Hoops for Hope

Athletes in the Hoops for Hope event sit for a photo at Monadnock Regional High School.

SWANZEY CENTER — On Saturday, Monadnock Regional High hosted the annual Hoops for Hope event, a basketball triple-header dedicated to the fight against cancer. Monadnock, Conant High and Fall Mountain Regional were Saturday’s participants, although several local schools have been involved in the cause since Hoops for Hope was first presented 10 years ago.

All proceeds Saturday go to cancer research. It involved a triple-header that started with a unified game between Fall Mountain and Monadnock, then a girls-boys double-header featuring Conant and Monadnock.

The girls game featured a juggernaut in Conant, which came in 13-0 and handed the 6-6 Huskies a 52-31 loss. Monadnock rebounded in the boys game, avenging a double-overtime loss to Conant in December with a 63-56 win. The day began with a unified contest between Fall Mountain and Conant.

And yet it was the emotional between-games events that captured the spirit of the day. Kate Skrocki, a Monadnock graduate and cancer survivor, shared her experience of being diagnosed with a rare form of the disease when she was 13 years old..

“My family and I were called into the doctor’s office and in a matter of seconds — three small words — my entire life changed: ‘You have cancer,’ ” Skrocki said.

She had just been called up to play for the jayvee soccer team as an 8th-grader and was on her way to being a typical student-athlete, but suddenly there wasn’t anything ordinary about her budding teenage years. Skrocki said all she knew about cancer was basically what she had seen on TV, where death often was the result.

“At that time in my life, my family and I had been relatively unaffected by cancer; at that young age I had only seen the effect of cancer in movies or TV shows,” she said.

Naturally, she was terrified. “I wasn’t sure if I would make it to my high school graduation, or get to go to prom or even get my license,” Skrocki said.

Although the beginning of her story is grim, Skrocki never gave up and the end is much more pleasant. “My doctors’ projected timeline of recovery was at least a year but, notorious for not listening, I pushed myself. I began putting pressure on my leg and then walking with crutches and by the end of August I was walking with no crutches at all.”

The emotion of her speech was soon replaced by the sound of basketballs, as the boys teams took to the floor. Like the first encounter between Conant and Monadnock, this one was close throughout but the Huskies pulled away at the end. Leading the Huskies in scoring was sophomore Kevin Putnam Jr. with 22 points, including 12 from behind the 3-point arc.

“Honestly, just coming into the game, I wanted to do what I can for the team,” Putnam said. “I’m not usually the one putting up all the buckets. Tonight I was lucky. My teammates going out there and giving it their all every single game, it was amazing.”

For Conant, Anthony Gauthier had another huge day with a game-high 36 points, but the Orioles couldn’t overcome the Huskies down the stretch. The teams have similar records in Division III, with Monadnock improving to 7-5 and the Orioles falling to 6-5.