Dave Kirkpatrick, head coach of St. Francis de Sales Elementary School in Herkimer, near Utica, said his fifth- and sixth-grade Catholic Youth Organization basketball teams play the same opponents year in and year out.
He said a change in pace is the reason why his teams had a great time playing Rochester-area CYO teams Feb. 28 and March 1. That weekend, his teams took part in the Mary Grace Ryan Fast Break Tournament, hosted by Seton Catholic School at Our Lady of Mercy High School. The tournament drew more than 250 participants.
“It is a great tournament,” Kirkpatrick said Feb. 28. “The kids are having a heck of a time. We stayed a night in a hotel, and they had a sign there for us, welcoming us.”
This was the first year that the tournament took place at Mercy; previously the event was at Siena Catholic Academy in Brighton. The new venue enabled organizers to have three games going at once, which allowed them to consolidate the third-through-sixth-grade tournament into one weekend instead of two.
“(Seton’s players) look forward to this because it’s their home tournament and they are usually pumped up all week for it,” said Mark Cook, Seton’s volunteer athletic director.
For many teams, the tournament marks their final games of the season, Cook noted.
“They treat these games like it’s the NCAA Championship,” noted Ed Hourihan, a Seton parent and tournament organizer.
The school renamed its annual basketball tournament in 2008 in honor of Mary Grace Ryan, a parent of four children who attended Seton Catholic, an athletic-committee member who helped to develop the committee and a CYO basketball coach. Ryan died from leukemia in December 2007. Money made from the tournament is donated to Seton’s athletic program in Ryan’s memory.
Stephen Hetterich, 10, a fourth-grader at Seton, said the teams at this year’s tournament were extremely competitive, citing a game his team played against St. Louis School in Pittsford.
“We won, but it was a really tough game,” Stephen said.
Kirkpatrick said he found that the teams were evenly matched; at this age, the players are concentrating on the fundamentals of the sport.
“Being from a small little village, I thought we could be in over our heads, but basketball is basketball, wherever we play it,” he said.
The event was not an elimination tournament, so no overall team winners were chosen. However, a “Hot Shot Competition” — a fast-paced, timed basketball shootout — was held as part of the tournament. The winners of that event were:
* Overall winner — Matt Powers of St. Louis
* 3-4 girls — Meghan Flanagan of Seton
* 3-4 boys — Ryan Sheridan of St. Joseph School in Penfield and Matt Powers of St. Louis
* 5-6 girls — Krista Barbeau of St. Rita School in Webster
* 5-6 boys — Vince Tomei of St. Joseph
Each finalist received a Barnes & Noble gift card.