Newark Charter Unified basketball

Newark Charter’s Unified basketball team has clinched a berth in the state tournament for the second straight year.

The winter sports seasons are winding down. One local team has clinched a berth in the state tournament, two others are hopeful, and several track athletes have qualified for their state championship meet.

All three of Newark Charter’s basketball teams appear to be in positions to play in the state basketball tournament. However, until the final buzzer sounds, nothing is official.

Newark Charter’s Unified team – made up of Special Olympics athletes and unified partners (peers without disabilities) – is the one team that has clinched a spot in the state tournament. The Patriots, under head coach Ally Taylor, ended the regular season with a 6-1 record, winning their last four games. The lone loss was a 20-19 thriller against a Mount Pleasant team that is undefeated heading into its final game against Glasgow.

“We are very excited about the upcoming playoffs,” head coach Ally Taylor said. “Our team this year is a young, energetic bunch with a lot of talent. We played in some hard-fought battles all season long and are looking forward to continuing that fight throughout the playoffs.”

Newark Charter’s boys team finds itself in the same position it was in last year. Finish strong and be in, or not and possibly be out.

“Our team doesn’t ever say the ‘P’ word (playoffs) because we don’t look that far ahead,” Newark Charter head coach Joe Zang explained. “We just try to focus on the game in front of us and after the dust settles we will see where we end up.”

Newark Charter is 12-6 with games remaining at Havre de Grace on Friday and home against Wilmington Friends on Tuesday. The Patriots are trying to avoid a repeat of last year when they lost the final two games of the season and narrowly missed the tournament.

“What we know is we are going to compete hard every night, day in and day out, and that if we play our style of basketball, we will be in any game we play from here on out,” Zang said. “As of now, we are still in the hunt for a state tournament berth. We need to take care of our business to ensure that we get in and if we play our best, we will be in good shape and ready for the tournament.”

The Newark Charter girls are 13-6 and will close out the regular season on Thursday against St. Georges Tech.

“It looks like we’ll have enough points to qualify at this point in the season,” head coach Bob Massaferi said. “But Thursday’s outcome and our opponents’ season-ending records will determine where we are seeded.”

Guards Nicole Fisher and Bridget Porter are the lone seniors on this year’s squad.

“It’s been a fun group to coach, and we are, for the most part, young,” Massaferi pointed out. “The girls have worked hard all season long.”

If the girls do make the tournament it will be the third straight season that they’ve qualified. However, they have yet to pick up that elusive first postseason win.

“We’re hopeful,” Massaferi said.

The DIAA Indoor Track State Championship is Saturday at the Prince Georges Sports and Learning Complex in Maryland.

Three Patriots have already met the automatic qualification criteria and more could be added leading up to the championship.

Jeremy Gyan is competing in the 55-meter hurdles and the high jump.

“Jeremy has had another strong season for the team,” Coach Steve Sinko said. “He showed how versatile of an athlete he is again this year. He is one of the top hurdlers in the state who we hope will contribute points in high jump and sprint relays.”

Another high-jumper representing Newark Charter is Campbell Leighton, who is new to the team.

“Campbell made his presence known right from the start,” Sinko pointed out. “In his first ever high jump competition, he hit the automatic standard and showed he could help us tremendously this season.”

Captain Madi McWatters will run the 800- and 1600-meter races.

“Madi turned it up a notch this indoor season making big drops in her already impressive personal records, all while leading a young distance squad,” Sinko said.

Newark Charter boasts one of the largest indoor track rosters in the state with over 100 student-athletes participating.

“Overall, this was a very successful season for our team,” Sinko said. “The team was a bit stronger and deeper than in year’s past. There has been consistent improvement week after week. The team should have a strong finish to the indoor season, which we hope will transition us over to an even better outdoor campaign.”

Newark High’s boys indoor track team is under new leadership as longtime girls head coach Gordon Thomson has moved over to coach the boys, replacing the recently retired Mike Mooney. Thomson has made numerous trips to the indoor state championships, but this will be his first at the helm of the boys program.

“This meet will be a good test for Newark, but we are using [the indoor season] as a good lead-up for the outdoor track season,” Mooney explained.

Zeke Dawkins qualified for the state meet in both the 1600- and 3200-meter races and although he is ranked third in the state for the 1600, he will not run it, according to Thomson. Instead, he will focus on the 3200-meter run and save the rest of his energy to anchor the final relay event of the day.

“He has a chance to place well,” Thomson said of his chances in the 3200.

The Yellowjackets are running in three relay events. Members of the 4 x 800 relay are Neal Alix Romero, Matt Guckenberger, Alejandro Lobo and Caleb Cutler. Jaleel Eskridge, Dillon Crossman, Elijah Gallaher, and Ohene Appiah are competing in the 4 x 200 relay.

The last event of the day is the 4 x 400 relay. Dawkins is running with Eskridge, Alix Romero and Jahleel Brisbon with hopes of capping the championships with one of their own.

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