Cambridge girls basketball wins community service award

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CAMBRIDGE N.Y. — The Cambridge girls basketball team were impressive on the court this season, finishing 22-1 and as Section II Class C champions in New York for a third consecutive season. They were ready to defend their state title before the coronavirus canceled all winter sports championships throughout the state.

What they accomplished off the court this year might be more impressive.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) announced Cambridge as the winner of the Winter 2020 Community Service Challenge on Thursday afternoon. The award recognizes a team in New York for their outstanding community service efforts.

The Indians received the award after raising more than $10,000 on Jan. 25 in their "Hoopin' for Nola" event.

The event was put on to help raise funds for Nola Marotta, a third grader at Cambridge Central School. The community found out Nola was battling a rare form of cancer, and wanted to help out.

The money was raised many different ways: A bake sale, raffles, games for kids, a silent auction.

There was also a day full of basketball. The entire Cambridge basketball program was involved, from the youth basketball teams all the way up to the girls varsity team.

The varsity Indians hosted Berne-Knox-Westerlo that Saturday afternoon in front of a nearly sold-out crowd, with more than 500 fans in attendance. Cambridge defeated the Bulldogs 83-41, their second biggest victory that afternoon.     

The proceeds from the event went directly to the Marotta family.

Cambridge girls varsity basketball coach Bob Phillips said the day-long fundraiser was a community effort.

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"Whenever something like this comes up, the Cambridge community rallies around it. That's the perfect community," said Phillips.

The varsity players wore gold shoelaces during their game to honor Nola's fight against cancer. Gold is the color for childhood cancer.

Phillips believes its important for youth coaches to stress the importance of community service to their athletes.

"You can use it as an avenue to learn more about life. When people look up to you, you have a role to play," he said.

Finding success on the court has become routine for Cambridge. In a time where the sports world is put on pause, they continue to rack up the awards.

"This is an award that's kind of like a state title, it only goes to one team," said Phillips.

The 2020 Community Service Challenge is given out to one team per sports season; fall, winter, spring. This is the first time Cambridge has been selected as the winner.

Phillips knows there is a sense of disappointment his players feel not being able to defend their state championship after another successful season, but acknowledged that some things are bigger than sports.

"We helped a girl that was in need of it, and her family. That is ultimately more important than what we were trying to do on the court, anyway," he said.

NYSPHSAA established the community award in 2010. More than 200 projects were submitted for nomination during the winter season, spanning 7,857 student-athletes.

The funds raised totaled $182,304. The total number of volunteer hours was 34,461, according to NYSPHSAA.


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