Perfect End To Unblemished Season

The St. Mary’s CYO team is guided by head coach Peter Spinelli, left, and assistant coach Peter Giannopoulos. Sitting, from the left: Piper Godfrey (Shelter Rock), Evelyn Matina (Shelter Rock), Jenna Hassan (St. Mary’s), Maeve Colello (Shelter Rock) and Sienna Philip (Munsey Park). Standing, from the left: Elle Giannopoulos (Munsey Park), Bianca Spinelli (Green Vale School), Jolie Peters (Shelter Rock), Meredith Neckles (Munsey Park), Ariella Eli (Munsey Park) and Katerina Venetoklis (Munsey Park). (Contributed Photo)

St. Mary’s Fifth Grade CYO girls garner county title

Baskets were hard to come by, but the final result was never in doubt. St. Mary’s of Manhasset defeated St. Martin’s of Bethpage 15-10 to win the Nassau County CYO Fifth Grade Championship Game at Kellenberg High School in Uniondale in February.

With the win, the squad completed a perfect season, finishing 14-0. Elle Giannopoulos, who attends Munsey Park Elementary School, paced the winners with 10 points while Maeve Colello of Shelter Rock ES added five.

St. Mary’s runs an extensive CYO program, and this championship squad was one of four competing at the fifth grade level. Head coach Peter Spinelli said he was an assistant coach last season and expected to remain one, but was asked to coach an additional team created in order to give participants additional playing time. His daughter Bianca is on the roster. He also coaches his sons’ sixth and 10th grade teams.

Asked what he hoped to impart at this age level, Spinelli replied, “Our goal for the season is to ensure the girls have fun while expanding their skill set, athleticism and understanding of the game in a safe environment where they can make new friendships. We achieved that goal and, proudly, we were also able to do it while getting each girl meaningful if not equal playing time in each game.”

Spinelli never dreamed that his charges would go undefeated, noting that finishing 10-0 in the regular season “was shocking. And then to go 14-0 through the playoffs and championship was exhilarating. Hearing the jubilant screams and seeing the smiles on the players’ faces after each win was truly a pure joy in life. Each week the girls improved—including two separate games where we hung on to win by only one point, which helped build our confidence. We were fortunate to have great parental support and great attitudes throughout the season.”

Asked for his final thoughts, Spinelli stated, “I cannot wait for next season. Every week I would look forward to that weekend’s game and do as much as I could to prepare for the upcoming game and to get the girls ready in our Thursday night weekly practice. I am excited to try to repeat the goal of having a fun season with either a new group next year or with this same group up at the next level.”

The coaches gave out the following awards at the championship luncheon:

Comeback Player of the Year
Katerina Venetekolis

Best Sixth Person of the Year
Evelyn Matina

Most Improved Player
Sienna Philip

Co-Most Improved Player and Team Spirit
Bianca Spinelli

Most Coachable Player
Piper Godfrey

Best Attitude
Ariella Eli

Best Dribbler and Overall Performance/Player of the Year
Maeve Colello

Defensive Player of the Year
Jenna Hassan

Chairwoman of the Boards
Jolie Peters

Co- Most Valuable Players
Meredith Neckles and Elle Giannopoulos

St Mary’s Maeve Colello drives to the hoop as Paige Harrison of St. Martin’s defends. (Photos by Frank Rizzo)
St Mary’s Jolie Peters grabs the ball as St. Martin’s Ashley Puliafico watches.
Meredith Neckles (24) and Katerina Venetoklis (43) reach for a rebound.
Meredith Neckles drives past St. Martin’s Antoniette Valente.
Maeve Colello grabs an inbound pass.
Elle Giannopoulos, Bianca Spinelli and Meredith Nickles battle St Martin’s Salah Bachman for the ball.
Meredith Neckles brings up the ball, followed by Katerina Venetoklis.
Piper Godfrey defends this inbound pass by St. Martin’s Paige Harrison.
A determined Elle Giannopoulos drives against St. Martin’s Ashley Puliafico.
Maeve Colello calls out an inbound play: “SAUCE!”.
Jenna Hassan looks for an open player.
Evelyn Matina lines up a pass to Bianca Spinelli.
Sienna Philip battles St. Martin’s Paige Harrison for the ball.
Elle Giannopoulos and St. Martin’s Paige Harrison contest the ball.
Maeve Colello and Bianca Spinelli (22) express the joy of victory.
Ariella Eli exults after the win.
Coach Peter Spinelli watches as the squad holds up the championship trophy.
The champs receive their medals.


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