EASTHAM – There were a few familiar faces on the court at Nauset Regional High School last weekend as part of the annual Billingsgate Tournament.
Taking part in the 26th annual event were local hoop stars, including former Monomoy player Chris Mazulis, former Harwich player David Duarte, and former Chatham player Jon Robinson, each of whom joined forces on Duarte's “Next Level” team, along with former Nauset player Eric Poyant.
“This was my ninth year straight playing,” said Mazulis, home on spring break from Salve Regina.
The longtime tourney, hosted by the Wellfleet Recreation Department, offers competition for basketball players young and young at heart through a series of games that spanned the weekend. On Friday night the up-and-comers from grades 6 to 8 got in the game, while their counterparts in grades 3 to 5 competed on Saturday morning.
Then it was time for the adults to get their games on in a series of one-and-done five-on-five matches that saw “Next Level” take on defending champs “Hustle Hard” in spirited game play. Though the “Next Level” crew put forth a solid effort, the win went to “Hustle Hard,” who ultimately fell in the championship to the “Dominatorz.”
Although competitive, the main goal of the tournament is fun, though Mazulis appreciates the opportunity to compete.
“I’d say [what I like best is] the competitive nature of the tournament,” he said. “You have teams with players from all over the Cape competing against one another to see who’s better.”
But it's not just that. Mazulis, who graduated from Monomoy last year, also likes that the tournament gives him the chance to be on a team with people he wouldn't otherwise be.
“Billingsgate gives you an opportunity to play with players from different times,” he said. “Dave (Duarte) graduated back in '06 and Jon (Robinson) in '12. It gives you a chance to see what it would’ve been like to play with those guys had you crossed your playing days in high school at the same time.”
Duarte, who served as a volunteer assistant coach for Monomoy last season and plays in a Wellfleet summer league, is a longtime basketball enthusiast. He decided to field a team in this year's Billingsgate Tournament so he could get back on the court. His hope going forward is to create a local youth camp or league.
“Keeping kids playing might give them another option in life,” Duarte said. “Even as I get older, basketball always gives me relief, or at least a break.”
For Mazulis, the tournament also allowed him to further fuel his passion for basketball, a sport he's been playing since childhood.
“The passion I have for the game will never go away, whether I play in college, at the YMCA, or a tournament,” he said. “What keeps my passion fired up is the naysayers that say I can’t play anymore. If I quit they win, but if I keep trying they can’t say I was a quitter.”