St. Joseph’s basketball program celebrates great season

Pictured are the St. Joseph’s coaches and eighth-grade boys and girls. They engaged in a friendly game.

MAPLEWOOD, NJ – The St. Joseph’s CYO Basketball program held its annual fun-filled awards dinner on April 1 to recognize the achievements of the teams, athletes, coaches and volunteers during the 2016-2017 season.  

The event kicked off with the final game of the season. The coaches proved they could put their skills where their game plans are, beating a squad of eighthgrade boys and girls, 84-80. After the game, more than 200 players and their families attended the potluck dinner and award presentation in Bernard Hall.

“It is truly amazing that our program has grown from four teams to 20 teams over the last 10 years,” said Gerry O’Connor, CYO athletic director. “I have the privilege of working together with great coaches and parent volunteers, who volunteered to coach the 210 players we now have in the program.  It also helps that we have the support of Fr. Jim Worth, Pastor at St. Joseph’s, and Msgr. Bob Emry Pastor, from Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, who are great advocates of the CYO program and see the impact the program has had on their young parishioners and families.”

The CYO season has been a great success for this shared parish ministry for both parishes. “The CYO program now gives girls and boys in grades 2 through 12, living in Maplewood and South Orange, a chance to improve their basketball skills, learn how to be good teammates and help others,” O’Connor said. “Each team participated in our shared community service project, which resulted in the boys and girls collecting more than 200 bags of food that were donated to the local food pantries.”

In addition to playing in league games, some teams had the opportunity to play in other venues.  The JV 6 Boys played in the St Peter’s Prep Invitational in Jersey City and also won the St. Helen’s Christmas Tournament. The Varsity Seventh and Eighth Grade boys played at halftime of the Seton Hall – Georgetown game at the Prudential Center in Newark.

The highlight of the awards presentation was the unveiling of the Championship Banners to the Third Grade Boys, JV 5 Boys, JV 5 Girls, and the High School 12th grade boys, bringing the total to 14 championships won by St Joseph’s over the last 10 years.

Eighth-graders Anabel Callahan and Anthony Fuschetto were presented with the Celtics Coaches Awards, which is presented to the Varsity athlete who is a team player and epitomizes an unwavering commitment to team play with hard work and good sportsmanship.

Keeping with a St. Joseph’s tradition, each eighth-grader was presented with miniature replicas of their game uniforms in recognition for the hard work and dedication to the program. “Unlike professional teams, we cannot retire everyone’s number, so this is our way of saying thank you to our eighth-graders,” O’Connor said.

Margaret Meola was presented with the CYO Coach of the Year award for her inspiration and commitment to the CYO program.  Meola lead the JV 5 Boys to the championship this year with a 13-2 record in just her fourth year of coaching.

Also recognized were the players and coaches who represented St. Joseph’s in the Union County CYO All-Star Games. Players included Henry Aaron, John Pirone, Grayson Thompson, John Wisniewski, Jeremiah Cook, Callen Bauer, Patrick Campbell, Mike Pirone, Talia Baptiste, Summer Lonning, Leah Connell, Siobhan Bracken, Damian Cateneo, Buchi Amobi, Nicholas Aaron, Patrick Dawkins, Molly Gray and Lily Ramos. Coaches included Margaret Meola, Mike Pirone, Greg Dawkins, Charlie Straub, Mike Hollis, John Connell, and Jamie Fardin.

“St Joseph’s CYO is no longer just a winter program, we have become a year-round program with fall and spring skills and drills clinics for our players to improve their fundamentals, as well as hosting a summer mini basketball camp in June and July that is open to everyone in the community,” O’Connor said. “Over the summer our teams also have been playing in the West Orange Summer league. This is all because we have coaches and alumni who want to give back to the programs and teach our players what a great sport basketball is.”