St. Mark enters a high school team in CAL play
The Catholic Athletic League (CAL) basketball league includes all ages and abilities. The two new teams added to the Jamestown league this season are in the youngest and oldest age brackets in the league.
The youngest team is the fourth grade boys' team, which plays on Saturdays in Bristol. It is basically an introduction to basketball, according to Coach Chris Varrecchione. There are games with rules and scores are kept, but they don't focus on those scores or the standings. There are no playoffs and this group is encouraged to be inclusive and instructional. The primary goal is to have fun on the court according to Mary Heath, who has been the CAL coordinator in Jamestown for the past three years. To keep the pressure low, there are certain rules and restrictions that must be followed. For example, the players can't defend outside the three-point line.
Varrecchione is pleased with his team in their first year playing together. "The thing that strikes me about these kids is that they have never played organized basketball outside of the town recreation league and they play really well together. There is no bickering, they are not selfish and they pass the ball," said Varrecchione.
The St. Mark squad has a record of 6-1 with 11 members including Steve Cirella, Robert Haberland, Jacob Jarry, Thomas Murphy, Finn O'Farrell, Jay Patel, Teddy Roberts, Noah Simmons, Jordan Smith, Giancarlo Varrecchione, and Liam Vetter.
In its most recent game, St. Mark beat St. Leo of Pawtucket by a score of 29-10. Roberts scored eight points and Haberland had 10. "This group could be really good basketball players. We are already working on man-to-man defense, which is a concept the fifth and sixth graders are usually learning," praised Varrecchione.
The ninth and tenth grade, or high school, team is coached by Chris Crawford, Tom Waddington and Frank Rosa. This is the first year for the team and Heath said she finally gave in to the demand from the kids. "These kids have played together since fourth grade and if they don't play on their high school team, they don't have any options for organized basketball," said Heath.
The St. Mark CAL team lets them come together once a week and play ball like the good old days. The players attend various high schools including North Kingstown, Prout, Hendricken, and LaSalle. About half of the kids play for their high school teams, but they still look forward to playing basketball as a team on Sundays.
Ryan Southworth plays on the North Kingstown High School boys' freshman team and was instrumental in getting the CAL high school team going in Jamestown. When asked about his motivation he said, "We always had a good team and I didn't know if I would even play in high school, so I at least wanted to play some basketball." Southworth went on to say that is easy to balance playing for two teams since St. Mark only plays on Sundays.
Crawford has been coaching this group since they were in sixth grade so it was an easy decision to coach the new high school team. "They are all friends and have known each other for a long time. You can see their camaraderie just by watching them play, the older kids get along with the younger kids and vice-versa," said Crawford.
The ninth and tenth grade team has a record of 5-2 and its members include Chris Crawford, Michael McDermott, Tom Monroe, Ben Normand, Romil Patel, Cory Rosa, Steven Santos, Ryan Southworth, Tom Stacom, Ben Thompson, Drew Waddington and Chris Wright. It is obvious Crawford has enjoyed coaching this team through the years; as he watched them scrimmage against each other he laughed and said plainly, "They are a fun group."