St. Mary’s CYO Senior Division Champions

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Kneeling (L-R) : Ross Tortora, Chris Glynn, Joseph Mulholland, John Whelan, Jack Hannan, Aidan Lotruglio. Standing (L-R) : Steven Vlahakis, Chris Themelis, Michael Farrell, Steven Salerno, Edward Arnold, Jackson Cherry, Jack Orlando, Jack Sullivan, Jay Schlaefer, Timmy Kiggins, Louis Perfetto

St. Mary’s Manhasset CYO Senior Division (Mulholland/Hannan) defeated St. Peter’s by a score of 38-34 to capture the Long Island CYO C Senior Division Championship. This win capped off an extraordinary undefeated season.

This team is composed of all juniors from Manhasset High School who have played various sports together since kindergarten. To add perspective, the CYO senior division includes seniors and juniors from high schools all over Long Island. There are 50 teams in the division. There is no A division in high school CYO, and there are only six teams in the B Division.

St. Mary’s has a bit of a tradition in that some of its high school CYO teams are coached by high school classmates to complete their community service requirements here in Manhasset. It is a great way to commit to a cause and teach. Steven Vlahakis was the head coach. Tim Kiggins, Louis Perfetto and Chris Themelis assisted. The young men have been classmates of the team for years.

This group of players went 8-2 when they were freshman and lost in the playoffs two years ago. Last year the team went 9-1 as sophomores and lost the championship game to Garden City.

This year the team began the season with a tough 46-42 win versus a senior team from right here at St. Mary’s. No doubt a confidence builder that they could handle older and taller opponents the streak took hold. They marched through teams from other parishes including Garden City, Long Beach, Island Park, East Rockaway. Most of the games were tight. Not to be denied, St. Mary’s completed their 10-0 regular season ramble with a 49-40 dicing of St. Raymond’s.

This regular season streak, 10-0, earned St. Mary’s a bye in the first round of the playoffs. Only two teams of the 50 finished undefeated.

Ten teams from five different divisions earned a playoff spot. St. Mary began its playoffs verse a tough team from St. Gertrude. They got off to a fast start taking a 27-15 halftime lead. Three-pointers by Edward Arnold, Jack Hannan and Joseph Mulholland let the first half barrage. St. Mary held St. Gertrude to zero second quarter points. The defense was led by Jackson Cherry and John Whelan. The opposition did make a run in the fourth quarter, but Jay Schlaefer nailed a pair of 3-pointers, and Steven Salerno added four foul shots to put the game to bed. Scoring contributions also came from Aidan Lotruglio, Michael Farrell and Ross Tortora. This victory landed them in the CYO Senior Final Four.

The semi-finals would be the toughest test of the year against St. Joseph. This game was tight from the start. St. Mary fell behind more than once in the first half by five points, struggled. Scoring in the first half were Schlaefer, Arnold, Salerno and Hannan. St. Joe held an 18-17 lead to start the third quarter. St. Mary was down two to start the fourth quarter. Three pointers by Schlaefer, Arnold and Lotruglio helped them claw into the lead. This battle was epic. With less than a minute to go, St. Joe’s charged down the court with a lane to a game tying layup. But, Mulholland froze himself in the path as the St. Joe’s player leapt to a sure layup. Time seemed to stand still as the players crashed and Mulholland fell to his back. The referee, with a pregnant pose to accent his dramatic dose of conviction, made the emphatic offensive charge foul call. The crowd leapt and victory was sealed. St. Mary’s had gotten the monkey off their back. Leading the defensive charge was Orlando, Tortora, Cherry and Whelan. Steven Salerno and Michael Farrell rounded out the scoring in the 45-43 victory. On to the finals.

The championship game was played right in Wiest Gym due to the snow storm the week before that forced a cancellation of the game previously slated for Kellenberg. The opponent was St. Peter’s in Port Washington, a team composed of all seniors. Confident from the St. Joe victory, St. Mary had a fast start. Tortora, Schlaefer, Mulholland and Salerno drained three’s to propel a 23-12 half time lead. Coaches’ Vlahakis, Perfetto, Kiggins and Themelis took the boys to the locker room with a bunch of back slapping. Having gone 9-1 during the regular season, St. Peter had a run in them, and did just that.

Things got dicey. The score narrowed to four points and Coach Vlahakis has to mix and match. Leading the defense was Chris Glynn, Whelan, Orlando, Hannan and Cherry. It seemed like any home court advantage was slipping away. But St. Mary was able to snuff the late charge with crucial foul shots by Schlaefer and Salerno. Rounding out the scoring were Farrell and Lotruglio. St. Mary’s found pay dirt in the 38-34 win. This group of 13 young men and four coaches, earned the well fought senior championship, completing an extraordinary 13-0 record against LI CYO best. Parents took great delight as CYO St. Mary’s Director Jim Gibbons, and manager Josh Mulholland had the ladder handy and we all got to watch the classic net cutting by the boys. It was indeed a sweet way to end a great basketball year. The article has not only been written by a very subjective father, but by the 34 parents of these boys, their grandparents, and countless coaches who molded their tenacity and made this season what it was; inspirational and fun. Indeed, that is what sport and CYO is all about. A note of thanks to the parish of St. Mary’s and CYO Director Emeritus John Kiggins who provided a forum for such wonderful times with our children.

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