THE WAKEFIELD Unified Basketball team looks on as they await their first game at the 3rd ML12 Hoopapalooza on May 24 at the Galvin Middle School. (WMHS Athletics Photo)
By DAN PAWLOWSKI
WAKEFIELD — The 3rd Middlesex League Unified Basketball Hoopapalooza returned to the Galvin Middle School basketball courts on May 24.
Returning fans of the event – which concludes the league’s Unified Basketball season – saw a familiar scene of smiles, inclusion, an endless amount of positive energy and of course great basketball as a record number of teams participated.
Wakefield’s Unified squad was joined by teams from Bedford, Burlington, Lexington, Malden, Melrose, Reading, Stoneham, Watertown, Wilmington, Winchester and Woburn. Each team played twice with games occurring on the two outdoor courts as well as multiple courts inside the Galvin’s gym.
Hoopapalooza is hosted by Wakefield every year. It’s an event that WMHS athletic director Brendan Kent genuinely calls a team effort. With music blasting, pizza always at the ready, fans cheering from start to finish and even some lawn games provided for teams waiting for their basketball matchups, the event is a MasterClass on good vibes.
“Hoopapalooza is second to none in high fives and sportsmanship,” said Wakefield coach Matt Malone. “Everybody is out here having a blast. It is great to see the community come out to support this amazing group of unified student athletes and what a great ending to the Unified Basketball season.”
Wakefield played Malden and Winchester in their last two games of the season.
In their matchup against Malden, Wakefield went up 8-0 early and would eventually win it 18-16.
Unified Basketball is never about the final score, but Wakefield had plenty of strong performances to be highlighted.
Armani Cherisme led the team in points with 8 against Malden. He scored two baskets in a row, first after an offensive rebound then on a great pass from point guard Molly Preston to make it 6-0.
Andy Nguyen (6 pts) got the scoring started with a jumper from the free throw line and later had a steal and coast to coast layup to get the fans going as Wakefield went up 8-0.
Jayden Christian (4 pts) and Michael Fratto highlighted the home team in the second half with strong teamwork. Christian hit one from midrange and later scored Wakefield’s final points on a terrific drive and two.
Cherisme added two more baskets once again after some great rebounding work. Malden featured some terrific offense in the second half but Wakefield was able to hold on for the win.
Of course, as is always the case, the best highlights belonged to the team as a group as they supported one another from start to finish all within an environment that will always be the best amongst Middlesex League sports.
“Hoopapalooza is a fantastic event that gives athletes an equal opportunity to showcase their abilities, celebrate their achievements and be embraced as valued members of the team,” said Wakefield coach Christina Steere. “Thanks to this event, our Unified Wakefield Basketball team celebrated the end of the season by showing our fans – which include peers, educators and families – our progress from this season. We have a great group of athletes who support each other and have a passion for the sport’s inclusion.”