Batten, Gula & Ivory honored for stepping up to lead young Rocket team


Madz Genovese

Varsity coach Nick Marcini leads the team in a huddle during a timeout. This was the 13th year Marcini, a former Rocket basketball and football star himself, served as head coach of the Varsity team.

Raegan Collins, Reporter

Varsity players huddle up during a timeout at home. (Katie Martin)

After a season plagued with injuries, illness and several close games lost, Head Coach Nick Marcini and what he referred to as his “tough group of guys,” say their 8-16 record does not reflect their heart and battle in the face of adversity.

“It has been fun watching these guys compete as hard as they do.”

Thirteen-year head coach Nick Marcini, who said he will always remember “how well this group of guys handled adversity all year…these guys battled all year long…”

Senior Dakari Rese agreed. “The record doesn’t show how hard we practiced and how hard we go in every night and just try to fight for the win,” he said.

One of the Rockets’ closest and most challenging games was when they lost 59-61 to Aurora at home, but not before junior Michael Berry’s three at the buzzer sent them into overtime.

“It was [a] double overtime game so everybody was tired and wasn’t the best officiating,” recalled sophomore Jack Batten. 

The team also had some challenging games against Woodridge and Ravenna, who were battling for the league title. 

Those were tough losses, but shows how close we were to being one of the top teams,” Marcini said.

Varsity players take the court at home against Field. (Madz Genovese)

Though the team had some tough losses, they also had some great wins. 

They beat Norton at home 55-39 when coach Marcini was out with Covid.

It was a big accomplishment to win without him,” Batten said.

“I’d say [it was] our best game,” said junior Charles Ivory. “We played as a team together.” 

The team also has grown a lot with each other this season with learning how to play better together. 

“I think honestly the team‘s biggest accomplishment is that we’re all still together on the team and coming hard to work every day,” Jackson Gula said toward the end of the season.

Senior Colby Benjamin considers a shot against Woodrige at home. (Katie Martin)

Marcini also praised senior Colby Benjamin as a great model for the team.

Colby Benjamin has been our senior leader all year long, leading by example with how hard he works on a daily basis,” Marcini said.

I think that this season has been a lot of fun,” Benjamin said.. “I have made so many great memories with my team. I’m definitely going to miss my teammates and coaches after this season.”

Marcini also highlighted the younger guys who stepped up for the team, such as sophomores Batten, Gula, Ivory, Trevor Murray and junior Michael Berry.

They have kept improving all year and have earned a lot more Varsity time as the year has gone on,” Marcini said.

Gula and Ivory earned Honorable Mention All-MAC awards.

Reese echoed his coach’s respect for the younger players. “A lot of guys had to step up, even the younger guys had to step up… fill positions they didn’t even have a chance to play last year,” he said.

Sophmore Jack Batten shoots a free throw against Norton. Batten led the team in free throw percentage, shooting 73% from the line, according to MaxPreps. (Madz Genovese)

Benjamin specifically recognized Batten.

“He’s such a hard worker,” Benjamin said.

“He shows up every day and does what he needs to do without ever complaining about anything. He’s a great athlete and person. I’ll definitely miss playing with Jack.”

Batten averaged 10.9 points a game, according to MaxPreps. His 29 points against Cloverleaf helped the Rockets win their first game of the season. Batten also earned the 2nd Team All-MAC award.

While the boys lost their sectional title game 28-61 Feb. 24 against Ursuline, they won their first playoff game 63-58 against Painesville Harvey Feb. 21. “I’m really proud of these guys for going out and getting that tournament win…vs. Harvey,” Marcini said. “I’m happy the seniors could get a win in their last game on their home court.”