By James Sky and Mike Referente
In March of 2013, at the conclusion of the Bloomfield Home & School Basketball Recreation Season the Bloomfield March Madness Tournament was formed for the fifth and sixth graders of Bloomfield, New Jersey. All the elementary schools were invited and six teams for both the boys and girls attended.
With the help and generosity of the businesses of Bloomfield, we were able to get both boys and girls trophies and awards for the first time in well over a decade, a pizza party to help introduce the kids to each other and a playoff system that got approximately 200 children of Bloomfield three more basketball games in a playoff atmosphere.
It showcased the talent hidden in the town and drew phenomenal players and games to center stage.
In the tournament alone we saw a triple double by a young girl, a 59 point performance within the three game span by a young man and a 20 rebound game by another young man, just to name a few of the accolades that happened over the two weekends. We had two Championship games; one with the Watsessing Varsity boys winning over the Franklin Varsity boys and the Franklin Varsity girls winning over the Fairview Varsity girls, and most importantly Bloomfield won on that day.
The local businesses that helped in last year’s tournament include the Bloomfield PBA Local #32, the Bloomfield FMBA, the Bloomfield Home & School Association, Bloomfield Best Bagels & Deli, Bloomfield Health & Beauty, the Town Pub of Bloomfield, The Pitt BBQ, Brookdale ShopRite, Stanziale Construction, Sanj’s Smoke Shop, Vinnies’ Pizzeria, Angelo’s Pizzeria, Gourmet Dining Service, Studio One Hair Design, Enterprise Bank, Violante Meat Market, Accredited Insurance, O’Boyle Funeral Home, O’Boyle Landscaping, Levandoski Funeral Home, Property Landscaping, Living Fit, Sea Breeze Auto, Chalet Catering, and Norton Insurance.
That tournament started something that no one saw coming. With the direct help of Mr. Wayne Bragg (Carteret), Mr. Mike Referente (Franklin) and Mr. Rasheem Hill (Fairview) we began getting some of the girls together.
We began telling them to invite their friends and girls who played basketball. Thanks to Mr. Lammar Young and Ms. Kanisha Wiggins we began practicing with the AAU Lady Hilltoppers at the East Orange YMCA. The kids started to like it instantly, until finally we decided to play in a game. The girls from Bloomfield played in their first two AAU games seven months ago on a Friday night and then on that Saturday morning. They lost by a combined 80 plus points in those first two games. That wasn’t the important part; the important part is what happened 5 minutes later. They asked to go practice immediately after their second loss and that was when we knew we had something special.
The girls began practicing five, sometimes six times a week outside at Franklin Elementary School. They started telling their friends about it. The number began to rise as we had representation from Brookdale, Carteret, Watsessing, Fairview, Berkeley and Franklin. Months began to roll and the girls began getting good, so we brought the 9-1 Franklin JV boys team to scrimmage and the girls showed how good they became. That day the boys asked for something for them so we started something for them as well.
All summer long kids from all over the town began to come to Franklin for basketball practice. Kids from outside of town began to hear about it and come. The number soon hit over 50 and enough was enough, it was time to play games.
In September The Rising Sky was officially formed. The boys became the Stars of The Rising Sky led by Captain and All Star Kevin Mitchell, Captain Christopher Jones and two other boys’ captains. The girls became the Angels of The Rising Sky led by Captains Camrynn Referente, Samantha Columna and Kaitlynn Martinez. Both teams have official AAU memberships now. We registered in the Hoop Heaven AAU Fall Season with expectations of just being competitive and trying our best. Both teams not only blew past that goal but the girls took it to the next level.
The Angels at one point during the season didn’t lose for over a month and a half against teams that had been together for years. The Angels, behind its captains, Bloomfield residents; leading scorer Jariah Patterson, leading rebounder Jordan Hill, starting center Christina DeLeon, Brianna Pericone, Morayma Cunas, Lexi Corio, East Orange native Adiya Ali and Newark twin sisters Tatyanna Rodas and Tyanna Rodas cruised to a 5-3 record where they finished first in the league. The girls entered the playoffs last Sunday 11/24/13 and won its first game by 13. Then it was onto the Championship an hour and a half later.
The girls had never played twice in one day, but that wasn’t going to stop them from giving us all heart attacks through the game. The Championship swayed back and forth with lead changes, ties, fouls and emotions. Regulation ended in a tie. The first overtime ended in a tie. The second overtime ended in a tie. Then third overtime sudden death came knocking. First team that scores wins; no if ands or buts. Tip off gave the other team the ball first in which we stopped them, turned the ball over and stopped them again on a steal by #12 Kaitlynn Martinez. She raced down the court went for the layup and was fouled. She had two shots. The first shot obviously had to bounce off the rim twice and fall off (no lie, it is on video, YouTube “Angels of The Rising Sky Championship Game”), if you knew her or the girls, I assure you, you wouldn’t expect it any other way. Then the second shot came, which is the one she counts to 5 and shoots, the first shot she only counts to 3. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, shot goes up, bounces off the back of the rim and drops in, the girls go nuts, the crowd goes nuts and the Angels win their first AAU title together.
This all happened because the local businesses of Bloomfield were more than generous 10 months ago when the kids needed it and we can’t wait to do it again this year with everyone and whoever else would like to join in on this soon to be Bloomfield tradition. Please anyone that would like to join in and help make this bigger and better than last year contact us at Sponsorships@TheRisingSky.com, please check out the website www.TheRisingSky.com or ask around town about us. This is a true child movement based on getting kids more sports and more fun, keeping them active and athletic and above all making sure their grades are where they need to be. We now have kids in the organization from four towns in Essex County and welcome anyone who wants to get better at sports and have fun with friends. Any coaches that want to get involved and help, mentors, anyone and everyone please contact us at
Information@TheRisingSky.com. This is The Rising Sky and everyone is welcome!