PORT RICHEY — New Port Richey native Mark Beal has been officiating basketball games for as long as he can remember. The former Gulf High basketball player has been calling games since the 1980s, and he’s seen players from their days as toddlers up to their adult years. One thing is for sure — the enjoyment never gets old for Beal.
Enter the Salvation Army Community Center in Port Richey, which features youth and adult leagues. Beal has helped set up leagues at several west-side Pasco County recreation centers, and after a few years of envisioning a female division, it has finally come to fruition with the help of some former prep players in the area.
“For four or five years, I’ve been really wanting to do the women’s league,” Beal said. “I couldn’t quite get anyone to do it. This year, (community director Bobby Riordan) said I could do it, and then by talking to Regina (Bennett), who put it up on Facebook and got us like 12 girls right off the bat. She got us half the girls right there, and I’m already hearing from other girls that want to come out.”
Some familiar prep players are taking part in the league, including former Gulf players Lexy Schulman, Lauren Bullock, Ashley Mitchell, Jessica Kaylor, Lindsey Brooks and Turquoise Sampson.
There are four teams with seven to eight players each, and Riordan said it’s not too late for girls with interest in playing in the league to participate.
“Girlfriends and wives of the players in the men’s league kept asking me when we were going to do a women’s league,” Riordan said. “I said, let’s give it a try, and right now we have four teams, and the first games were last week and everything went smooth. We’re still looking for more players to come out and join the league. We’ve got room for any girls out there interested in playing.”
The men’s league has taken off this year, according to Riordan, and has established a second season for the year, with nine teams taking part. A couple of months ago, the men’s league consisted of eight squads. Riordan said he was excited about the growth of the men’s league, and he is hoping to have more than 10 next season.
Several former area standouts play in the men’s league, including former Trinity College guard Kevin Brown, former Gulf guard Joe Phillips and current Brooksville Nature Coast Technical boys basketball coach David Pisarcik, who scored 52 points in the opening week of season play.
“I’d love to do the men’s league every year, and more than once,” Riordan said. “Me and Mark (Beal) just ran one this past spring, and now we have one going on in the summer. If I can get two or three men’s leagues going every year, then that’s what we’re going to do. We went from eight teams last season to nine. I’d like to get to 12 teams, and I think its doable.”
Correspondent Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.