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Youth basketball: St. Stan’s tops Bosco for 8th-grade CYO crown

St. Thomas More defenders scramble for ball as St. Mary's (Crown Point) Jack Mumaugh dribbles up court 7th grade Catholic

St. Thomas More defenders scramble for the ball as St. Mary's (Crown Point) Jack Mumaugh dribbles up court in the 7th grade Catholic Youth Organization basketball championship on Saturday, Jan. 25 at St. Paul School in Valparaiso. St. Mary won 40-30.

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Updated: February 28, 2014 6:37AM



Whether Catholic Youth Organization basketball teams from Northwest Indiana brought long winning streaks, series dominance or were contending with a depleted roster, the league’s overall parity called for teams to do one thing: be their best in the moment.

Boys fifth- to eighth-grade teams gathered for the league’s four championship games on Saturday at St. Paul School in Valparaiso.

Just like St. Stanislaus’ surprising climb to the top of the CYO, players ascended a ladder to cut pieces from the basketball net after their spirited 47-35 win over St. John Bosco of Hammond.

“Bosco’s a great team and we played our hearts out,” said St. Stan’s eighth-grade coach Guadalupe Garcia.

He and Falcons assistant coach Mike Mendoza called the East Chicago team’s victory over its rivals “awesome” and a “great accomplishment.”

The Falcons soared to a 20-12 advantage before halftime with a 6-0 run that saw guard Alex Mendoza driving for layups through a tired-looking Spartans defense.

And just seconds into the third quarter the East Chicago team’s dynamic 3-2 defense caused a Bosco turnover in the frontcourt. Falcons players had prepped extensively to remain quick on their feet on defense and on the mark on offense.

“Going into the championship game I knew I had to work hard and get my endurance up,” Alex Mendoza said. “I would hit the treadmill for four miles daily.”

With 2:34 remaining in the third quarter, St. Stan’s post player Guadalupe Garcia drove the paint to bring his team’s lead to 30-20. The squad didn’t look back.

St. Stan’s closed the season with a 10-1 record.

“This is what I wanted; it feels good,” Alex Mendoza said as fans celebrated on court.

Players and coaches said this was St. Stan’s first championship in recent memory. The team bowed out of last year’s semifinals with a loss to Bosco.

Team leader Michael Quintero kept the score from getting real ugly by putting up double-digit figures for the Spartans. He maintained a cool composure through the fourth quarter, drilling multiple 3s.

“I felt like I was ready at the beginning of the game,” Quintero, a future Bishop Noll Warrior, said. “I wanted to finish my last Bosco year great.”

Quintero said his team had practiced intensely on one-non-one lay-up situations and free throws, but they came up short ­— as runners-up for the second straight year.

Bosco coach Mark Heintz explained that his players didn’t lose faith during their 12-5 year and even kept a “friendly rivalry” with St. Stan’s, which beat them three times. Though three of his players were not able to participate, he said it was a day for “good players with good talent for a good championship game.”

In the seventh-grade title game, St. Mary of Crown Point and St. Thomas More were nearly even at halftime, with the Wildcats leading the Munster school 20-19.

Eventually, though, even the Eagles’ hot-shooting guard Tyler Zabrecky, who zipped around the front court, could not keep up with St. Mary’s Elias Gerodemos and his season-high 26 points.

The utility player spoke of the Wildcats’ championship strategy in terms of an all-around team effort.

“We set up our defense and we just tried to (implement) our offense and shoot the ball,” Gerodemos said.

“Stopping them on defense,” he explained, was the key. The Eagles had swooped in to beat the Wildcats twice before the tournament, by four and two points.

St. Tom’s had owned a 17-0 record before the title game.

When asked if the loss had his emotions running high, the Eagles’ Maxwell Jeleniewski explained that he’d felt better.

“Yes, especially (considering) two years ago we won our first championship in our very first (season),” Jeleniewski said. “We tried our best but the foul trouble got us…. We’ve got next time.”

St. Mary coach Doug Holok said he was proud of the 24 minutes of solid basketball his seventh-graders played.

“It was a matter of our boys starting to believe in themselves and what we are capable of doing collectively as a team,” said Holok. “We relied on every single individual.

“We certainly want to enjoy the moment, but the reality is when something like this happens you automatically get a target on your back,” he said looking ahead to next season. “We can’t let it go to our head; all of these teams are very competitive.

“This year’s championship trophy is not going to help us next year,” he added.

In the fifth-grade title game, Lincoln (Cedar Lake Schools) edged out St. Mary, Griffith, 23-22.

St. Paul’s maximized its home-court advantage with a 33-17 pounding of St. Tom’s in the sixth-grade championship.



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