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Annual pickup basketball game in Riverhead comes a long way

In a New Year's tradition that goes back a decade, alumni from Riverhead's Bishop McGann-Mercy High School will be coming back to their campus Saturday for a pickup game of basketball that will transcend generations and gender.

The players change from year to year, but the event has gotten so big that this year there will be a game for men, one for women and a mixed competition.

"The oldest players graduated in the mid-'80s. The youngest players graduated in 2012," school spokeswoman Robin Bay said. "The game is great. It gives everyone the opportunity to reconnect and touch bases."

One of the players looking forward to taking part in this year's game is Kelly Olphie, who graduated in 1990 and is still a competitive runner.

"I used to be a guard in high school. We were league champions the year I graduated," Olphie said. "It's so cool to play on the same court with some of my friends."

That didn't happen to her last year, when the team that formed for the game was a lot younger. "It was recently graduated females and me," she said.

Kristen Wharton of Wading River, a 1990 graduate, plans to play this year for the first time. "Last year it was before Christmas, and I couldn't get there," she said. "Basically, I'm just going for fun. I'm not going to be able to make it up and down the court like I used to. I've had five knee surgeries. . . . We'll do a lot of passing."

Bay said that normally 25 or 30 alumni will be playing in the pickup game, and a lot more people will be in the stands cheering them on. The audience includes the husbands and wives and sometimes the children of the players.

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