By Terrence Echols
The Holy Cross Crusaders, the Catholic Youth Organization basketball team from Holy Cross church, had a very successful year. Both the JV and Varsity teams, which are primarily comprised of Jamesville-Dewitt High School students, won the 2014-2015 CYO league championship.
The varsity team won their league championship in stunning fashion, 54-52 over St. Matt’s out of East Syracuse. With time running down on the clock, senior Jake Binder put up a shot that won the game for the Crusaders. “It was his shot to make,” said senior Matt Schunck. “It must’ve been a heartbreaker for them, but I'm happy we won,” said senior Jhani Jamison. They finished the season with an impressive 16-3 record. “Our toughest competition was definitely Rosary,” said Jamison.
Also on the team from J-DHS are seniors Josh Frank, Zach Gentile, Brady Wing, Anthony Cacchione, Jake Kalbus, and Frank Mignacca, and junior Pat Gillison. Most of the squad are Holy Cross church members and are coached by Ed Michalenko who is a part of the town board and Dan Deluma who is a dentist.
The JV team finished with an almost unblemished record of 17-1 and is comprised of all J-DHS students. The Crusaders battled this year against teams that represented many churches in the Syracuse area like St. Matt’s, and Holy Family. “St. Lucy’s had our number this year,” said sophomore Jake Sala about their only loss. “We had a good schedule,” said junior Luke Mannion.The Crusaders play every team from their league home and away and then play a few non-league games. “We already won the league championship so we don't care (about a non-league rematch vs St. Lucy’s),” said sophomore Eric Antosh.
The JV Crusaders are a very tight knit team; they are able like to joke and have fun with each other while being successful on the court. “Our team chemistry was really good, we played really well with each other,” said sophomore Manish Duggal. “The funniest moment of the season was when (sophomore) Bennett (Chirco) hit the three in our first game,” said Cramer, referring to Chirco’s first points of the season, which he followed by performing a humorous celebration. Mannion and fellow junior Cramer jokingly said that Chirco was the team's MVP. Though Chirco agreed, he was corrected by a serious answer from Sala, who sounded like Kevin Durant in his 2014 MVP speech, when he said Cramer was the team’s “real MVP.” Other candidates from the team include sophomores Ryan Collins, Lucas Binder, Casey Kretsch, Ryan Archer, Pat Dye, Mikey Yonta, Matt Cappelletti, Nick Palin and Jack Mulvihill. They are joined by junior Evan Neugebauer.
The talented group was coached by Kyle Halleran, JD Tessier and Matt Wise who are graduates of local high schools. Mannion believes the season’s most comical moment was when the team discovered one of their coaches’ Twitter accounts. “His profile picture was hilarious,” said Mannion.
You may ask, Why don't these guys play for J-D basketball since they have all of this success? “Too many practices,” said Cramer, who also plays baseball and golf for the school and knows the everyday practice can be grueling. He prefers practicing a couple days a week during basketball season. Mannion said a reason for their choice to represent Holy Cross was that they honestly didn't believe they were good enough. Cramer disagrees with Mannion saying he could probably play on the J-DHS varsity team but he believes CYO is just as fun.
Though they had a lot of fun, they were somewhat relieved to see the season come to an end. “I was just ready for baseball season,” said Cappelletti. “It was a long time, but we enjoyed it,” said Duggal. The squad looks to improve in the offseason and repeat as champions like the Miami Heat did in 2012 and 2013 as for the departing seniors, they were glad to go out on top. “Without a doubt we will (repeat),” said Archer.