The Mainland Regional High School's boys basketball team's season may have ended more than three months ago, but senior hoops standout Ted Mazzeo still had one opponent left to topple before he could close the book on his high school career: his coach, Dan Williams.
Mazzeo got his chance June 5, joining a handful of his classmates to play against - and with - their teachers at the Interact Club's annual Senior-Staff Shootout fundraiser.
Mazzeo, who has been to the shootout each of its four years, said he was excited for the opportunity to play in the game.
"It's a fun thing to do with teachers that I've been with all four years," the Northfield junior said during warmups. "I was looking forward to it."
The game was modeled after Belhaven Middle School's popular Blue and White game, which likewise pits students and teachers against each other on the court.
Proceeds from the game go to Project Mainland, which the Interact Club established in tandem with the game four years ago as a way to help pay for smaller projects that might otherwise not be accounted for in the school's budget.
While the Blue and White game always fills the gym, Mainland's offering has struggled to find a following, this year drawing about 25 spectators. Principal Mark Marrone, who watched the game, said he
doesn't believe the game's turnout matches its excitement.
"It's a great event," the Northfield resident said. "It brings the kids together, and it's a final shot for the seniors to play the staff. It's really just another thing to do. Not a lot of turnout, but it's just good for the kids and good for the community."
Those members of the Mainland community who decided not to attend missed out on a good time. The casual atmosphere of the game led to some entertaining antics and athletic stunts, and the game's exaggerated scoring - which included five- and seven-pointers - made for a few dramatic moments.
Computer teacher Frank Marascio's color commentary was a highlight of the evening, his enthusiasm and creative descriptions drawing regular chuckles from the crowd.
Early in the first quarter, Marascio poked fun at Mazzeo's penchant for controlling the ball, joking that the senior had scored his six points on 55 shots. Later, when English teacher and Mock Trial advisor Chris Fernandez scored on a short jumper, Marascio took a jab at his colleague, saying it was his first basket in four years of participating.
Stan Malcolm, who helps run the Interact Club with Mainland teacher Carol Austin, said he is hopeful the shootout will grow in popularity as the years go on. So far the event has raised about $1,000, which Interact hasn't yet allocated to a project.
Even with modest crowds, the game still brings in a few hundred dollars each year through ticket and concession sales, raffles and community sponsorship. If the game were to fill the gym, though, Malcolm expects it could bring in thousands in a single night.
The Interact Club and participating students and seniors have done a good job of making Mainland's Senior-Staff shootout both a good time and a good cause, now it's up to the community to realize as much, Interact member A.J. Fortunato said.
"I think it's pretty cool," the Linwood junior said. "I hope there's a better turnout for it the next couple years. There seems like a lot less people than there should be, because it's really fun, if you ask me."
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