NAUGATUCK — The Edward Mariano Gymnasium was filled to capacity March 14 as the borough of Naugatuck, young and old alike, came out to honor a man they called “Roosh.”
The second annual Josh Ruccio Memorial Scholarship charity basketball game between the New School and the Old School brought the stars out along with family, friends and former classmates.
Most of those in the crowd shared the same sentiment.
“Roosh is looking down on us smiling for sure at this turnout,” said Jay Segetti, who was attending the game with his son Kyle.
Ruccio died suddenly Jan. 16, 2012 at the age of 35. Ruccio was a fixture on the Naugatuck sports scene for more than 20 years. He played baseball and basketball at the high school and coached at every level of youth sports in the borough.
“Josh was a real good guy and had such a positive effect on so many lives,” said Naugatuck High girls basketball coach Jodie Burns, who was married to Ruccio at the time of his death. “To see all the people come through these doors tonight goes to show just how much of an effect he had.”
The proceeds from the game go towards the Josh E. Ruccio Scholarship Fund and more.
“It goes beyond the scholarships we are able to offer,” Burns added. “We want to set up a fund where some of the money goes to kids who maybe can’t afford the registration fee to play Little Pal basketball or some activity fee that can’t be met. Josh had such a huge heart for the kids and this is a great way to honor that love he had for these kids.”
The night was a festive reunion for all as Naugatuck High graduates got reacquainted with classmates they haven’t seen in years.
Former Naugatuck girls basketball coach Keith Raczkowski suited up in the zebra stripes to represent the older generation and Rich Brenia, part of the new school era, also donned a whistle to ref the game.
There were heartfelt hugs from some of the more recent graduates as they recalled the memories of the man they called Roosh and the reason why the game is held.
“I’m sure Josh is looking down with tears in his eyes at the support from the town,” said Pam Ruccio, Josh’s stepmother. “No doubt he does have that Cheshire grin on his face. None of this would be possible without the amazing efforts of Jodie and so many of Josh’s friends and we hope to continue this and give out even more scholarships than we did last year.”
The game for the most part was secondary right up until the players were introduced. With Little Pal players lining up at the doorway the players came out high fiving the kids and then the game-faces showed up. A little trash talking was exchanged and when the whistle blew it was on.
The crowd was treated to a seat-grabber, as Greg Rice entertained the crowd as the emcee. The New School made it 2-0 against the old school with an 87-84 victory.
The New School broke out to a quick 8-0 advantage before the Old School finally worked out the kinks. Mike Wilson, the boys all-time scoring leader, and Jen Rimkus, a 1,000-point scorer and member of the generation that garnered five NVL titles in a row and a league win streak that topped 100 wins for coach Raczkowski, were the ringers for the Old School.
But they appeared to be no match for the younger New School athletes, who had a few ringers of their own with 1,000-point scorers Jess Webber and Anthony Mariano.
The Old School showed their savvy as they overtook the New School building a 15-point lead in the third period. The New School came storming back and Rob Servidas buried the game-winning 3 for the 87-84 victory. Bill Kane led the Old School with 17 points and Matt Litke added 11 points. Servidas and Joe Mobilio led the New School with 11 points each.
They weren’t the only winners as raffles and a 50/50 door prize were awarded throughout the game. The Little Pal basketball players put on a show at halftime, and the second annual Josh Ruccio Memorial Scholarship game was a rousing success raising enough money to give out more than the 16 scholarships awarded last year.
“I can’t thank all the people who have stepped forward to make this happen,” Burns said. “We meet four months prior to the event and it takes a lot of people to bring this all together. Ken Stone, Diane Scinto and Kristi Pistarelli along with so many more dedicated people stepped up to make this happen and I can’t thank them enough. It’s because of them that this is such a success.”