CLARK, NJ - The 13th annual Clark Travel Basketball Winter Tournament officially got under way on Friday and will go on for the next three weeks in town. Boys and girls in grades 3-8 from across New Jersey will square off in basketball matches in five different venues.
At the Brewer Recreation Center, Clark fifth-grade girls took on visiting Glen Ridge on Sunday afternoon. Clark won the game, 32-22.
“They’re getting used to playing with each other, which I think is a great experience to have no matter the age group,” coach Molly Panetta said. “It’s competitive, it keeps the basketball in their hands and it’s fun for them. They just love it.”
Panetta played in the league for many years and was a star player at Arthur L. Johnson High School, graduating in 2016. She currently attends Kean University, and stays connected to the travel basketball program through coaching.
From an event that was once small, the three weekend-long tournament has grown and expanded over the years. This year, 181 teams across multiple age and gender divisions will complete in hundreds of games. Games will be played at both gyms in Brewer School, the upper and lower gyms in Arthur L. Johnson High School and in the gym located in St. Agnes Church.
“When we started, we would solicit other towns, other leagues,” tournament coordinator (and coach Molly’s father) Dave Panetta said. “The tournament has grown so much that I don’t solicit anymore. They just come to us and just send in their registration forms. We started with 77 [teams] and now we have 181.”
Dave Panetta added that the tournament funds the entire Clark Travel Basketball program. He said each team gets a certain amount of money toward several different basketball-related activities, such as clinics, league fees, referees and tournaments.
“The players see different teams they would normally not see playing, because we have teams coming from as far as Branchburg, Monroe, Old Bridge, Wyckoff and Marlboro,” Clark Travel Basketball President Steve Hund said. "These are teams you would never see. You have a variety of talent you would see them play against.”
“This is great competition and athletes really do a great job,” Mike Pozyc, one of the tournament's founding members, said. “Some of the coaches of the travel teams add how the experience would be beneficial for the younger players down the road with the different competition they face along the way.”
There are over 300 games played within the three-week span of the tournament, which runs through the weekend of March 3-5.
Daily admission for the tournament is $3.00 for adults, $1.00 for children and seniors. Game schedules and results can be found at http://www.leaguelineup.com/welcome.asp?url=clarktravelbasketball.