Community steps up to score new hoops courts

History has repeated itself along Aldrich Lane in Laurel.

In 1999, the North Fork community funded construction of the outdoor basketball courts at Mattituck-Cutchogue School District property on Aldrich Lane. Last year, the district called on the community once more — this time to rejuvenate the courts, which had deteriorated with weather and age to the point that playing on them was a safety concern. 

Once again, the community came through.

The district does not use the Laurel courts for official basketball games or physical education. However, they have long been a home for local ballers of all ages.

“For so many of our alumni, it’s a place where friends get together, catch up and shoot hoops,” district Superintendent Shawn Petretti said at last Thursday’s ribbon-cutting for the new courts. “We have a long list of projects within the district — the grounds and facilities that are utilized by our students that require a lot of upkeep. To put resources into a project of this size and this expense that wasn’t being utilized by [current] students of the district was something we were struggling with. The Board of Education recommended … we go out and seek donations.”

Within six months, several residents and businesses answered the district’s call to action. Cutchogue-based Corazzini Asphalt donated supplies and labor to have the courts paved before the winter. Earlier this spring, district facilities workers upgraded the backboards and nets and painted the courts.

“We originally were thinking it would cost us about $60,000,” Mr. Petretti said. “We were able to get it done with about $30,000 in donations from the community.”

For the past nearly 15 years, the Mattituck adult basketball league, founded four decades ago by longtime Mattituck Presbyterian Church pastor George Gaffga, has used the facility during the summer.

Longtime local basketballer Dr. Jay Slotkin shakes the hands of Aldrich Sports League founders Francis Buonaiuto and Joe Aiello at a ribbon cutting ceremony for the revitalized Aldrich Lane basketball courts Thursday. (Credit: Nicholas Grasso)

“There’s a lot of camaraderie among the group,” Dr. Jay Slotkin, who typically joins the league at the outdoor courts for Saturday games during the summer, said last week. “In terms of the big picture, [the court] engages the community with the school district. There are guys who used to play ball at Mattituck High School who join us. We bond over basketball.”

In past years, various community organizations also used the courts for fundraisers. Last year, recent Mattituck graduates formed the Aldrich Sports League to host weekly summer soccer games primarily for high-school and college-aged North Forkers. This year, starting Saturday, the group will also host weekly competitive basketball tournaments for those looking to shoot hoops for prize money.

“We always play pickup out here and we love using the courts here,” one of the group’s founders, Francis Buonaiuto, said Thursday. “But [Aldrich Sports League] makes it a lot more competitive for the kids out here and they love it. Especially because you know everyone, so that makes it more fun.”