Teamwork leads to diocesan title for St. Athanasius boys
The boys basketball team from St. Athanasius Parish in West View carried the burden of a three-game losing streak to Our Lady of Grace, the team they would face for the Catholic Youth Ministry diocesan championship.
But it still won the championship this spring.
Team co-captains also said they weren't united as a team when this season began.
“We weren't a whole team at one point,” said junior co-captain Josh Franc, 18, of Ross Township. “One guy would pass to only one guy and things like that at the beginning of the season. We figured it out, though, and talked it out. We had to, to get back into the championship game.”
Our Lady of Grace, based in Scott Township, a sure-handed, three-point shooting team, had navigated St. Athanasius' 3-2 zone defense throughout the regular season. St. Athanasius head coach Bill Dice decided to modify defensive schemes for the championship game this spring.
St. Athanasius played defense in a 1-2-1 zone with one player, usually senior Luke Stotz, in man. Players alternated their regular 3-2 zone defense with this new defensive scheme to disrupt Our Lady of Grace's offense.
“They looked confused,” senior co-captain Max Ungerman said. “They couldn't figure out if we were in man or zone, and it just threw them off completely.”
While St. Athanasius took a 17-point lead into halftime, they allowed Our Lady of Grace to tie the game in the third period.
“It seemed like déjà vu,” Ungerman, 18, of Ross said. “We came out hot with coach's great defensive scheme, and we kind of let it go.”
St. Athanasius pulled away again, which forced Our Lady of Grace to foul toward the end of the game.
“We slowed the game down, and when they had to start fouling us, we hit our free throws,” said Dice, 55, of Ross. “To see the expressions on our kids' faces when it ticked down, I can't describe it.”
St. Athanasius defeated Our Lady of Grace, 59-48, and won three state playoff games before losing in the state CYM championship game to St. Theresa of Harrisburg.
St. Athanasius team co-captains credited not only Dice's game plan for playing an integral role in diocesan championship but also how much their coach stressed playing together throughout the season.
“Our motto was together, you know, before our break, we always said together,” said senior co-captain Scott Benko, 18, of Reserve Township.
“That's how we knew our team should be. We needed to know each other, know how we could play together, and know what our weaknesses are and what our strengths are. We learned about each other and stuck together to win.”
Shawn Annarelli is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.