FAIRFIELD, NJ - It came down to one point on Monday as the Fairfield Rockets Jr. girls basketball team won the championship game against the Rebels, another Fairfield team, at Adlai Stevenson School in Fairfield. The final score was 29-28 as the buzzer sounded.
The Rockets were led by coaches Marina Palazzo, Jen Perrone and Dan Massaro, whose 6th-grade daughters play on the team. The team consisted of 6th graders Alina Kolenovic, Danielle Massaro, Mia Palazzo, Brianna Perrone, Ali Simmons and 5th graders Naya Ashji, Gianna Farah, Nicole LaManna, Alyza Lloyd, Sophia Sisco, Dilara Ulkumen. The Rockets faced competitive teams throughout the season from Cedar Grove, the Caldwells, Essex Fells, Fairfield, North Caldwell and Roseland.
The Rockets' regular season ended with a record of eight wins and two losses. Coach Palazzo shared that after two early-season losses, the team came together and made a concerted effort to work harder and play more as a team.
At each game and practice, the coaches said the team improved and became more in-tune with each other’s style of play. Palazzo also added that looking back on the season, each player made key contributions at each game and it was truly a team effort and a testament to the girls' dedication and focus.
"This team took just as much pride in their defense as they did in their offense," she said. "Our team mantra was 'Good defense wins games.'”
The Rockets headed to the semifinals and advanced over a very good North Caldwell team. In the championship, they faced an excellent team in the Fairfield Rebels.
"Both of these games were as exciting as you can get with passing the ball back and forth and wins coming down to the wire," said Palazzo. "The championship game was very special because it was two Fairfield teams and the game made for a very proud moment for both teams and our town. The wins were not easy, but like the Rockets have done all season, they played a great defensive game and made key foul shots and gave maximum effort which is all you can ever ask.”
The coaches said they could not have been any prouder of these girls and that the girls put their heart and passion for the game into this entire season while having fun along the way.