MARCH MADNESS MAKES A WELLINGTON PIT-STOP
Story and Photos By Mike May
While college basketball fans around the country are looking forward to the return of March Madness — aka, the NCAA’s men’s and women’s basketball tournaments – later this month, basketball fans in Wellington just had a sneak peak of college basketball’s future. On the weekend of March 6-7, the Wellington Wolves travel basketball organization and US Amateur Basketball co-hosted the annual March Madness tournament. The main location of the tournament was the Wellington Recreation Center at Village Park, where there are three indoor basketball courts.
The event is now so big that gyms in the neighboring communities of Lake Worth, Palm Springs, and Boynton Beach had to be used to play the games. In all 15 basketball courts were needed to stage this basketball tournament. Other venues in Wellington which hosted games included Wellington High School, Palm Beach Central High School, Emerald Cove Middle School, Polo Park Middle School, and Wellington Boys & Girls Club.
The numbers associated with this tournament are eye-opening: 202 games, 97 teams, and 75 referees, who came from the East Coast Basketball Officials Association.
According to event coordinator Chris Fratalia, 57 of the 97 teams came from north Florida. And, for the first time in the 18-year history of this event, there was a team from outside the state of Florida playing in the tournament.
“This year, we had a team from the state of Maine,” says Fratalia. “It was a 9th grade girls team called Coastal Thunder. They enjoyed the weather.”
And, the Thunder thrived in atmosphere of the on-the-court competition, as the young ladies from Maine reached the championship final of their bracket (9th grade girls), but lost to the Wellington Wolves in the championship game, 64-53.
The ages of the players in the overall tournament ranged from 3rd grade through the 11th grade for boys and 7th grade through 9th grade for girls. Every team was guaranteed at least three games during the course of the weekend.
One of the highlights of the weekend was a number retirement ceremony for former Wellington Wolves player Jahnae Midget, who is currently a senior at Seminole Ridge High School in Loxahatchee.
According to Fratalia, Midget has played travel basketball for the Wolves since she has been in the 5th grade. Midget, who wore number six as a member of the Wolves, will be continuing her academic and basketball careers at Palm Beach Atlantic University this coming fall. Besides being a talented basketball player, Midget is a tremendous student as she’s a member of the National Honor Society, English Honor Society, and has a grade point average of 4.6. Over the years, she has earned many tournament and team MVP awards while playing for the Wolves.
Based on the enthusiasm on the court and in the stands, a good time was had by all.
Final scores of all games during the weekend are on display on the US Amateur app, which is a free download to your phone.
This event was sponsored by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission, ESPN/106.3 FM, Chick-fil-A, Joe DiMaggio Children’s Health, Allen Sportswear, Wellington Wolves, and the Council of Dads.