Basketball 2005

Dec. 8-14, 2005
Basketball 2005
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Holy Wars

The rivalry between Syracuse Catholic schools Christian Brothers Academy and Bishop Ludden must numbered among the more celebrated rivalries in Central New York scholastic athletics

This season’s first installment of the annual rivalry will be Friday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. in the Brothers’ gym. The second will be Jan. 6 in the Gaelic Knights’ gym.

The series began in an odd fashion. Bishop Ludden had recently built its new gym and the inaugural basketball game featured the presence of Bishop Walter Foery on Nov. 22, 1963, the same day President John F. Kennedy, the nation’s first Catholic president, was assassinated. While the United States shuddered and mourned, Bishop Ludden and CBA set about playing basketball.

Despite the inauspicious birth, the rivalry has grown. Bishop Ludden coach Pat Donnelly considers the annual clash to be the “biggest rivalry” at least in Central New York.

The rivalry between Syracuse Catholic schools Christian Brothers Academy and Bishop Ludden must numbered among the more celebrated rivalries in Central New York scholastic athletics.

The series began in an odd fashion. Bishop Ludden had recently built its new gym and the inaugural basketball game featured the presence of Bishop Walter Foery on Nov. 22, 1963, the same day President John F. Kennedy, the nation’s first Catholic president, was assassinated. While the United States shuddered and mourned, Bishop Ludden and CBA set about playing basketball.

Despite the inauspicious birth, the rivalry has grown. Bishop Ludden coach Pat Donnelly considers the annual clash to be the “biggest rivalry” at least in Central New York. While the Brothers dominated the series in its early years, winning the first four meetings, the Gaelic Knights own the edge in the series, having 41 wins over its course to CBA’s 34. Since the year 2000, CBA owns an 8-5 advantage.

Both Donnelly, a Bishop Ludden alum, and CBA coach and alum Buddy Wleklinski have played in the rivalry. The two met on the court in 1975 when the former scored eight points and the latter, five, in the 81-76 victory for the Gaelic Knights. The two basketball enthusiasts have met many times since as both began their coaching careers in the mid 1980’s.

“It’s hard to put into words what it means to play in that game,” Wleklinski said. Many of the players know one another and their reputations from competing in youth or recreation leagues. Some of them share parishes. Athletes always play their hardest in the CBA/Bishop Ludden game but often the meeting is not always appealing to the eye.

“It’s not the most artistic game in terms of basketball execution,” Wleklinski said, describing how aesthetics are thrown out the window in favor of intensity. Like most rivalries, the teams’ form leading up to the contest is rarely a factor and the old cliché “you can throw the records out,” stands, according to Wleklinski. That enthusiasm rarely devolves into incivility, however, and sportsmanship remains a value the coaches try to instill in their players.

“It’s been a great rivalry but the best thing about it is that it’s been a clean rivalry,” Donnelly said. “The kids play hard and they want to win but at the end they just shake hands and walk away. A lot of the guys I hang out with now are from CBA and we’re friends now. We talk about those games and they still come back and root for CBA and I still come back and root for Ludden. Buddy and I have known each other forever and we both say that it’s a game that you know is coming and you look forward to it but you don’t want to lose the game because it’s going to live with you for the rest of the year.” Wleklinski echoed Donnelly’s comments. “It’s a friendly rivalry and a very clean game,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of respect between the two teams.”

The atmosphere in the gymnasium is heated and, while alumni, faculty and students figure heavily in the game, it also attracts on-lookers who may or may not have any association with either school. The game has also featured not only tremendous athletes, such as Pat Campolieta and Brian Montanaro of Bishop Ludden or Walt Patulski and Greg Paulus of CBA; but also prominent figures including John De Francisco and Kevin Harrigan.

“There are a lot of big rivalries, but this one seems to extend beyond the schools,” Wleklinski said. In recent years, the rivalry has had sectional significance. In 2000, 2001 and 2004, the two teams met three times, the last meeting in each year being a sectional tournament tilt. In 2000, the Brothers defeated Bishop Ludden 68-56 to advance and in 2001 Brian Montanaro paced the Gaelic Knights with 34 points to lead them past CBA 75-64 in a sectional contest.

The 2004 meeting was among the more memorable games in the history of the series. For that game, the stage was set for a fantastic Section 3 Class AA Final Four. The first game featured a meeting between scholastic stars in Henninger’s phenom Andray Blatche, now a rookie with the Washington Wizards, and Josh Wright, now a sophomore guard at Syracuse University.

A packed Manley Fieldhouse then saw two of the premier point guards in Central New York square off as Greg Paulus, now on the roster at Duke University, and Terry Smith, now at Mercyhurst College, squared off on the court. With such scholastic standouts on the court, the victory came at the hands of little known sophomore guard Matt Kinnan. Paulus had fouled out earlier in the fourth quarter when Kinnan’s 3-pointer with mere moments remaining gave CBA a 64-62 lead. The Brothers eventually emerged with a 66-62 and advanced to face Henninger in the crossover final.

As stated earlier, such meetings feature figures of note. Many will remember Paulus, but another character emerged from that contest. Bishop Ludden forward Andy Murray, who scored two points, had offers for football and may not be remembered for his prowess on the basketball court. But today, the U.S. Marine is overseas battling terrorism.

“When you think of all the players who’ve played in that game…last year we were playing against Greg [Paulus] and Greg is playing for the No. 1 team in the country Duke. A kid who played for us a couple of years, Andy Murray, just finished his first tour of duty in Iraq so kids can go a lot of different ways from that game,” Donnelly said.

Bishop Grimes: Cobras building on successful seasons

Boys Basketball

Rebuilding once more?

In 2004, with experienced players few and far between, Bishop Grimes varsity boys basketball coach Jamie Evans thought he might be in for a challenging year.

“Last year I thought was going to be a rebuilding year with three seniors who had quality playing time the previous year,” the coach said.

After a 2-5 start, his analysis seemed correct. Then, after starting out with the disadvantaged record, the Cobras improved to 12-11 by the end of the season and earned a No. 4 seed in the Section 3 Class B-2 tournament.

This season, Evans finds his squad in a predicament very similar to last year with a third-year player in 6-foot-3 senior center Mike Doherty and a returning starter in senior point guard Steve Kelley. Although he has eight seniors, Doherty and Kelley are the only ones with considerable varsity experience. “I’m in the same situation. I don’t have as many starters but this year I’m replacing almost my whole team,” Evans said.

The seniors on the roster are Max Leo, Joe Pallone, Geoff Rock, Matt Rewkowski, Mike Schinto and Dominic Tricase. Among the newcomers, Evans has high hopes for 6-3 sophomore forward Eric Ball. “He’s really developing well and we’re looking for big things out of him this year,” the coach said. Evans estimates that the team’s record could range anywhere from 10-10 to 14-6, but the emphasis is placed heavily on sectional success.

“We’re going to take one day at a time. Getting the team ready for sectionals is what our coaching staff really pushes and peaking at the end of the year rather than at the beginning,” the coach said. Evans was reluctant to name his starting five but said that he expects big seasons from Ball, Doherty, Kelley and senior Mike Pallone. In the first game of the season, a 59-57 loss to Marcellus, Pallone paced the Cobras with 18 points and four 3-point goals.

“They’ll be my four guys I’ll definitely move to,” the coach said. Evans said the team is more cohesive and well rounded than any he has coached. “The guys are getting along really well and working hard,” Evans said. “We may not have any dominant scorers but I think we’re going to be a well-rounded team and I think I’m going to be able to go 10 deep.”
Girls Basketball

Cobras have unfinished business

It isn’t much of a secret. The Bishop Grimes varsity girls basketball team is loaded this year. Returning from a team that went undefeated in Onondaga High School League Patriot division play and made it all the way to the Section 3 Class C-2 championship game are four seniors, three of whom were all league selections of some note, as well as a player in Nicole Longo who earned second-team all-league honors coming off the bench.

The only major issue the Cobras face is replacing Patriot American Player of the Year Courtney Miller, who led the team with 9.7 points per game. Coach John Cifonelli, who is in his seventh year at the helm of the program, hopes clutch players will emerge from a field of athletes with similar talents and abilities.

“Because of the balance, we will have to define who the go-to players are in the clutch,” the coach said. “This group of kids feels like they need to get over the hump by winning a big game.”

Guards Sarah Fayette, JoAnna Knox and Tracey Knoop have been playing together for three years, accumulating a 34-10 record overall and a 25-2 record in league competition. Center Amanda Burke led the team in shots blocked last season with 31 and Nicole Longo, who can play either the forward or guard positions, will likely slide into the starting lineup.

Cifonelli said that this edition of Cobra hoops goes 10 deep and is “strong, athletic and interchangeable.” Erin Lowe, Erika Gang, Paige Orr and Laura Sudol were all on last year’s team and will have valuable roles this season as well. According to Cifonelli, Gang would be the starting point guard for any other team in OHSL Patriot play. The top newcomer is freshman center Shannon Hickin, who led the junior-varsity squad in scoring and rebounding last season.

The squad is also highly motivated. Despite the considerable success the Cobras enjoyed last year, Cifonelli claims his players believe they still have something missing on their resumes. “Despite the 18-4 record last year, this team still feels like it has some unfinished business,” Cifonelli said. “We are still seeking our first sectional title and these kids want to be the ones to get it – and more….Considering the fact that we have 11 returnees and nine seniors, this is a mature team playing with a greater purpose.”

Bishop Ludden

Gaelic Knights gallop into new season

Boys Basketball

Roy paces Ludden

Although the Bishop Ludden varsity boys basketball team is all too familiar with being undersized, Gaelic Knight coach Pat Donnelly notes that his team goes into the 2005-06 campaign even smaller than usual. The coach said that, as a Class B school playing among the AA schools of the Onondaga High School League Colonial Conference, his teams are generally undersized. But this season, Kyle Roy, a 6-foot-3 senior forward, is the Gaelic Knights’ only legitimate option on the post and a team such as Corcoran boasts players such as Daequon Montreal (6-8) and Robby Marshall (6-6) in their frontcourt. In the preseason, Donnelly was still looking for alternative options on the boards.

“In this league, we’re undersized every night. Which has been a tradition but for the first time in a long time we have 5-8, 5-9, 5-10 guards,” the coach said. “We’ve got a lot of them. Our biggest kid is 6-3, Kyle Roy, and he’s played in the middle before but we’ve got to get him some help on the backboards.”

That said, Donnelly believes this edition of Ludden hoops has considerable depth with several players possessing roughly the same skills. Donnelly also hopes strong team shooting will help. A little precision will go a long way toward cutting down on the need for put backs. “In other years, we’ve had one two players like a Terry Smith who you’d be worried would be going down but we’re two or deep in kids with very similar skill levels,” Donnelly said. “We could play a lot of people and I talked to the team about that. If we play 10 games we could have 10 different leading scorers and hopefully that’s the case. We’d like to be less one dimensional.”

Roy is the only returning starter to the team, which went 14-8 (11-5 in Onondaga High School League Colonial play) last season, and he was all-league honorable-mention last season. Along with Roy, senior guard Pete Byrne will be one of the team’s captains. Other returning seniors include guards Nick Cavallaro, Bob Knapp and Pat O’Hara as well as forward Ryan Chapman. George Eunice returns after playing with the varsity squad as a freshman last season.

Newcomers to the team are Jared Dewberry, Andre Knighton, Wes Valentine, Kerry King, Mike Sisson, Daquan Grobsmith and Connor Sweeney.

Ludden’s modus operandi traditionally has been man-to-man defense and a tendency to look for scores off of the fast break but the Gaelic Knights will also adjust their game plan to fit the opponent. “There are some teams that we’re going to want to run against all the time and then there are some teams where we’re going to want to be a little bit more patient in the halfcourt. We’ll adjust to who we’re playing and hopefully they’ll have to adjust to us,” Donnelly said.

The early phase of the Gaelic Knights’ season is a blast furnace with contests against Christian Brothers Academy, Utica-Proctor, Fowler, Henninger and Corcoran all coming before the winter break.

Girls basketball

New coach, same story

For the third year in a row, the Bishop Ludden varsity girls basketball team will have a new coach. But if one need not worry about a lack of consistency. As a player at Ludden, Jill Blasi, now the varsity coach going into her first year, won three sectional titles and four league titles playing for the varsity squad for five years and she cut her teeth in coaching with the Gaelic Knights’ junior varsity squad. As the JV coach, Blasi familiarized herself with many of the players who now fill out the varsity ranks. Although she had to rush in a new style of defense, Blasi expects this edition of Knights hoops to be as strong as the other teams in Class B play.

Returning to the team is first-team all-league forward Shannon Sangster. A 6-foot-1 senior, Sangster paced the Gaelic Knights in scoring last year, averaging 14 points per game and she averaged seven rebounds per game as well. Early in the season, Sangster’s inside presence was balanced with the perimeter powers of sophomore point guard Molly Byrne, who was leading the team in scoring.

Other starters include senior forward Sheila Campolieta and junior guards Katie Sierotnik and Jennie Jeffries. Blasi noted that sophomore guard Stephanie Duffing was also a strong player who can expect plenty of minutes. Although six seniors are gone, Blasi is confident in all of her returning players as well as several who are up from the junior-varsity squad. With depth and quality returning to a team that went 16-6 last season, Blasi’s biggest challenge was implementing a new defense in just two weeks. Last season, the Gaelic Knights preferred to slouch into a 2-3 zone. Blasi believes that if her players are able to, they must play man-to-man. She also envisions the press playing a larger role in Bishop Ludden’s game plan. Blasi expects her offense to be very well balanced with strength inside and deft shooting both from long and medium range. “We can bang it in down low to Shannon and she can kick it out,” Blasi said. In addition to Sangster’s inside game and Byrne’s three-point shooting, Blasi said Duffing possesses a terrific mid-range jump shot.

The coach noted that the team has tremendous chemistry and a strong work ethic. “They’re extremely hard working and tight knit,” she said. “They love coming to practice and they’re doing everything we ask them to do.” Blasi became accustomed to success as a player at Bishop Ludden and expects the same of these players noting that neither a league nor a sectional championship is beyond the reach of her team.

Christian Brothers Academy

Brothers back on hardcourt

Boys basketball

Life after Greg

There’s no question that this will be a new era for Christian Brothers Academy varsity boys basketball. For five years, the Brothers could count on stability at the point which was manned by one of the most celebrated athletes to have ever emerged from a Central New York high school, Greg Paulus. With Paulus having taken his unusual skills to Duke University, the Brothers will have a whole new look this season but coach Buddy Wleklinski believes they could still remain one of the more feared teams in Onondaga High School League Colonial basketball.

“I think a lot of people are going to assume that now that Greg is gone we’re going to struggle a little bit but these guys have worked awfully hard all summer and all preseason,” Wleklinski said. “It’s different…there’s no question. He’s run the show for five years and you really haven’t concerned yourself too much about anything against the press or how you’re going to run the offense because you know you have Greg.”

Paulus was capable of taking over games for the Brothers. Without an established “star” on the court, Wleklinski expects his team to feature more contributors in spite of its youth. “I think that what we will be is more balanced. The players that we have, looking at the top seven or eight that we’ve got…they can all contribute,” the coach said. “We’ll be young. We have seven guys coming back from last year, but if you’re looking for the quality minutes they’ve gotten there probably isn’t much.”

Among the returnees, Wleklinski expects good things from 6-foot-2 guard Matt Kinnan and point guard Rich Anderson. After laboring in Paulus’ shadow, Anderson could be in for a breakout year after making the Central team in the Empire State Games over the summer.

“He [Anderson] will be running the show for us,” Wleklinski said. After a solid year at quarterback, 6-5 junior Mike Paulus makes his debut at the power-forward position and should be a contributor. Wleklinski said that JP Miranda, Andy Sindoni and Jacob Heitsman have all worked hard in the offseason as well. Six-five freshman Mike Goodman has already created some buzz in Central New York. “Last year was his first year at CBA and he did a great job adjusting to the school and everything else surrounding it,” Wleklinski said. “He’s very athletic and a good rebounder. He’s a hard worker and all he does is smile. He works as hard as anybody.”

He will likely start at the five, but Wleklinski expects that at the collegiate level he would be moved to the three or four spot. Wleklinski is also high on newcomer Marcus Sales, a 6-2 sophomore guard. “He had a good year in football as a wide receiver and [along with Goodman] both of those kids were good on the JV’s and could end up both starting on the varsity this year,” the coach said. In the Brothers’ first game of the season, a 67-56 win over Nottingham, Kinnan paced the team with 24 points but Sales and Goodman combined for 35 points. Overall Wleklinski’s team expects to have an excellent 2005-06 campaign. “They’re working hard and they really want to have a great year,” he said.

Girls basketball

Speed, tenacity propel CBA

With very little on the roster in terms of height and size, Christian Brothers Academy varsity girls basketball head coach John Niland knows that the only way his team will be able to win this season is with its pace and pressure.

“We have to pressure the ball and make it an up tempo game,” the coach said. “That’s how we have to play.” A second-team all-league guard, Amanda Billy is the team’s top returning player and the only other player on the roster with significant varsity experience is Caitlin Carrick. The coach expects strong seasons from Sarah Paulus, Jamie Carrick, Meredith Mosley, Sam Folsom and freshman guard Kayla Stroman as well.

The team will need to make up ground in replacing point guard Mo Mannion, now playing at Penn. Despite the diminutive stature of his team, Niland believes that if the Brothers can execute on defense and get transition baskets, they could thrive. If they can’t get the transition baskets, the Brothers are confident in kicking the ball back out to Billy, a very capable shooter from beyond the arc. “I expect us to be competitive in every game and I fully expect us to compete for a sectional championship,” said the coach, who is a CBA alum.

Last season, the Brothers made a run at the Section 3 Class A title game. Along with the usually strong teams such as Jamesville-DeWitt, Phoenix and Cortland, the Class A field of competition includes AA bellwether Nottingham after the Onondaga League restructured itself to conform more closely with the state tournament. Although the Bulldogs lost four starters from last season including all-state forward Sophronia Sallard (now at the University of Kansas), Nottingham typically reloads. That said, the character of CBA’s athletes should keep them in games.

“I have a very competitive group of kids and they aren’t going to back down from anybody,” Niland said. During the offseason, the players that comprise the varsity squad competed well against teams from programs drawing from much larger schools and Niland expects that to carry over into the regular season. Niland believes that defense will be a significant factor in his team’s fortunes this season. “If you can get kids to guard — and I mean really guard — it makes a big difference,” the coach said. He added that in the Carrick sisters he has two of the most persistent defensive players in the section. With three soccer players numbering among the Brothers starters, Niland isn’t concerned about the physical wear involved in playing a full-court game.

Notre Dame

Tradition of success strong at Notre Dame

Boys basketball

Notre Dame looks to improve for tournament time

After losing all-league players Sean Burton and Mike Buffa, Notre Dame coach Mike Durr isn’t quite sure what to expect from this year’s edition of Juggler basketball.

Last season, the Jugglers went 17-5 overall and 12-2 in Tri Valley League competition before losing to Jamesville-DeWitt in the semifinal round of the Section 3 Class A Boys Basketball Tournament. Notre Dame also claimed the Tri Valley League crown.

Senior guard Pete Durr, Mike Durr’s son, is the team’s lone returning all-league player. Senior point guard Tom Caruso and off guard Beck Dangler also return. The team also features two seniors under the boards in 6-foot-5 forward Kendrick Pollard and 6-2 forward Mike Jarmak. If the Jugglers can get solid play on the boards, Durr believes they could be in for another excellent year. “We could be good,” he said. “If we can rebound, we could be good. I question our toughness. If we toughen up, we could be good.”

Notre Dame opened up its season by traveling to Staten Island where it split going up against St. Peter’s and Msgr. Farrell. The Jugglers followed up the trip with a 61-41 win over Vernon-Verona-Sherrill. Last season, Section 3 adopted an open format for its tournament. Rather than requiring teams to win at least 40 percent of their games, the section is now open to all teams. With the change, Durr has adopted a new philosophy in which he wants his team playing its best basketball at the end of the season when it counts. With the new sectional structure, Durr knows a tournament championship may be more of a challenge than in past years. Class A competition now includes several larger schools such as Nottingham, Whitesboro, East Syracuse-Minoa and Fulton.

“Those are all big schools and we’re not getting any bigger,” Durr said. In the Tri Valley League, Durr believes a veteran heavy New Hartford will be the favorite, while Whitesboro and Vernon-Verona-Sherrill will also be strong. Nevertheless, Durr expects his Jugglers squad to be among the more competitive teams as well. “We’re in the mix,” he said.

Notre Dame has traditionally played an up-tempo style of game, pressing roughly half the time and pushing the ball in transition for baskets and this year will be no different, although some of the Jugglers tactics may change come tournament time.

Durr said that he has genuinely enjoyed working with this group of players, something that hasn’t necessarily been the case each and every year. “They’re a great group of kids…I like them,” he said. “They work hard every day in practice and I enjoy working with them.”

Girls basketball

Jugglers keeping tradition alive

Notre Dame varsity girls basketball coach Bill Farley knows his team will take some lumps. Despite drawing from a school with a tiny enrollment base, the coach regularly schedules contests against some of the stronger programs in the Central New York and Mohawk Valley regions.

The Jugglers started the season going 0-4, with losses coming at the hands of Baldwinsville, West Genesee, Vernon-Verona-Sherrill and Whitesboro. But, according to Farley, that’s all part of the plan. Such challenging contests, he hopes, will sharpen up his team, preparing it for the sectional tournament. “It’s all about improving and being prepared for sectionals,” said the coach, a Notre Dame alum who has been at the helm of the program for 13 years. “I’ve always played a tough schedule. The kids understand where I’m coming from.”

Early in the season, the coach was still waiting for his team to buy into his strategy. While the Jugglers have been known to play a full-court, up-and-down game in the past, Farley believes the strength of this edition is in its post players, 5-foot-11 senior center Charissa Morrisroe and 5-10 senior forward Eileen Hansen. “We’re not going to get up and down the court,” Farley said. “We need to take the air out of the ball a little bit and play to the strength of our team.”

Morrisroe was a second-team all-league selection last year and Hansen was designated all-league honorable mention. Both players are fundamentally solid and strong. Both play with determination. “They don’t back down and that’s half the battle,” Farley said. “We need to stress coming together,” Farley said. “The strength of our team is inside and we need to pound the ball in there.”

Senior point guard Cara Rowlands was also all-league honorable-mention and senior off guard Sarah Bushey and junior forward Shannon Notebart are also back. Five-10 center/forward Liz Morgan is one of the first players off of the Jugglers’ bench. Farley had high hopes for junior swing player Brittanay Newton but an injury sustained during soccer season will keep her off the court this year.

Although Bushey is a capable shooter, Farley sees his guards in a more of a defensive role this season with most of the offense coming from the players in the paint. An alum who takes pride in Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School, Farley tries to impart some of that pride onto his players.

“We stress tradition,” he said. “I tell the kids ‘You’re fortunate to be here, your parents sent you here and you have a wonderful opportunity to be a part of the tradition that’s here.”

Rome Catholic

Redwings take flight into new hoops season

Boys basketball

Rebuilding Rome Catholic

It hasn’t been an easy few years for Rome Catholic alum Brendan Ryan. For the last three years, the proud basketball tradition established by former head coach Jim Kenney had fallen prey to dwindling enrollment at the tiny parochial school in the Mohawk Valley. After stumbling through a couple of one and two win seasons, however, the Redwings began to emerge from their slumber last season, going 6-15 overall and 5-5 in Center State Conference Division 4 play.

Second year head coach Ryan believes that while his young squad may still stumble along the way, he has a core group in place to bring his team back to prominence in Section 3 Class D competition. “We’re going to take some lumps and show some inconsistency, but we should improve and I really see us making some noise down the road,” the coach said.

Ryan played for his alma mater during its heyday in the mid 1990’s. During his senior year (1995 to 1996), the Redwings went 23-1 before winning a Section 3 Class D championship. During that era, Kenney guided Rome Catholic to no less than four sectional titles total.

With three juniors and six sophomores and no seniors, this edition of Red Wings hoops is still extremely young but, last year, Rome Catholic was able to put a junior-varsity team on the court for the first time in three years. The Red Wings are built around the talents of 6-foot-8 sophomore Joe Melioris. Although Melioris is a natural center, Ryan said he can still step out of the paint and shoot. Last season, he hit 25 3-point goals, but he will certainly need to make a home for himself on the low post this season. In addition to his considerable height, Melioris has fine skills and a good touch. He is also very athletic and dunks with ease. Complementing Melioris in the frontcourt will be 6-2 junior Forest Falk. Ryan described Falk as a prototypical power forward in the Redwings offense. Raw and athletic, Falk is still somewhat new to the game, but Ryan expects him to be the team’s leading rebounder.

Ryan has high hopes for point guard Steve Smith. As a freshman last year, Smith started at the off guard position while leading scorer Pat Bonanza manned the point. A more natural fit at the two spot, Ryan said Smith is still learning how to manage the team in the backcourt. Last season, the majority of the Red Wings’ scoring came from the point-guard position as Bonanza was fourth in points scored in all of Section 3.

Transfer Chris Pallas will round out the team’s nucleus of four players, while the fifth spot was still up for grabs in the preseason and Ryan plans on going eight players deep. Despite never playing a game during the 2004-05 campaign, Pallas earned the team’s Hardest Worker Award. A 6-foot swing man, Ryan said Pallas is “itching to get out there.” “Our goal is to improve every game and be playing our best basketball at the end of the season,” Ryan said.

Girls basketball

Redwings back for more

For the past three seasons, the Rome Catholic varsity girls basketball team has been knocking on the door of the Section 3 Class D final and for three years the Redwings have been consistently rebuffed.

This year, according to coach Nick D’Argenio, the Redwings are serious. “This team doesn’t want to be just another group of kids that misses out on a sectional final,” the coach said. In the wide-open field of Class D competition, D’Argenio believes his team has as good a shot as any of their opponents. Last season, the Redwings earned an 8-2 record in Center State Conference play and a 16-5 record overall. Their last sectional championship came in 1993.

First-team all-league player Meredith Merchant, a 5-foot-8 forward who can also shoot threes, will lead Rome Catholic. “She’s a smart player and she knows the game well,” D’Argenio said. The Redwings will play their signature up-tempo, full-court game with a heavy emphasis on pressing and 3-point shooting. The team’s returning rebound leader, senior Tiffany Sutton, will staff the post and fellow senior Melissa Ryan will fill out the Redwings’ frontcourt.

The first forward off of the bench is senior Maria LaGasse. The key will be replacing graduated sharpshooters Lindsey Zullo and Lauren Donovan, who combined for over 230 3-point goals and over 2,000 points during the course of their careers.

Manning the point early in the season was junior Katy Barry, but D’Argenio noted that classmate Dena Gualiteri had been challenging her for the starting position throughout the preseason and is a capable backup. D’Argenio believes that off guard Julianna Dainotto could have a breakout year this winter. “I think Julianna is going to surprise some people,” the coach said. “I’ve been waiting for her to come around and I think she’s going to have a big year.”

In order to strengthen his team for the sectional tournament, D’Argenio scheduled several challenging non-league contests including a tournament in the North Country a home and home with Hamilton and a clash with cross-town rival Oriskany.

Seton Catholic

Sectional champions look to repeat success

Boys basketball

Let’s do it again

After winning the Section 4 Class C Championship last season, the Seton Catholic Central varsity boys basketball team returns all three members of its back court for the 2005-06 campaign.

Point guard Jim Torto and 6-foot-2 off guard Jerome Gosney are back along with third guard Matt Cline. Both Gosney and Torto were all-division selections last season and Cline started his season off promisingly enough, scoring 38 points in two games at the Oneonta Tip-Off Tournament. Mike Gilroy, a solid shooter, backs up Torto at the point. The hitch is that Seton Catholic must replace forwards Sam Thomas and Zach Jones.

Early in the season, 6-4 forward Chris Furner was playing very well, as was DJ Lane, who is only 6-1 but with a powerful and athletic frame. A capable shot blocker and rebounder, junior Max Jones has been the first man off of the bench. According to coach Chris Sinicki, if the Saints can get just enough out of their forwards to take some pressure off of the guards, they could be in for another banner season.

Seton Catholic finished last season 20-4 and 13-2 in Southern Tier Athletic Conference play. They lost to Faith Heritage of Section 3 twice, once in their season opener at the Bishop Grimes Tournament and then again in their final game of the season in the New York State Class C Boys Basketball Tournament. Seton Catholic also claimed both the Eastern Division championship and won the STAC outright.

Seton Catholic’s success meant a quick elevation to Class B from Class C, but Sinicki isn’t too terribly concerned. Because it regularly plays Class AA, A and B schools in STAC competition already, his team will be plenty battle tested when the sectional tournament rolls around. The Saints’ style places a mild emphasis on outside shooting, but their guards are also capable of breaking opponents down and beating them one on one, particularly Torto. Sinicki said that while he would love to have veteran front court players, he would rather have experienced guards if he had to choose.

That said, the key to the season will be how well his inexperienced forwards adapt to the game at the varsity level. They don’t need to win games on their own, but Seton Catholic must have some kind of inside presence to take the pressure off of its guards.

Girls basketball

Bring it on

Just one win. That’s what separated the Seton Catholic Central varsity girls basketball team from disappointment and glory. A 9-8 record got the Saints into the Section 4 Class C Tournament by just one win. Seton Catholic, however, had higher ambitions and the Saints went on to win the New York State Class C Girls Basketball championship. According to coach Colleen Jayne, the Saints always had it in them to find success, it was simply a matter of applying themselves.

“My team had always been the team that had to put their mind to it,” the coach said. The turning point was a particularly disturbing loss and a subsequent team meeting in which each player spoke, demanding accountability from their teammates and themselves. “We had some times where we weren’t sure where we were going as a team and then made a decision that we were going to work hard as a team. We said, ‘We’re not living up to our own abilities,” Jayne said.

The Saints lost five players to graduation but only two of them were starters. Returning to the team are senior point guard Allison Curley, as well as senior shooting guards Deirdre Torto and Claudia Mazza. Seton Catholic’s frontcourt features one of the taller players in the Southern Tier Athletic Conference in 6-foot-2 center Ellie Garbade. Complementing Garbade is swing player Megan Bellingham and senior Milissa Miller is one of the first players off of the bench. Jayne noted that Miller is very athletic and one of the team’s better rebounders.

Jayne stressed that she can go to the bench often and lose little in terms of quality. “We’re pretty deep,” she said. “I could play all 12 which is a great thing to have.” The coach is confident in going to sophomore guard Kelsey Myette, junior swing player Kate Canny and senior forward Lauren Garbade whenever necessary.

The Saints have balance and can work the ball inside or kick the ball back out for shots from distance. Torto provides the team with clutch shooting and led the team in scoring last season with 13.1 points per game. “She is the one that I like to turn to when I need to make something happen,” Jayne said. The coach noted that her team knows it will have a great deal pressure in STAC defending last season’s success. “They know they’re going to have to work hard. We know we have a big target on our backs and everybody is trying to beat us,” she said.

Jayne believes that the Saints’ particular division in STAC may be among the tougher ones in the state. “The division is wide open,” she said. “One of my biggest quotes is that anyone can beat you on any given night.”

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