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The members of the Caldwell-West Caldwell 'Team Mean Machine' 4th-grade hoops contingent were, from left, kneeling in front, Lucas Lattimer, Luke Maida, Jordan Catrambone, Ray Zamloot, Matt Novak and Rocco Checchetto and, standing inback from left, Luke Kurzum, Ty Fredo, Ryan Lawrence, Brian Helsel and Lorenzo Sozio.

Future Of Caldwell High Hoops
Could Be Boosted By 'Machine'

By Bill Allen
For sidelinechatter.com

THE CALDWELLS- To build a high school team there have to be a grass-roots programs which can serve as a feeder system, and in the sport of basketball in the towns of Caldwell and West Caldwell in particular, one of those prime starting points for some of the possible future James Caldwell High School Chiefs could be with a certain fourth-grade contingent that certainly learned from its mistakes this past winter season to put together a very solid season.

After losing its season-opener by a point, the 4th-grade boys basketball contingent from Caldwell and West Caldwell, “Team Mean Machine,” went unbeaten the rest of the way and earned two titles.

The Caldwell-West Caldwell (CWC) young hoopsters kicked-off their campaign by falling, 40-39, to the Wayne Pal squad in Wayne PAL League regular season action on Dec. 6, but then rebounded to strike down seven opponents, as Team Mean Machine topped Montville, 55-14, on Dec. 13, North Caldwell, 33-19, on Jan. 3, Jefferson, 38-12, on Jan. 10, Randolph White, 56-17, on Jan. 11, Glen Ridge, 45-9, on Jan. 17, Randy White, again, this time 37-15, on Jan. 24 and the Sparta Knights, 47-16, on Jan. 31.

Those results gave Team Mean Machine a 7-1 mark in regular season play, a second place finish, behind only 8-0 Wayne, in the standings and the second seed for the PAL playoffs.

In the Wayne PAL tourney, Team Mean Machine took the title by knocking-off North Caldwell, the seventh seed, 39-15, on Feb. 28, prior to defeating Parsippany PAL, 41-33, in a semifinals showdown on March 1, and then waylaying Wayne, 34-20, in the title tilt on March 2.

In addition, in the Fastbreak Invitational, an event which was held on Feb. 15 and 16 in Wayne, the Team Mean Machine marched to that tourney's title by winning five times in less than 48 hours, as CWC outscored Our Lady of the Lake of Sparta, 40-25, and Mahwah, 44-29, on day one, before passing Passaic, 42-8, getting by Glen Rock, 31-27, and moving past Mahwah, 43-31, in the title tussle on day two.

Team Mean Machine was comprised of 11 players: Lucas Lattimer, Luke Maida, Jordan Catrambone, Ray Zamloot, Matt Novak, Rocco Checchetto, Luke Kurzum, Ty Fredo, Ryan Lawrence, Brian Helsel and Lorenzo Sozio, who had also played together as third-graders.

Guiding the locals were head coach Chris Novak, a West Caldwell resident, and three assistant coaches who live in Caldwell: Chris Checchetto, Ray Zamloot and Ed Kurzum.

"We're very, very proud of what our kids were able to accomplish and we're even more happy that they were able to learn some of the fundamentals of the game and gain the basics of working together as a team," said Novak, adding, "Our hope is that this group will stay together for the most part and that they'll be able to eventually become the nucleus of a good team at the junior high and then high school levels."

 

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