By Michelle Castleman
FORT WAYNE — In its annual year-end tournament, the CYO crowned three new girls’ champions on Saturday, Feb. 13, at the St. Charles Hession Center. Winners for 2016 were St. Charles 7, St. Joseph-Hessen Cassel and St. Vincent 8.
For the seventh-grade White League, an elated St. Charles Coach Andrea Fisher explained, “Our team is an example of the definition of team. They have rooted for each other from tryouts until now. It didn’t matter who was in the game, the entire bench was always rooting and cheering for those on the floor.”
She continued, “Jordyn Smith was the catalyst for our team all year. She did whatever the team needed her to do, whether it was scoring or distributing. Claire Frazier was also a key factor for us. Claire stepped up and made some big shots throughout the year. Defensively, Kate Rashevich was a rebounding monster. Kate wasn’t the tallest one on the floor but she accepted the challenge to be the one with the most rebounds and usually succeeded.”
The No. 1 seeded Cardinals received a bye then beat a talented team from St. Jude before downing a scrappy St. Vincent squad, 39-28, in a hard-fought battle for the championship avenging their 25-28 regular season loss. Fisher was fortunate to be joined on the bench by her husband, Jason, and daughter, Sierra. A year ago, the family went back to coaching girls’ basketball at St. Charles, where their daughters played and son is now an eighth grader. They were pleased to add Cecilia Garrett as a starter this year to their 2015 championship team.
In the final game for the season, Smith had 19 points and Frazier finished with 10. Victoria Parent led the Panthers with 7. Even without a daughter on the team, Fisher summarized, “We were the biggest fans of these girls. They were a great group. We had a blast.”
In the small-school showdown, powerhouse St. Joseph-Hessen Cassel claimed the blue medals for the fourth year in a row, beating St. Rose-St. Louis, 22-17.
“I couldn’t think of a better way to end my eight-year coaching career than with my daughter and her friends,” detailed Coach Maria Parsenow. The No. 1 seed and regular season Blue League champs got a bye then defeated a very good team from Queen of Angels in the semifinals before battling it out against the Twins one last time.
Parsenow added, “The girls all came with the heart and desire to win the tournament starting Thursday night and ending with Saturday’s championship win.” In the final game, Hannah Sweeney was a key player for the Squire defense holding Twins’ sharp shooter, Abby Sheehan, to seven points. Jelena Girod led the team in scoring with nine followed by Maddie Parsenow with five points, which included a big trey in the fourth quarter that held off the Twins for good. Ali Beard, Madalyn Rauner and Sweeney all contributed to the 22-team points.
Parsenow continued her individual praises stating, “Rauner played tough under the basket pulling down rebounds offensively and defensively to lead the team to a win, while Rachel McKinnon’s speed stopped a few key fast breaks in the final quarter.” Her sister, Mallory Wagner, assisted Parsenow this season.
Finally, in what proved to be the least likely of champions and most thrilling game of the day, six young ladies from St. Vincent got by the Gold League’s “upset” team from St. Elizabeth, 47-41, in overtime.
Still amazed at the outcome, a beaming Coach Dan O’Brien explained, “It is one thing to be expected to win and then win. It is a whole other animal to prevail as champs, when you struggle to have enough players to even be called ‘a team’ for most of your games. The strange thing is, that is exactly what we had to mold ourselves into — ‘a team,’ — a team that had ups and downs, but remained dedicated to a higher purpose, — ‘the team.’”
During the regular season, it was not uncommon for the Panthers to barely field a team, even finishing games with four players. Yet somehow they managed a 3-2 record in the Gold League and got a second-place seed. It was assumed when they made it past a talented team from St. Jude, they would be facing the top-ranked, regular season champions, St. John, Fort Wayne (SJFW), but the fifth-place seed from St. Elizabeth changed all that, dashing the Eagles’ tournament hopes by beating them, 42-29, in the semifinals.
Fueled by Kennedy Glenn’s 22 points, the Pioneers “finally started playing some basketball” according to Coach John Reimbold. They hoped to carry the momentum into the championship and certainly did for four quarters until the determined Panthers pulled away in overtime.
Sophia Vandergriff had 20 points in the loss and Glenn finished with eight. For the victors, Kaley Lyons led all scorers with 22 and Sam O’Brien chipped in 11.
O’Brien summarized, “We won the biggest game of the year, on the biggest stage for their grade-school career. I am so very proud of them.”
Susan Beeber, Taya Dazey, Anna Munson and Molly Pastor rounded out the small, but mighty St. Vincent roster.
Also incredibly proud of his team’s accomplishments was SJFW Coach Clancy Shank. His Eagles beat each and every CYO team they played this season and went 5-0 in the Gold League to earn the regular season championship — an amazing feat no eighth-grade level girls’ team has done at the school since 2003.
Shank, who started with this group as fifth graders, recalls their first game ever when they lost 32-0 and marvels, “This group stuck with it, came so far, worked so hard and made our whole parish proud.”
Becky Pape and Kathy Novak assisted Shank. His eighth graders were Taylor Bransfield, Libby Bierbaum, Dori Javins, Maddie Pape, Sarah Podzelinski and Morgan Zimmerman.
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