JAMES KAVANAUGH goes for three for the Melrose Unified Basketball team, who finished their season with two straight wins. (Raj Das www.edphotos.com)
By JENNIFER GENTILE
MELROSE—The Melrose Unified Basketball team finished another wild and exciting fall season which was capped off last week at the Unified Jamboree held at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School on Nov. 18.
It was extra special as the team earned the MIAA Unified Basketball Team Sportsmanship Award and was presented with a trophy prior to the game. Melrose was honored for outstanding demonstrations of sportsmanship and respect during the Unified Basketball season and was it accepted by James “The President” Kavanaugh. Additionally, Melrose went on to beat both Newton and Cambridge to go 2-0 during the day. “I am so proud of this team and honored by this award as it expertly exemplifies everything this team is about,” says Melrose head coach Matt Manfredi.
Previously, Melrose had competed in the Special Olympics all day Jamboree held at Ursuline Academy in Dedham on Nov. 12 for a chance to appear in the 2022 Special Olympics in Orlando, Florida. Melrose was among six schools in Massachusetts hoping to be included in the Massachusetts delegation that will compete in June at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports.
“We were judged on the whole scope of what the team exemplifies, the community of our team, overall teamwork, as well as basketball skills,” says the coach. “We went 1-1 with a 25 point win and a one-basket loss, but are hopeful that everything we displayed that day showed exactly how special this team is.”
Melrose packed the house all season and picked up many road wins this fall, and had their largest roster to date. That makes this season particularly sweet. Says Manfredi. “This season in particular has been one of the most successful and enjoyable seasons in memory. These kids have been through a lot and they all answered the call. The bar was high and they achieved some unbelievable stuff. The sky’s the limit for this team and I am so excited to see the impressive things they will achieve on and off the court.”
Melrose has three seniors moving on who will not be playing with Melrose year and the team has big shoes to fill. Seniors Harry Jaggers, Claire Morse and Ben Donovan are cornerstones of this program, along with fellow senior James Kavanaugh, who is expected to return in 2022. “Harry, Ben, James and Claire have been with this team as long as I have and the success we are seeing would not be where it is without not only their effort and heart, but also the support of their families. We owe these seniors for paving the way for what being a Unified player is all about.”
The coach would like to thank assistant Coach Alicia Bushy, Special Education Director Jennifer Chernisky, Athletic Director Stephen Fogarty, Principal Jason Merrill, and Superintendent Julie Kukenburger for contributing to the team’s success, along with the Massachusetts Special Olympic Committee and community at large for all their support.
The team will have a spring season in April with a Jamboree at the end of that season, and will be hosting a fundraiser at Bitty and Beau’s on Sunday December 12 with more details to follow.