When Anthony Bernardo and Ken Fritz were handed the reins of St. Ann's CYO Basketball program after twelve years of leadership by Gavin Quain, they knew they had a solid foundation. St. Ann's remarkable success this year even caught them a little off guard. Six of it's twelve teams made the County playoffs in dominating fashion and after the first round of playoffs last weekend, five of the six are still in the running to win County Championships next weekend at Iona Prep.
Bernardo credits the dedication of coaches who want to continue after their children have long since graduated the program, or before they even start, as a key to their success. "It's like having professional coaches, who are doing it simply because of the love of the game and the kids," said Bernardo.
Fritz's daughter, Alyssa, who graduated Ossining High School in 2011 and played on it's school team has now joined her dad on the coaching staff. The senior Fritz says that "Emphasizing fundamentals at an early age, in a fun way, gives the kids confidence on the court and sets the stage for them to love the game too." He attributes the emphasis on fun and fundamentals, and the blessing of having some talented and motivated players, as the secret to St. Ann's success.
Quain permitted interested second graders to play on the 3rd grade teams, thinking that "they are already veterans when they hit the floor as 3rd graders and it gives them a great headstart." Chris Awerdick, the 4th grade girls coach, had three daughters go through the St. Ann's system and play for Ossining High School, but still coaches as he wants to pass on his knowledge to the next generation.
Bernardo's 5th grade girls team sports a 13-0 record after winning 34-20 against Holy Rosary (Hawthorne), and is looking to "Threepeat" this weekend in the most competitive "A" Division, as it won County Titles in the 3rd and 4th grades. The "A" Division 4th grade girls team (13-1) is looking to go one step further than it did last last year when it lost in the County Championship game. This past weekend the team won 18-17 with a last minute basket against Holy Innocents (Pleasantville) and 18-9 against St. Patrick's (Bedford) to reach the semi-finals.
The new kids on the block, the 3rd grade girls (13-0), are carrying on the tradition into the "A" playoffs under the Fritz daughter-father tutelage. Ken says that "Alyssa is definitely the boss on the court. Alyssa has a wonderful relationship with the girls." The team, benefiting by having several second year players, defeated Holy Family (New Rochelle) 26-7 to reach the semi-finals. The sixth grade girls team (11-3), with Quain coaching a team for the third time, lost its Division B playoff game to St. Gregory's (Harrison) by three points.
With Ossining High School girls' team enjoying such a successful feeder program, it may have many more good years ahead. Many Briarcliff Manor children also participate in the St. Ann's program.
On the Boys' side, the 5th and 7th grade C Division teams are each 13-0 and headed to the semi-finals with Coach Rich Jones leading the 5th graders and Ken Fritz managing double coaching duty by handling the 7th graders. The 7th grade team, after having gone through 2009 without even winning a game, regrouped over time. It overcame Holy Name (New Rochelle) 55-51, while the 5th graders beat Immaculate Conception (Tuckahoe) 35-21.
If you want to see some of the County's budding basketball stars before they become household names, Iona Prep is the place to be this weekend.
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