It’s one of the most exciting plays in basketball. There’s a suspense in the air every time a player releases a 3-ball in a tight game. It can spark a rally. It can ignite a home crowd.
For the Newtown girls varsity basketball team, which had made 36 treys through its 65-51 win against Brookfield on Tuesday, every shot made from behind the arc carries additional significance that extends far beyond the scoreboard.
For the third consecutive season, the team makes a $3 donation to Sandy Hook for every 3-pointer made by its varsity, JV and freshman girls basketball teams as part of its “Threes for Charity” fundraiser.
In total, the three teams have combined for 53 treys thus far.
Following the Sandy Hook school shooting tragedy on Dec. 14, 2012, when 26 were killed, members of the Newtown girls basketball team wanted to do anything they could to help their home town, leading to the Threes for Charity concept.
The girls basketball team was the first Newtown High School squad to play a game after the tragedy, a home tilt with Masuk on Dec. 19 in which the Nighthawks topped their rivals 64-44 for their first win of the season.
It was also the first night of Threes for Charity.
“Normally, OC (Newtown coach Jeremy O’Connell) always says to play for each other and that everything we do should be for each other,” said Mali Klorczyk, Newtown’s junior guard. “That night, it wasn’t just for ourselves, it was for the town and for the community.”
“(The first game) was tough,” said Sarah Lynch, Newtown’s senior captain and point guard, but we all kind of rallied around each other, and I know a lot of people were excited to come watch us and kind of get back into daily life again,”
Bond with Saddle River Day
What neither Coach O’Connell nor the players could have anticipated was how much notoriety “Threes for Charity” would garner.
Calls of support from near and far poured into Newtown, but there was one school whose persistence stood out from the pack: Saddle River Day in New Jersey.
“Saddle River continued to say they wanted to do more and more,” Newtown athletic director Gregg Simon said. “They came up with the idea of creating a game that we would play at Saddle River to be a large fundraiser down at Ramapo College (in Mahwah, N.J.). They were so persistent it was crazy.”
“After the tragedy,” Saddle River Day coach Danny Brown said, “I was at practice and realized in the girls’ demeanor that they felt a need to do something. Honestly, we didn’t know what to do. I drove up there to meet them and I had become friendly with Jeremy over the phone. I sent out an email to all my contacts in New Jersey, and the first year we had 19 high schools participating in Threes for Charity.”
In the weeks leading up to the first annual “Threes for healing through sports benefit basketball game” between Newtown and Saddle River Day, which was played at Ramapo College on Feb. 24, 2013, players from both sides got to know each other through social media and finally got a chance to meet in person when Newtown got to New Jersey.
“Our kids were in the lobby with us as coaches when Newtown pulled up,” Brown said. “It was magical. I can’t even explain it. It was electric when they walked into the hotel.”
This year, it was more of the same.
“They spend Friday and every night and every meal together,” Brown said. “It’s not just a game. We had two kids from Newtown and two from Saddle River in every room.”
Saddle River Day made the trek to Newtown for the second installment of the “Threes for healing” game on Dec. 21, 2013, and the game was played at Saddle Day this year on Jan. 3.
Saddle River Day defeated Newtown 58-44 at its high school, but the game itself was quite secondary to the experience.
“We came down to New Jersey and it was the most heartwarming thing I’ve ever been a part of,” O’Connell said.
“Many teams still participate in Threes for Charity,” Brown said. “Other companies hear about it and match it.”