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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

Men’s League celebrates 85th season

Dan Russoman/THG. Jordan Davis drives to the basket as Travis Washington defends during a Hammonton Men’s Basketball League game last week.

HAMMONTON—A long tradition of recreation basketball continued last week when the Hammonton’s Men’s Basketball League opened its 85th season on March 12 at Hammonton High School.

The league has run continuously since 1939, and few local players have gone their entire careers without playing at least a few games in the league.

“I remember my dad telling stories about the league,” Ben Castone said.

Castone has worked hard for most of the last decade to keep the league operational. It’s a labor of love for Castone, who once played in the league but now just enjoys helping keep it operating each spring.

“I loved playing, but I just don’t have the time anymore. We’ve been very fortunate to have so many guys come back every year. We always pick up a few new players, but it’s those guys who come back who keep the league going,” Castone said.

One of those players is former Hammonton High School standout Kelvin Rivera, who is one of the league’s captains this season.

“I love it. I’m basketball player and this is a way to keep playing the game with and against guys I know, so it’s really fun for me,” Rivera said.

Ian Brown, who is another captain this season, felt similar to Rivera.

Dan Russoman/THG. Boby Barbieri (right) shoots over Justin Rodriguez (left) during a Hammonton Men’s League game last week.

“I really like playing. Playing in high school at St. Joe, I played against a lot of these guys. And once I was done in college, it was a good place to keep playing,” Brown said.

Brown added that he hopes more former St. Joseph players will join the league in the future.

“There’s a lot of Hammonton [High School] guys here, and they talk a lot about being rivals. I wish there were a few more St. Joe guys to balance it out,” Brown said.

While players competing in the opening game warmed up, many others reconnected and talked about games played in the past.

“I’m an older guy, but I always love to hear the stories, especially when it’s about games or players I saw,” Tony Quigley, who helps run the league with Castone said.

“This is a great league because it has players of all ages. I’m one of the older ones, and we have kids just out of high school and even guys who are in their 50s and 60s who still come out and play,” Quigley said.

Town councilman Thomas Gribbin was on hand to celebrate the league’s 85th season opener and Castone presented him with a plaque recognizing the town’s support of the league.

“Ben [Castone] and Tony [Quigley] do such a great job keeping this league alive. It’s a fun to come out and watch a game and see so many familiar faces,” Gribbin said.

Men’s League games are competitive and there is a family atmosphere in the gym where most of the fans are related to the players.

Looking back on 85 years, Castone talked about his family and the connection it has to the league.

My grandfather played in the league, and so did my dad, so it’s always been a part of my life. When I was a kid, my father always talked about the great players who were in the league. We heard stories about guys like Jack Rehmann and Michael DeLaurentis, who they say scored something like 70 points in a game once,” Castone said.

“There aren’t many leagues that have been around this long and it’s something I think the town should really be proud of,” Castone said.

On the court last week, the season began with a short-handed Marinella’s team posting an impressive 76-64 win against West End. Grant Wise scored 27 points for the defending champions in the win, while Joe Handy added 21. Joey Umosella scored 23 for West End and Justin Rodriguez led the team with 25.

Ben Castone Landscaping topped The Alley Bar and Grill in opening night’s second game. Marcus Miller led the winners with 21 points while Kelvin Rivera and Travis Washington led the way for the Alley.

Later in the week, Castone’s won a sloppy game against West End in a rematch of last year’s finals, taking a 80-72 double overtime decision.

Miller led Castone with 24 points, while Erik Pabon Jr. led a West End’s failed comeback with 19. Turnovers hurt Castone’s throughout the game, but some timely layups allowed them to pull out the win.

Brandon Flood dazzled the crowd early with three-straight 3-pointers. Jordan Davis added 23 and Anthony Caple had 16 in the win.

The week’s action ended with Marinella’s defeating Plagido’s 88-84. Coach Bobby Barbieri was able to trade for Carlos Valentin prior to the game and Valentin hit two late 3-pointers to help secure the win. Barbieri led Marinella’s with 23 points, Wise had 18 and Lionel Aldoy chipped in with 16. First-year captain Ian Brown had 32 points for Plagido’s in the loss.

Hammonton Men’s League games are held each Tuesday and Thursday night at Hammonton High School beginning at 7:30 p.m.


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