St. Gabriel boys' team wins coveted tournament title st.
The St. Gabriel boys' varsity basketball team won the prestigious St. Mary's holiday tournament last week.
The Gators came from behind to beat a tough St. Mary of Assumption-Glenshaw team in the final minutes of the championship game.
This was the 55th year for the tournament, played at the historic St. Mary's Lyceum gymnasium in Lawrenceville.
Several famous athletes and coaches have played as children at this long-running event. Many are memorialized in photos of past winners and runners-up that adorn the walls during the tourney.
This year's championship game was exciting. With less than three minutes to play, St. Gabriel's was down by five.
St. Mary's took a timeout and suddenly the Gators took control, shutting down the Condors and scoring eight unanswered points to win by a final 43-40 score.
The Gators were led by eighth-graders Nolan Abbiatici, with 12 points and Nick Krugh, with 10 points.
Defensively, Zack Novak finished with 9 rebounds and 3 blocked shots.
“The game was won at the foul line,” Rich Kuntz, the Gators' head coach, said.
In the fourth quarter, Krugh was 5 for 5 at the foul line, and Abbiatici made two foul shots to seal the victory.
“We have excellent ball handlers, shooters, and a great front court,” Kuntz said. “This year's team is an outstanding mix of seventh- and eighth-grade boys.”
Kuntz, 65, of Bethel Park, has been coaching at St. Gabriel for 36 years at various levels. He took over the helm of the boys' varsity team in 1999.
St. Gabriel has participated in every St. Mary's holiday tournament since its inception in 1958. The Gators have won the tournament nine times, and have finished second nine times.
Lawrenceville native Michael “Mickey” McGrane, 60, took over as tournament director from his father, John McGrane, who died in 2005. Mickey grew up helping his father run the tournament, which became a family Christmas tradition.
Built in 1910, the Lyceum building is different for any other gym in the area. McGrane believes the gym's distinctive architecture adds charm to the competition of the annual holiday tournament.
The court is smaller than most with pillars that surround the playing area. Fans watch the action from above, in church pews that line the balcony.
“It's a really unique place, more like a church than a gym,” McGrane said.
The gym does pose problems for some.
“It's hard to ref here,” McGrane said. “The fans can see every mistake they make from up in the balcony.”
According to McGrane, St. Gabriel's is one of the top three all-time teams in the tournament.
Every year since 1958, the winning and runner-up teams have been honored with a photo, along with the winning foul-shot contest winner.
As each year's picture is added to the wall, McGrane (and his father before him) has created a virtual Pittsburgh “Hall of Fame” of Catholic elementary school basketball players.
There are some famous faces among those many pictures on the wall. Among them are Michael Keaton (actor), Mike McCarthy (Green Bay Packers), Tom Clements (Green Bay Packers), Matt Carroll (Charlotte Bobcats), Suzie McConnell-Serio (Seton-La Salle High School/Duquesne University), Bernie O'Keefe (Baldwin/Duquesne) and Ed Scheurmann (Baldwin/Pitt).
Two others who played at the Lyceum but are not pictured include Dan Marino and Tim Grgurich.
Ryan Dedes, 32, is an assistant coach for St. Gabriel's. He also played for the Gators back in 1994 and 1995.
Neither team won the tourney, although the Gators were runners-up in 1995.
“I appreciate the history of it more now,” Dedes said. “There are a lot of famous people that played there.”
St. Gabriel's championship team includes eighth-graders David Johnston, Nick Balogh, Michael Silvestre, Colton Hurley, Abbiatici, Krugh and Novak.
Seventh-grade squad members consist of Jack Mezeivtch, Mike Goga, Trey Luffy, Nick Fiumara, Gehrig Hutchison and Arlen Hooks.
Jennifer Goga is a freelance writer.