glens Falls.

“It’s been a long time, but it’s been really rewarding and it’s been a lot of fun,” Edwards said after announcing his retirement.

Click here for a complete list of our 2013 top sports stories.

05/13/13 1:36pm
05/13/2013 1:36 PM
GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Al Edwards, talking to his players during his last game as Greenport's coach, is retiring after 34 years of running the team.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Al Edwards, talking to his players during his last game as Greenport’s coach, is retiring after 34 years of running the team.

Following a college basketball career at East Carolina, Al Edwards returned to his alma matter, Greenport High School, as a coach, working with his former high school coach, Dude Manwaring. Edwards’ rise to becoming a varsity coach was much faster than he could have imagined.

“I can’t even say I thought I would be the JV coach,” Edwards recalled. “I was just helping [Manwaring]. All of a sudden, he was coaching JV and I was coaching the varsity.”

Just like that, a coaching career began and lasted, perhaps even longer than Edwards himself could have imagined.

After 34 years as Greenport’s coach, Edwards has decided it is time for a change — for himself and the team. The man who has become an icon for Greenport boys basketball in a coaching career that touched five decades, is stepping down as the Porters’ coach.

“There comes a time when you have to do that,” Edwards, 59, said. “I guess it’s time to just hang it up and move on.”

The Greenport athletic director, Robbie Costantini, confirmed the news Monday that Edwards had submitted his retirement papers as both a coach and a physical education teacher for special needs students at the Port Jefferson Academic Center.

“He’s an icon,” Costantini said. “Are you kidding me? Greenport basketball, Al Edwards.”

Costantini said Edwards is “a great guy, a great coach. He did us proud.”

More than anyone else, Edwards could be regarded as Mr. Greenport Basketball. He first made his mark as a high-flying player, who wasn’t shy about launching jump shots, sometimes from long range before the three-point shot was instituted. At the time of his graduation from Greenport High School in 1972, Edwards was Suffolk County’s all-time leading scorer with 2,117 points next to his name. That record stood for 17 years before Kenny Wood of East Hampton broke it during the 1988-89 season.

Edwards’ No. 33 jersey was the only retired number that hung in Greenport High School’s Richard “Dude” Manwaring Gymnasium since 1992. That was until this past Jan. 30 when another Greenport uniform number, the No. 34 that belonged to Ryan Creighton, was retired, to be raised onto the wall of honor next to Edwards’ 33. Creighton passed Edwards and everyone else on Long Island’s scoring charts, putting up 2,799 career points over five varsity seasons.

After high school, Edwards, who was a New York Daily News All-American, went on to play at the NCAA Division I level for East Carolina on a full basketball scholarship. He played four seasons for the Pirates, captaining the team his senior season when he averaged 10.7 points per game.

Following his college career, Edwards returned to Greenport, this time as a coach. He was soon was handed the reigns of the varsity team in 1979.

“That was the onset of a lot of good things,” Costantini said. “I always felt that Al wanted to give back, and he always did.”

Over the past 34 years, Edwards’ teams have enjoyed great successes. He guided the Porters to three New York State final fours in Glens Falls. Edwards’ coaching record is incomplete, but a review of The Suffolk Times’ archives found that he has won at least 343 games and lost at least 252. That takes into account a 19-3 season in 2000-1 when the Porters were later found to have used an ineligible player and those 19 wins were declared forfeits.

The Porters went 10-8 last season, losing to Pierson in a Suffolk County Class C outbracket game that proved to be Edwards’ last one as Greenport’s coach.

“It’s been a long time, but it’s been really rewarding and it’s been a lot of fun,” Edwards said. “I met a lot of people all through the years and coached a lot of players. Happy days.”

The retirement of Edwards, who was among those in the first class inducted into the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame, marks the end of an era for the Porters.

With his even-tempered demeanor, Edwards showed class in victory or defeat. Costantini said he remembers how Edwards always gave players a chance to redeem themselves after they made a mistake.

“I don’t believe he ever kicked a player off his team,” Costantini said. “He would discipline them. He would suspend them, but he always gave the kid an opportunity to come back.”

Edwards said it is true that he never kicked a player off his team. “It’s all a learning process,” he said. “Everybody’s going to grow and everybody’s going to make mistakes.”

Edwards acknowledged that it will feel odd for him in November when basketball practices start. He said it will be the first winter since he was 10 years old that he will not be officially linked to a team.

“It’s been my life,” he said. “It will definitely be strange. The winter time will not be the same.”

The first day of Edwards’ retirement will be July 1. He said he plans to travel, but he will still live in Greenport and check out games in the area. “I’ll be here and there,” he said. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Costantini said that if the school’s budget passes next week the school district will soon move to name a successor. Two obvious candidates would seem to be the team’s assistant coach, Rodney Shelby, and Greenport’s junior varsity coach, Ev Corwin.

While reflecting on a lifetime of basketball in an interview with The Suffolk Times two years ago, Edwards said, “I was always surrounded by good people.”

On Monday, Edwards spoke of how he cherished his basketball years.

“I wouldn’t trade it,” he said. “It’s been fun. I had a good time. It’s been a good run, and I appreciate all the support from the community, and I’d do it over again.”

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02/12/13 8:48pm
02/12/2013 8:48 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Greenport's Austin Hooks, who got into early foul trouble, maneuvering near Pierson's Ian Barrett under the basket.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Greenport’s Austin Hooks, who got into early foul trouble, maneuvering near Pierson’s Ian Barrett under the basket.

SUFFOLK CLASS C OUTBRACKET GAME | WHALERS 63, PORTERS 41

When the Greenport boys basketball team is on top of its game, whipping passes around the court and draining one outside shot after another, it is a sight to behold.

Tuesday night was not one of those occasions.

The story of Greenport’s season could be summed up in one word: inconsistency. Certainly, when the Porters are playing well, they can give an opponent a lot to worry about. But Tuesday’s Suffolk County Class C outbracket game was one they would prefer to forget.

With the exception of the game-opening basket, Greenport never led and was ousted by Pierson, 63-41, in Sag Harbor. No. 2 seed Pierson (12-7), the defending county champion, will have the opportunity to retain its title Thursday when it will play top-seeded Stony Brook (14-3) in the county final at Westhampton Beach High School.

“The third quarter we were hanging for a while, and then it seemed like they got on a good streak where they were knocking down threes and we just couldn’t recover,” Greenport coach Al Edwards said. “We were just not strong enough to keep fighting waves like that. After a while we were just on our heels, you know, just can’t recover.”

Tuesday was not Greenport’s night in a number of ways. Injury and foul trouble cost Greenport (10-8) the use of its two best rebounders, Billy Doucett and Austin Hooks. Doucett sprained his left ankle and exited the game with 1 minute 39 seconds remaining in the first quarter. It was the end of the senior’s high school playing career. Hooks picked up his third personal foul early in the second quarter and didn’t return to the game until 5:27 into the third quarter. By then Pierson was holding a 40-29 lead.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Timmy Stevens of Greenport, firing a shot over Pierson's Ian Barrett, led the Porters with 17 points.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Timmy Stevens of Greenport, firing a shot over Pierson’s Ian Barrett, led the Porters with 17 points.

“We picked up the momentum and moved the ball more and made some good shots, but when we lose one of our best rebounders, it’s kind of hard to battle back from that,” said Greenport sophomore Timmy Stevens, who led the Porters with 17 points. “They’re a scrappy team. They move the ball, they do everything. It’s kind of hard to defend them.”

Jake Bennett was undoubtedly the player of the game. Bennett, one of six Pierson seniors playing for the last time in their home gym, provided the Whalers with 18 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. But perhaps just as valuable was the contribution he made that didn’t show up as clearly on the statistics sheet.

Pierson, as it usually does, assigned Bennett to guard the opposing team’s most dangerous offensive player. In this case, it was Gavin Dibble, a genuine long-range threat. Dibble, with Bennett in his face much of the time, was held to 11 points.

“They had a great game plan,” Edwards said. “They take Gavin out of the game — most teams do that — and then they put the best defender on him so that he’s not a factor, and he’s not the one that beats you.”

Pierson coach Dan White has seen Bennett blanket opponents before. “He’s something else,” White said. “He’s rare. I’ve played a lot of basketball, and I’ve never met anyone like him.”

And Bennett wasn’t the only one. The Whalers brought hustle and energy to the court. Greenport’s shots weren’t dropping for a reason. The Porters shot 33.3 percent from the floor and made only 7 of 25 field-goal attempts in the second half.

“Our defense is our backbone,” said White, whose team had 7 more rebounds and 9 less turnovers than Greenport.

For a while, though, Greenport played its best basketball without Doucett and Hooks on the court. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Stevens and Dibble enabled Greenport to cut Pierson’s lead to 33-29. But then Pierson’s transition game led to some easy layups. The Whalers closed out the third quarter on a 14-2 run, Ian Barrett scoring 7 points during that spurt.

“We don’t have anybody who’s 6-4, jumping, dunking, knocking down threes,” White said, “but I have a lot of kids who play year-round, work on their skills and play for each other and care for each other.”

Barrett put up 16 points and 8 rebounds for Pierson, and Patrick Sloane added 14 points and 8 rebounds. Joey Butts provided 6 assists.

Matt Dibble of Greenport passed for 8 assists.

Bennett said the victory was good medicine for Pierson. “We were struggling in that last half of the season,” he said. “We were struggling to get through games. Practices were starting to lack energy.”

Now, he said, “We’re ready to roll.”

Greenport’s inside game — its Achilles’ heel — was exposed, especially when Doucett and Hooks were on the bench.

“That’s the story,” Edwards said. “Which team is going to show up? Are we going to hit the jumpers? Are we not going to hit the jumpers? Are we going to have a halfway good inside game? You can’t win without an inside-outside game.”

NOTES
With its playoff loss, Greenport bids farewell to its seniors: MATT DIBBLE, BILLY DOUCETT, CHRIS MANWARING, BRYANT RIVAS and RICH WYSOCKI.

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01/30/13 9:02pm
01/30/2013 9:02 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Ryan Creighton, holding his retired No. 34 jersey, sharing a laugh with the Greenport school superintendent, Michael Comanda.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Ryan Creighton, holding his retired No. 34 jersey, sharing a laugh with the Greenport school superintendent, Michael Comanda.

PORTERS 74, FIRST SETTLERS 37

Greenport fans were standing, clapping and cheering. It was like the good old days for the Porters. A little Ryan Creighton magic had returned to Greenport High School.

On an historic night for Greenport boys basketball, Creighton returned to his former school as the guest of honor for a pregame ceremony Wednesday evening in which his old uniform number, 34, was retired by Greenport. Creighton, who played for the Porters from 2005 to 2009, becoming Long Island’s all-time leading scorer and New York State’s second-leading scorer with 2,799 career points, is the last Greenport player to wear that number.

In presenting the framed purple and gold No. 34 jersey to him, Greenport’s school superintendent, Michael Comanda, said to Creighton, “Ryan, on behalf of the Greenport public school system and the Greenport community, I’m proud to officially retire your number 34. Congratulations.”

Creighton, snappily dressed in a gray suit, made brief remarks to the crowd, thanking family and friends. He held the framed jersey aloft for fans to see. Later, he said he felt emotions tugging at him during the ceremony. “I almost shed a tear,” he said in an interview.

Asked what the ceremony was like for him, Creighton flashed his trademark smile and replied: “It was great. It was awesome. Words can’t even explain it.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Billy Doucett shot in 20 points to lead Greenport in its rout of Southold.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Billy Doucett shot in 20 points to lead Greenport in its rout of Southold.

Creighton’s No. 34 is only the second number that Greenport has retired. It joins the No. 33 that Al Edwards wore for Greenport before going on to coach the Porters for the past 33 years. Edwards is Greenport’s second-leading all-time scorer with the 2,117 points he registered prior to his high school graduation in 1972. Edwards’ No. 33 was retired in 1992, on the same day that Greenport’s gym was named Richard “Dude” Manwaring Gymnasium.

Greenport’s athletic director, Robbie Costantini, said the No. 34 jersey will be hung up next to the No. 33 on a wall in the gym.

“That’s a great honor for him,” said Edwards.

Noting the large turnout for the event, Edwards said fans appreciate what Creighton did for the school. A four-time all-state player, Creighton led the Porters to three straight trips to Glens Falls for the state final four as well as their first state championship game his senior season. He remains a beloved figure in Greenport, not only for his heroics on the basketball court, but also for his humble character.

Ron McEvoy, the former Greenport public-address announcer who acted as the master of ceremonies, said that while in Glens Falls during Creighton’s playing days, “all the coaches, players, basketball fanatics would all talk about Ryan Creighton, and the only thing you heard were good things — competitive, classy. You can break any record you want, but if you do it with class, that’s what’s important to us here at Greenport.”

The presence of Creighton, who now lives in Raleigh, N.C., was apparently inspirational to the Porters. They went on to rout Southold, 74-37, for their fifth win in six games.

Creighton said he told the Porters before the game, “You can’t lose tonight.”

And they didn’t.

Billy Doucett scored 20 points, Austin Hooks netted 18 and Gavin Dibble had 17 for Greenport (9-5, 7-3 Suffolk County League VIII). Doucett fell one rebound shy of a double-double and Dibble came within an assist of a double-double.

Southold (4-11, 3-8), which was eliminated from playoff contention with the loss, received 14 points apiece from Alex Poliwoda and Liam Walker.

Greenport took charge early, shooting out to a 14-2 lead by the end of the first quarter and making it 35-10 by halftime. The Porters stretched their lead to as many as 41 points twice in the second half.

The big difference in the game was field-goal shooting. Greenport shot 50.9 percent while Southold struggled at 29.4 percent.

“We didn’t want to disappoint him,” Doucett said of Creighton. “We didn’t want him to come all the way back here for nothing. We wanted him to enjoy the show.”

Hooks said the pregame ceremony was “pretty inspirational. I sure look up to Ryan. He was an icon when he was in high school. It’s just great the numbers that he put up. He worked with his team. He passed the ball. He scored. He rebounded. He did all of it.”

Creighton, who left Franklin Pierce University (N.H.) during his freshman season, said he is considering going back to school to study sports management and possibly go into coaching. Perhaps one day he will get to coach in the same gym that exhibits his old uniform number.

“It was an emotional time at my stage in my coaching career to … witness another number going up on the wall after all these years,” Edwards said. “Now he can come back and see his jersey on the wall. He’ll look at it every time he walks in here.”

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01/30/13 12:43pm
GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Greenport will retire Ryan Creighton's No. 34 jersey tonight. The jersey will be hung next to Al Edwards' No. 33, the only other uniform number retired by the Porters.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Greenport will retire Ryan Creighton’s No. 34 jersey tonight. The jersey will be hung next to Al Edwards’ No. 33, the only other uniform number retired by the Porters.

The festivities for Ryan Creighton’s jersey retirement ceremony are scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. tonight as the Greenport Porters host Southold at Greenport High School. The game begins at 5:45 p.m.

Creighton’s No. 34 jersey will be retired, joining coach Al Edwards’ No. 33, after an illustrious five-year career that brought the Porters to the cusp of a state championship.

Creighton finished his career second all-time in state history for career points with 2,799.

Be sure to check back tonight for full coverage from Creighton’s big night as well as the game between the Porters and First Settlers.