For three days last weekend, Johnston turned into the basketball capital of Rhode Island.
That’s because the Rhode Island Youth Basketball Association made a seasonal stop in Johnston where 75 boys and 36 girls teams played a total of 115 games from last Friday night to Sunday evening at four locations in town.
Most notably, though, was the Johnston Indoor Recreation Center off Atwood Avenue where three games were played simultaneously and people from all corners of the state got in some cases their first-ever look at the “Gem of Atwood Avenue.”
“There’s a big difference in this place (Indoor Rec Center) and Rainone Gym,” deadpanned Ed Angell, a veteran basketball referee who also officiates football and once played at Chief Rainone Gym that’s located in the Frog City of town. “This is exactly what Johnston needed; a great facility.”
Donald Tencher, the long-time athletic director at Rhode Island College who is well known for his extraordinary upgrades of all the athletic facilities at the NCAA Division III school in Providence, was equally as complimentary about the Indoor Recreation Center.
“This is a great facility and a showplace for the town,” said Tencher while complimenting Mayor Polisena’s administration and Recreation Director Dan Mazzulla for his role in the building of the spacious structure. “It’s great to see this type of activity, especially the RIYBA.”
Tencher is a coach with one of several South Kingstown teams that played in last weekend’s tournament.
The program, as Tencher and Mazzulla concurred, “Is good for the kids; it’s also competitive in the right way.”
Moreover, as Mazzulla told the Sun Rise, “The RIYBA is a very well run organization. We have about 24 members and from now until March all these teams will be playing in tournaments at different locations each and every week.”
The RIYBA, which is made up mostly of teams and is supported by recreation department throughout the state, played last weekend’s tournament at Nicholas A. Ferri Middle School, Johnston High School, the Indoor Recreation Center and as noted earlier the ageless and storied Rainone Gym named in memory and honor of former Johnston Police Chief Rainone.
Last weekend’s tournament also featured boys teams from the fourth grade to eighth grade levels and girls squads from the fourth grade to a combination eighth and ninth grade level.
“Five different girls teams won championships,” said Mazzulla while noting that the Johnston-Scituate squad took home the Sixth Grade Level title. Other girls crowns went to Smithfield-4th; East Greenwich-5th; Warwick-7th; Poretsmouth-8th-9th.
Smithfield took home the Boys’ 4th level title while other champs were: Barrkngton-5th; Smithfield-6th; CLCF (Antonucci)-7th; and CLCF (Malloy)-8th.