Men In Black rally, defeat Our Lady of Lourdes CYO in annual vocations game
UTICA — In their annual Men In Black Vocations Awareness event, the team representing Syracuse’s diocesan priests, deacons and seminarians rallied to defeat Our Lady of Lourdes CYO team 60-58.
The event at Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School began in a festive atmosphere. Father Joe O’Connor, director of the Office of Vocations Promotion, offered an introduction to the Jugglers’ packed gymnasium.
The event’s theme was “We serve,” which provided a pun on the popular game console the Nintendo Wii. In addition to raising awareness about vocations, the event served as a fund raiser and a Wii was raffled between the third and fourth quarters. In addition, four young people in costumes depicting Wii controllers raced around the gymnasium at halftime.
During his introduction, Father O’Connor noted that the event was intended to show young men that, “Priests do more than Mass.”
Chris Ballard, a parishioner at St. Augustine’s Church in Baldwinsville who anticipates being ordained a transitional deacon this year, also offered some remarks.
“We want to get in the game,” he said. “God calls us to get in the game.” He added that while Bishop James Moynihan could not attend the event because of lingering complications from knee surgery, he sent his blessings.
The jovial atmosphere of the event was punctuated when Father Joseph Salerno, the pastor from Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Utica, squared off at center court against a much taller CYO player in Brad Jones.
Jones did not need to jump in order to win the tip off, but the light-hearted feel of the event evaporated as both teams’ competitive spirits took over.
The Men In Black were clearly playing to win, as evidenced particularly by Father Christopher Celentano, who seemed to spend as much time on the floor diving for loose balls as he did running the court.
Despite the best efforts of the Men In Black, Our Lady of Lourdes CYO raced out to a 14-2 lead. Drew Mischlanie keyed the CYO team’s run with eight points. The Men In Black scored their first field goal when hulking 6-5 seminarian Jamie Schultz used his superior size to muscle up for a jump-shot in the lane at roughly the 3:20 mark in the first quarter.
Schultz’s score sparked a 9-0 run for the Men In Black to finish the quarter with a 14-11 lead for Our Lady of Lourdes CYO.
Schultz’s superiority in the paint was highlighted in the second quarter when he scored eight of the Men In Black’s 12 points. Near the end of the session, the Men In Black took their first lead, 22-21.
After Our Lady of Lourdes CYO fell behind 24-21, however, Mischlanie hit two 3-pointers during a 8-2 run that gave the scholastic aged team a 29-26 lead going into the half-time intermission.
Along with Schultz, who paced the Men In Black with 20 points, Father Celentano and first-year seminarian Jason Hage, a native of Brockport in the Rochester Diocese, provided highlights. Father Celentano, the parochial vicar at Ss. John and Andrew Church in Binghamton, scored 16 points, while Hage scored 14.
After the Men In Black fell behind 33-26 early in the third quarter, Hage connected on the front end of a one-and-one and Schultz drew contact on a lay-up and completed a three-point play to cut the lead to 33-30.
Hage followed up with an improbable four-point play after shouldering a foul from beyond the three-point line to give the Men In Black a briefly held 34-33 lead. Hage scored nine of his 14 points in the third quarter.
Dominick Galimo scored a 3 and Mike McCormick and Sean Badger both hit mid-range jump shots to return the lead to the Our Lady of Lourdes CYO team, but the Men In Black continued to stay in the game.
Father Celentano, who is the diocese’s most recently ordained priest, provided two critical 3’s in the fourth quarter. Schultz also showed that his game wasn’t confined to the low post when he also dealt a 3.
Father Celentano took over in the game’s dying seconds. With 40 seconds remaining and the scored tied 58-58, he hauled in a decisive rebound. After a time-out, Father O’Connor caught Our Lady of Lourdes CYO sleeping and targeted Father Celentano under the basket on an inbounds play. Father Celentano was able to take advantage of space under the basket to score on a lay-up.
With less than half a second remaining, Mischlanie delivered a three-quarter court length shot that very nearly rattled in, but the Men In Black were able to survive the scare to win 60-58.