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  • Writer's pictureThis Is Rutherford

St. Mary's CYO's Amazing Season

Updated: Mar 23, 2022

By Jennifer Ersalesi

Photo credits: Sue Gambale, Patty Gerbasio, Tom Lewis, Justin DePascale, and Lauren Snyder

The St. Mary’s CYO Basketball teams had a very successful season this year. Eight out of the thirteen CYO teams made Championship games this year and four of those teams won the Championship games. With a focus on community, dedicated volunteers, supportive parents, encouraging coaches, and passionate players the CYO program gets stronger every year. To learn more about the program, click here.

TIR: How long have you been coaching CYO Basketball?

Brian Redington: (3-4 Boys American 2nd Place) This is actually my third tour through the program. I’m not sure how many it adds up to in total, but probably close to 20 seasons. This time around, it’s been about 7 years, and Tommy (Tom Lewis) and I have been running the program together for about 5 years.

Jose Alvarez: (3-4 Boys Liberty 2nd Place) This was my first year coaching CYO Basketball.

Sue Gambale: (5-6 Liberty Girls Champions) I have been coaching for 6 years. I started with my older daughter who is now a sophomore in HS and continued with my younger daughter. This year I coached the 6th-grade girls in the 5/6 Liberty Division.

Tom Lewis: (5-6 Girls National Champions)I started coaching CYO basketball seven years ago and have been running the program along with Brian Redington for the past five years.

Chris Annibal, Dennis Gentile, and Mark Goldsack: (3-4 Boys Colonial 2nd Place) This was our first year coaching CYO.

Patti Gerbasio: (3-4 Girls Liberty 2nd Place) This was my first season coaching CYO basketball.

Russ Snyder: (5-6 Boys Liberty Champions) This is my third season since 2018. Last season CYO was canceled outright due to covid.

Sue Gambale told TIR, “I can't say enough about how much I love this program and I want to stress that it's because of the leadership of Tom Lewis and Brian Reddington. The countless hours they put into this program should be mentioned and commended.”

TIR: Why do you enjoy being part of the CYO Basketball community?

BR: (3-4 Boys American 2nd Place) CYO is very different from any of the other sports programs I’m involved with. We focus as much as anyone on success on the court but we don’t consider ourselves to be successful unless we’ve done that in a very family-oriented environment with people helping us who we know share our values and we create a sense of everyone being a part of it in some way. And that everyone feels we are all on the same team, part of the same effort. There’s always more we can do, but I feel like we’ve achieved a lot in that regard in the last 5 years.

JA: (3-4 Boys Liberty 2nd Place) I enjoyed coaching CYO because it does feel like a community in the sense that everyone is looking out for each other. Even from different teams, you can feel like you are part of something bigger than just one team.

SG: (5-6 Liberty Girls Champions)The CYO community feels like family. You find yourself staying in the gym all day on a Sunday to watch any game because you want to cheer on each team or help out with the scoreboard or work the door. Not because you have to, because you want to be in that environment. Tom and Brian created a program where the goal is growth in basketball, with the main focus on teamwork and a positive basketball community.

TL: (5-6 Girls National Champions) My favorite part of the program is the family atmosphere. The parents are always willing to step up and help whenever needed. And seeing the kids choosing to hang out in the gym for hours, whether they have a game or not, is special because it means that they feel that it is their space and they like being there.

CA, DG, and MG: (3-4 Boys Colonial 2nd Place) The CYO organization is a very supportive community-it was great to see the kids and families of the different teams supporting one another.

PG: (3-4 Liberty 2nd Place) I enjoyed being part of CYO basketball because of the sense of community that came with it. On a typical game day, you would see CYO players from grades 2 through 8 in the gym wearing their CYO gear cheering on our St. Mary’s teams even when they didn’t have a game that day.

RS: (5-6 Boys Liberty Champions) The St Mary’s CYO community feels very much like a family. TL and Brian have worked hard to rejuvenate the program which has been around for a long time, but as of lately has blossomed under their wing. Coaches and players are always given St. Mary’s CYO gear to represent the program, and the organization hosts events for the entire CYO family, which I think everyone appreciates and enjoys.

“I feel great about our Championship win because my teammates and I worked really hard to get to the Championship and it felt great winning the championship as an all 7th-grade team vs. 8th graders," 7th grader Payton Lewis told TIR.

“The best part of being on the team this year was playing with my great friends and becoming a better basketball player,” 4th grader Michael Giacalone explained.

TIR: To what do you attribute your team’s success to this season?

BR: (3-4 Boys American 2nd Place) First and foremost, it’s always great kids and great families that lead to success on the floor. At the beginning of the season, we expressed to our parents our desire to have smaller teams that offer better playing time for the kids, and in exchange for that, all we needed in exchange was everyone’s commitment and prioritization of the program. Our parents and players were very committed and bought into what we were trying to do and the positive results just naturally followed.

JA: (3-4 Boys Liberty 2nd Place)It’s a combination factor that helped us. Like program leadership, coaching staff, parents, and players. Everyone recognized their role to play and everyone did his or her part to make this a successful season.

SG: (5-6 Liberty Girls Champions) My team this year had 6 girls. So the girls really relied on each other to be their best and give their all. Each girl played such an important role on the court and worked so hard throughout the entire season. We also had such supportive parents and fans.

TL: (5-6 Girls National Champions) Every girl on this team is a fierce competitor, and a little crazy, which doesn't hurt. They never quit and will fight for each other to the end. They are a special group who truly like each other and want to be good.

(7-8 Girls National Champions) I think the greatest attribute of this team is that they are fearless. They are not afraid to go out there and dare to be great. They knew that as an all 7th-grade team playing against 8th-grade teams, they were going to be in for a battle every game. They truly embraced a warrior's mentality and refused to back down to anyone. Tough group of girls.

CA, DG, and MG: (3-4 Boys Colonial 2nd Place) We really enjoyed being a part of the SM CYO community this year. For many of the boys, (and the coaches) this was their first experience with CYO travel basketball, so our goals this season were very simple. We wanted everyone to have fun and learn a little about the game of basketball. We felt that if we worked hard every day and tried our best, the wins would take care of themselves. Our kids and coaches worked hard all season and were committed to doing what they could to help the team.

PG: (3-4 Girls Liberty 2nd Place) We had an incredible support system from Brian Redington and Tom Lewis who run the CYO program. Tom would come to our practices to show us plays, invite us to his older team’s practices, and was always willing to help strategize. Having that support system helped my CYO coach, Cormac Joyce, and me tremendously in coaching our girls. We had an awesome group of girls who were coachable, focused, and always ready to work hard and work together. These girls played hard and smart with an incredible work ethic. They consistently worked harder than the day before, gave all that they had to this team, and had fun doing it.

RS: (5-6 Boys Liberty Champions) My team plays the old-fashioned way, with hustle and good defense. We weren’t the purest shooting team, so we put in plays to get points flashing to the paint and work for a layup. It worked very well with our speed and aggressive players.

“It was a really fun season because we were all good friends who had a great time playing together and winning the championship," 6th grader Leah Gambale told TIR.

TIR: How did you prepare your players for the championship games?

BR: (3-4 Boys American 2nd Place) We spent a good amount of time just talking. We talked about what got us there, how much we have to appreciate and that really, win or lose, the only way we could fail would be not to give our best. Then we practiced running through our plays and assignments, including getting together before the game to walk through everything and get the team as loose as we could.

JA: (3-4 Boys Liberty 2nd Place) From the regular season we knew that we eventually had to beat Glen Rock for the championship. In the first 2 games during the regular season, they beat us by 7 and 6 points. My assistant coaches and I made some changes to our strategy to be better prepared for them. We made it a close game and we had some good shots but in the end we lost by 1 point.

SG: (5-6 Liberty Girls Champions) I knew the nerves would be high and the gym would be LOUD so I think I tried to mentally prepare the girls for what to expect. We were very evenly matched so I focused in practice on what the fourth quarter would look like and what we would need to do to come out on top. They handled it all with confidence.

TL: (5-6 Girls National Champions) I think the most important part of preparing this team for a championship game was to treat it like every other game. I tried to make sure they understood our game plan and were prepared, but reinforced that if we go out and play like we have all season, we have a chance to win.

(7-8 Girls National Champions) I believe the most important part of preparing this team was to make them understand that as the underdog in this game, the pressure was off of us. I needed them to believe in our gameplan, and convince them that the best way to achieve victory was to go out and play fast and loose. And as they had all season, they bought in, and walked out onto the court for the championship game confident and focused.

CA, DG, and MG: (3-4 Boys Colonial 2nd Place) Same way we prepared for all of our games. We practiced hard and worked on improving our weaknesses.

PG: (3-4 Girls Liberty 2nd Place) To prepare our players for the championship game we coached our girls on defending against our opponent’s plays and breaking through their defense. We scrimmaged older boys and girls teams in the program to get our girls used to playing bigger, more experienced players. At our last practice before the championship game while our girls scrimmaged each other my co-coach and I as well as several older players who were in the gym made as much noise as possible, yelling, clapping, whistling so our girls were used to playing in a loud gym that we knew the championship would be. We knew at their age (3rd and 4th grade) this was likely their first championship and knew the importance of mentally preparing them for the game. Our goal was to keep them calm, confident and in control regardless of what was happening on (and off) the court. We reminded our girls to breathe, play their game and leave it all on the court and they did exactly that.

RS: (5-6 Boys Liberty Champions) I worked them hard and went over the other teams playing style, and showed them how to beat it. During the championship, the opposing coach called timeout after we went up to a 6-0 lead and changed their defense. So our prep worked well!

6th grader Emily Cronin explained, “The best part about being on the team this year was having a great record and winning the championship game. It felt really good and exciting to make it to the Championships because we knew we were the best team in the league then."

TIR: What was the best part of the season this year?

BR: (3-4 Boys American 2nd Place) By far for me, our 2 point last seconds win in the semi-finals. A special moment for the whole team.

JA: (3-4 Boys Liberty 2nd Place) When one of our kids said to the entire group that this has been the best moments of his life and that he couldn’t have asked for better coaches and friends.

SG: (5-6 Liberty Girls Champions) The best part was that it was 6 good friends playing basketball. Allie,, Leah, Kayla, Brianna, Emily, and Maddie were a joy to coach! I loved every minute in the gym with these girls.

TL: (5-6 Girls National Champions) I think the best moments were the practices. I could really see how much they liked each other and how close of a team they had become.

(7-8 Girls National Champions) The best part of the season was watching them celebrate at the final buzzer of the championship game. Every girl on the team had contributed to that win, and they had given everything they had. It was a great moment to see all their hard work and determination pay off. They are truly a special group of girls.

CA, DG, and MG: (3-4 Boys Colonial 2nd Place) Watching the kids improve from week to week. The highlight for us was our first-round playoff game vs. Corpus Christi. The coaches are very proud of all of the boys, for their commitment and their hard work this season. We are proud to see how much improvement each player showed this year. We'd like to thank our parents and fans, and the CYO leadership for making this a positive experience for all of our SM teams and players.

PG: (3-4 Girls Liberty 2nd Place) There were so many highs this season but the best part of the season was seeing each player grow as an athlete and individual and seeing the girls grow as a team.

RS: (5-6 Boys Liberty Champions) The last year we played was 2020 when covid shut down the season prior to the championship. We were undefeated at that point so we were expecting to win the championship then, so our goal was unfulfilled. So playing this season entirely felt good. We entered the playoffs as the three seed (with 3 losses on the season) but dominated every playoff game to win the championship. The boys played their hearts out. So that was my favorite part.

“The best part about being on the team was being with all of my friends and winning a lot of games. It was really exciting to make it to the Championship game because it was my first year playing basketball,” 3rd grader Brenna Cronin told TIR.

4th grader TJ Sprayberry explained, "This was my first year playing CYO basketball, it was fun to visit other schools in the community and while we got to the championship game, we lost by one point. Instead of being sad, as I took my second-place trophy I did it with a big smile. I was super proud of my teammates and I am really looking forward to next season."

TIR: What was the most challenging part of the season this year?

BR: (3-4 Boys American 2nd Place)The covid spike around Christmas caused scheduling chaos and that’s my department. This was by far the most difficult aspect of this year’s effort.

JA: (3-4 Boys Liberty 2nd Place) Like almost everyone, COVID was our biggest challenge. For a moment I really thought that the season was going to be canceled.

SG: (5-6 Liberty Girls Champions) Covid was a challenge in December which shut my team down for a while.

TL: (5-6 Girls National Champions) I honestly can't think of a challenging part of the season as it pertains to this team. Going undefeated in any sport, at any level, is extremely rare. Like all coaches, more practice time would be nice, but overall just an amazing season.

(7-8 Girls National Champions) It is hard to find a challenging part of the season after all that they accomplished. If I had to say something, it would be getting the girls to believe in themselves half as much as I do. I knew we had a special group, and once they started to believe that, I knew they were going to be hard to beat.

CA, DG, and MG: All games and practices were shut down for approximately two weeks during the holidays.

RS: (5-6 Boys Liberty Champions) With the program growing every year, gym time is a challenge. I was lucky that mostly all of my team also played on our recreation travel team in town, which I also coached so I ran the same system with both teams. That made it a little better, and we got more gym time with recreation.

“I loved working with my teammates/ friends and my very helpful coaches. We’d all work together and play our parts on the team and understand if some of us got more playing time than others. We learned that we shouldn’t judge a team by how they looked in warm-ups. We were so nervous at first and we grew a lot. I miss basketball already,” 5th grader Tess Dimitroff explained.

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