Gritty in pink: Lady Rangers to host charity hoops tournament
By Eduardo Cuan, Contributing Writer
Westborough – The Rangers girls’ varsity basketball team will host the 12th annual Westborough High School Invitational Tournament over February break in support of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. However, just because the tournament is for a good cause and will take place in a gym decorated in pink streamers and balloons doesn’t mean these games won’t be meaningful or hard-fought.
The tournament is approved by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, which means the wins/losses will affect the playoff picture. Teams that haven’t already solidified their playoff spots will come in very motivated as it’s one of the last opportunities to improve their district standings. Those teams that have already clinched post-season berths will use the tournament as a great opportunity to test drive some of the teams that they’ll face in the playoffs. Unfortunately, due to some key early-season injuries and a couple of lackluster fourth quarters, the Lady Rangers find themselves in the aforementioned group.
“The team is finally healthy and things are looking up,” said senior co-captain Mia Natale, who is averaging about 6.5 points, 7 rebounds and 1 assist per game. “The last few games, we have made improvements getting the ball inside to myself and our post girls Kaylie Doherty, Maria Hession and Melissa Mastrogiacomo. As a post player, it makes me especially happy to be more involved…but the biggest factor in winning these games will be everyone playing hard for the full 32 minutes.”
Natale’s favorite athlete is the gritty former New England Patriots linebacker Teddy Bruschi. As team co-captain, she tries to embody the characteristics she respects most about Bruschi, including his hard work ethic, team first mentality `and commitment to philanthropy. Every summer since her sophomore year, Natale has been involved with fundraisers and traveled to West Virginia with other Westborough teens to help build and repair homes for poor families. She is also a member of the National Honor Society.
Natale made the varsity squad as a freshman and has started every game since her sophomore season. She said this has easily been her favorite season because of the incredible team chemistry they’ve developed. Many teammates have been playing together since elementary school on town teams, club teams or teammates in another sport.
Last year’s Play 4Kay tournament raised $900 for cancer research and the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, named after the former North Carolina State University head women’s basketball coach who died in 2009, after her third bout with breast cancer. The initiative invites coaches nation-wide to dedicate one game between February 11-20 to the late coach and her charity. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students and children. The games will be held at Westborough High School on February 16 and 18. This year, the team hopes to help raise even more money and go even further in the tournament.
“We have higher expectations,” Natale said. “We have to outwork, outhustle and want it more than the other teams. Our season will be a success if we can make districts and compete.”
These girls have already learned to deal with adversity, forged lasting relationships and given back to the community. Some would say the season has already been a great success.
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