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Basketball tournament in memory of Matthew Rolle raises $7K for his children’s college fund

When young and old mixed together on the basketball court of a longtime men’s league in Mattituck, tensions could inevitably flare.

The energy of the competitive youngsters wouldn’t always sit well against the older men just hoping to make it through the game without suffering a week’s worth of aches and pains.

“The young guys would be very competitive and us old guys are saying, ‘Hey, we got to go to work tomorrow,’ ” said Mark Rolle, a former player in the league.

Matthew Rolle, Mark’s son, joined the league starting during his college years. A standout athlete at Mattituck High School who played baseball, basketball and soccer, Matt brought a skill and grit to the league with his size and passing ability. And while he was the kind of player everyone wanted as a teammate, he was also someone opponents didn’t mind matching up against.

“He played aggressively but he understood how to play with the older men, except for me,” Mark Rolle said, noting that he often played on an opposite team of his son. “He beat me up. Didn’t beat anyone else up.”

Early Saturday morning, many of the men who played alongside Matt over the years, as well as some of his former high school teammates, gathered for a memorial tournament in his memory. The Matt Rolle Memorial Basketball Tournament, held on the courts at Aldrich Lane in Mattituck, raised money for a college fund for Matt’s two young children, Clayton and Lylah.

Matt died in January after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 36.

Stephen Pisacano, a longtime member of the basketball league, organized Saturday’s tournament, which he hopes to build on in upcoming years.

“Matt was like one of the greatest guys I ever played with,” Mr. Pisacano said, adding how he would always pick Matt to play on the team alongside a bunch of guys who were over 40.

“We used to play a lot of times a bunch of 22-year-olds and we would win like seven of the 10 games,” he said. “We just loved playing with him.”

Mr. Pisacano came up with a Superman-themed logo for the event that was featured on T-shirts many of the players wore Saturday. It featured Matt’s name in the block lettering akin to Superman as well as a diamond shape logo similar to the famous “S” emblem, but with a basketball outline.

Mr. Pisacano said Matt was always mild-mannered, much like Superman’s alter ego, Clark Kent.

“I want his kids as they get older, if this keeps going, to say Daddy was like Superman,” he said.

Basketball was always a big part of life in the Rolle family, so it was a fitting way to keep his memory alive by organizing a local tournament, Mr. Pisacano said.

He opted to keep the tournament small for an inaugural event, so it was mostly those close to Matt who participated, as well as to limit the gathering size during the ongoing pandemic. Teams competed in games up to 11 on four courts before crowing a champion.

The tournament raised $7,000.

Mark Rolle said “it’s been unbelievable” the way the community has supported the family since Matt was first diagnosed with cancer and now six months after he has passed.

“It’s just a great community,” he said.

A number of sponsors helped make the event possible, including the lead sponsors: Cedars Golf Club in Cutchogue and One Source Tool Supply based in Southampton. East End Sporting Goods in Mattituck assisted with the T-shirts.

Dr. Jay Slotkin, a physician in Mattituck, said he’s been playing in the men’s league since the late ’80s. The league had started with George Gaffga, a pastor of Mattituck Presbyterian Church, he said.

Dr. Slotkin, 72, was back on the court Saturday and said he was likely the oldest player in the tournament.

“I’m still standing up afterwards and I got a few rebounds,” he said of his performance.

The eight teams, which competed in a double elimination tournament, were sponsored by local businesses. The Lucharitos team of Kevin Flinter, Dave Markel, Matt Ahern, Jovan Booker, Matt Ianno and Marta Czaplak, went undefeated to win the inaugural tournament. Ms. Czaplak, who helped lead the Riverhead girls basketball team to a Long Island Championship in 2012, earned the unofficial Most Valuable Player honors. There was no trophy just yet for MVP.

“It’s funny because we’re like, this isn’t about winning but as the games get closer to championship, we’re like maniacs,” Mr. Pisacano said. “Everybody wants to win now.”

Ms. Pisacano said above all else, the day was about “the spirit of [Matt’s] name.”

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