Sports columnist Marc Maturo’s official column
Rockland Rockets: Florida, here we come
The Rockland Rockets are blasting off, soon headed to Orlando, Fla., offering a group of basketball-playing youngsters a taste of national competition and some life lessons, as well.
The Rockets’ 16U team led, coached by former Nyack College all-American point guard Sheanan Martinez of Garnerville, will compete in the AAU Division II National Tournament at Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort.
The group is scheduled to depart July 10, with tournament play continuing through July 17.
Martinez, in his first year heading the Rockets following two years leading the Hudson River Hornets, another AAU team, is proud of his involvement with a program that hopes to extend its influence beyond the boundaries of a basketball court.
“We’re trying to develop youngsters all-year-round, both on and off the court, that’s our objective every day,” said Martinez, a 2008 graduate of Nyack College who is being assisted by Nyack HS alum Stefan Martinez, his younger brother, who was also – you guessed it – a point guard.
“It’s great to see everyone developing, almost done with high school, and having new role models. This is one outlet for them,” Martinez continued.
Among the parent leaders is the fund-raising dynamo and retired New York City Detective Terry Williams of Valley Cottage.
Martinez the Elder calls his brother “a good guy, a former player-of-the year,” and labels Williams “a great fund-raiser.” (Ed note: this columnist saw Williams live and in action on a hot, humid, hazy Sunday afternoon, helping to raise funds for the trip along with two players, Matthew Stroud of Nyack and Wendell Floyd of Spring Valley, among others.)
Williams, who made a trip to Virginia last year with the Rockets’ ninth-grade team, downplays his role.
“I’m just one of the parents helping out, really. It’s all about the boys going to Florida,” said Williams, nevertheless noting that he is excited about his first trip to Florida.
“Going to Florida is a little more exciting for me, and the boys,” he said.
Excitement, indeed, is a theme echoed by one and all, not only for seasoned travelers such as Stroud, but for first-timers such as Floyd, a junior at Ramapo HS who will be taking his first step in Florida after experiencing his first flight.
“I’m ready to roll,” noted Floyd, a new member of the Rockets. “It’s my first time with AAU and I like it.”
Stroud, coming off a state regional appearance in baseball with John Jay-Cross River HS, has already been to Florida and other venues for both baseball and basketball. But sports, said his mom, Candy Wilmot, takes up a large part of his leisure time.
“That’s all he does, play sports,” she said. “His girl friend will have to play basketball! He’s very athletic, a born athlete. He’s a good kid.”
Stroud, a senior, has already been to St. Paul, Minn., visiting one potential college choice, Macalester.
“This (Rockets) is a good thing for the boys, it really is,” Candy concluded, perhaps in summation for the entire roster.
The Rockets’ 12-man squad also includes Jordan Williams, Eamon Burns and Max Baroni, all of Nyack HS; Debon Bright and Rob McGill, both of Spring Valley HS; Isiah Brown and Kevin Miraglio, both of Monroe-Woodbury; Laurent Louis, Clarkstown North HS; Andrew Gojcaj, Suffern HS; and James Linnane, Pearl River HS.
“This is the first trip for many of these players, and it’s important. It’s a life lesson … how to get along with others, before college. It’s a big step,” noted Martinez, who is also making his first trip with the Rockets – as a coach.
“I played with them and went to nationals, to Disney World,” Martinez recounts. Asked how well they did, Martinez wasn’t sure, just remembering they won a few games, proving once again that wins and losses are but one facet of Rocket travel.
Rockland Royals wear the crown
The Rockland Royals, who are in a virtual tie for first place in the North Division of the New Jersey Amateur Baseball League, continued to roll in the fourth annual Crotty-Konkowski Memorial Baseball Tournament, outlasting the competition and threatening weather conditions.
Sparked by a two-run double from Frank Salerno of New City, a recent graduate and standout at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill, the Royals defeated the Sullivan County Spartans, 9-5, as North Rockland HS graduate Vincent Martorelli, who starred at SUNY Albany, went the distance on the hill.
The Royals, battling the Nyack Indians and Rockland Astros in the NJABL with two weeks remaining before the playoffs, opened the tournament with a 2-0 win over the New City Outlaws as Joe Ferrara outdueled Brandon Mann in a pitchers’ duel.
To reach the championship game, the Royals edged the Rutherford Rays, 4-3, in the semifinals while the Spartans advanced with a 5-2 win over the Outlaws.
Jared Randazzo scored the tying run for the Royals following a steal of third base, and tournament MVP Danny Roeser’s long double to center sealed the victory.
In a four-game slate following opening night, the Astros won twice, beating the Spartans, 9-0, and the Rays, 7-3, while the Rays beat the Spartans, 5-2, and the Outlaws defeated the Hackensack Hurricanes, 7-5.
Other key performances throughout the tournament were turned in by Union College’s Jesse Galina and Mike Apreda of STAC.
“The weather holding off really surprised me,” noted Royals manager Vinnie Randazzo. “It’s like we really had two angels on our shoulders .”
Randazzo also had high praise for this year’s team.
“This may be the best group of players I have ever coached,” he said. “From the young to the Jon Cosmes and Paul Salernos (Frank’s older brother) — the older guys, they just all blend and pull for each other no matter who is in the game. No matter what happens the rest of the year this has been the most fun I have had coaching in my 10 years with this team.”
The tournament is held each year in memory of former Suffern HS students Vincent Crotty of Montebello and Christopher Konkowski of Airmont, both of whom died tragically in an automobile accident in March 2010.
For more information on the foundation access: http://www.vincentcrotty.org/
EIGHT FORMER STUDENT-ATHLETES will join the Manhattan College Athletic Hall of Fame at a formal dinner on Saturday night, Nov. 2. The inductees: Thomas Blackburne of Budd Lake, N.J., Class of 1974, swimming; Durelle Brown of New Britain, Conn., Class of 2001, basketball; William Clancy of Verona, Wis., Class of 1963, track and field; James Harrington of Flushing, Class of 1951, track and field; Dahlia Henry of Manassas, Va., Class of 1996, track and field; Thomas Lindgren of Raleigh, N.C., Class of 1978, soccer; Charles Mahoney of West Haven, Conn., Class of 1975, basketball; and Ed Walsh of Rochester, Class of 1975, track and field.
THE SUFFERN and PEARL RIVER HIGH SCHOOL girls track and field teams finished second in the state in the final rankings by the New York State Sportswriters Association.
The Mounties, coached by Jeff Dempsey, were rated in Class A while the Pirates, led by Mike McCafferty, were rated in Class B.
In softball, Tappan Zee, coached by Gene Kousoulas, finished the season ranked No. 5 in Class A while the Pearl River team was rated No. 8.
All-America selections include Brian Cook of Pearl River in track, and a bevy of outstanding performers from Suffern, to wit: Caitlin Leary, Kaitlyn Rau and Baley Parrott, all in lacrosse; and Imani Solan, Kyra Greenbau, Soraya Thread, Kamryn McIntosh, Sara Adler and Kate Zemda, all in track.
THIS & THAT
RRR KEEPS ROLLING: Summer workouts, conducted by the Rockland Road Runners, continue each Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Pearl River HS. The sessions are geared for all fitness levels, and overseen by an experienced staff that will answer individual training questions before, during and after workouts. The workouts will continue until August 28, but please note that an off-site workout at Rockland Lake will be held on Tuesday, July 23 to avoid a conflict with another event.