MAINLAND MEMORIES with Skip Castaldi

This is the latest in a series of sports memories contributed by the student-athletes of the past – the people who were part of the great high school sports moments.

Skip Castaldi was one of the greatest basketball players in Cape-Atlantic League history. His 1,752 career points is still the record at Mainland Regional High School more than half a century after he graduated.

By SKIP CASTALDI

It is late August of 1961 and Mainland Regional High School is about to open as a new school.  As a result, Somers Point and Linwood students will no longer attend Ocean City High School.  Northfield students will no longer attend Pleasantville High School.  This event will change the athletic landscape for both schools.  It will also create instant rivalries.  Incoming seniors were giving a choice, they could stay at Ocean City High, Pleasantville High or attend Mainland Regional.  The vast majority choose Mainland. 

At the time, Ocean City High had a legendary basketball program, with Dixie Howell as the coach. 

Somers Point’s Gary Satrappe, an all-state caliber basketball player, had to make a decision.  He averaged 20.1 points per game at Ocean City as a junior to lead the league. He chose to play his senior year at Mainland Regional.  This decision jump started the Mainland Basketball program. Gary averaged 31.0 per game at Mainland and led the league again.

During his senior year, I was a freshmen basketball player.  Both Gary and I lived in Somers Point about a block from Dawes Avenue School.  The school had a nice outdoor basketball court.  Even though I was three years younger than him, we shot around and played many pick-up games there.  He was a huge help to me.

This is the first Mainland basketball team – 1961-62. Freshman Skip Castaldi is second from the back in the line on the right. Gary Satrappe, one of the greatest shooters in South Jersey history, is third from the front on the left, right behind Dick Wertley.

 

I also played a great deal of games in Ocean City at 6th Street and 34th Street courts.  As a result, I made many friends from the Ocean City team.  For example, John Cranston, a state champion, all-state and division one college player.  We became life-time friends and still talk to this day.

Well, enough history ….

My favorite high school basketball memory occurred during my sophomore season.  Our scheduled game was against Holy Spirit.  They had a very good team, led by two outstanding seniors – Tom Walker and Tom Pancoast.  They were the life and soul of their team. 

Holy Spirit had just previously beat Atlantic City High School, their dreaded rival.  This confirmed that Holy Spirit was really good.

Skip receives the game ball after scoring his 1,000th point.

My favorite memory ….

Mainland vs. Holy Spirit…..Game Time!

As usual, the Mainland gym was packed and sold out hours before the game.  The game was very aggressive and hard fought.  The score went back and forth, however, Holy Spirit broke out to a nine-point lead at halftime.  In the second half we closed the gap and, with 10 seconds left in the game, we took the lead by one point.

But not for long. 

Tom Walker then made a long jump shot from the left side of the court.  This gave Holy Spirit a 1-point lead (63-62) with about 10 seconds left to play. 

Holy Spirit fans went wild.  The Mainland fans moaned as the oxygen left the gym. 

We inbounded the ball, took it to half court and our coach, Nuncie Sacco, called time out.  There was two seconds left in the game and we had the ball just inside half court.  As we went back onto the court, everybody was standing and stamping their feet on the bleachers. 

Dick Wertley was assigned to inbound the pass to me.  I broke free, Dick made the perfect pass and I caught the ball a few feet beyond the top of the key.  I then dribbled once and took a jump shot. The buzzer sounded after the ball left my fingertips. It felt like it took forever for it to reach the rim

Swish!

We won by one point, 64-63. The gym erupted, I ran to the bench and leaped into Coach Sacco’s arms as the fans ran onto the court.

I still remember this game like it was yesterday.

Skip presented a Hall of Fame Award 18 years ago to his friend – and his former opponent – John Cranston of Ocean City.

You can read previous Sports Memories by Joe LaRosa and Ken Weaver HERE.

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