By Pat Murphy
FORT WAYNE — It was youth verses experience when seminarians of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend clashed with several of its priests at the third annual Cupertino Classic basketball game Dec. 27 at Bishop Luers High School in Fort Wayne. And experience once again prevailed, as the priests defeated their younger opponents in overtime 46-44.
“This was the most exciting, the most competitive game I’ve seen,” said Sean McBride, who has broadcast all three Cupertino Classic games on Redeemer Radio, “and the most physical. Clearly the seminarians had practiced and prepared for this one.”
Both teams played admirably, said Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, who added that the priests’ experience might have indeed been the deciding factor in the hard-fought contest. But next year could be different, he said, because the seminarians continue to polish their skills.
A close game was to be expected, according to Doyle Minix, a member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Fort Wayne, and one of the estimated 1,200 people in the vocal audience. His children grew up with Fathers Matthew and Terrance Coonan when they attended Bishop Dwenger High School; nevertheless, Minix correctly predicted the priests would have a slight edge.
The game was tight from the opening tipoff. The seminarians, sparked by fiery guards Benjamin Landrigan, from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Fort Wayne, and Dominic Garrett of Our Lady of Good Hope, Fort Wayne, held a one-point lead, 20-19, at the end of the first half. They were also sparked by Daniel Niezer, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who made nine out of nine free throws.
The seminarians looked like they might pull away when they surged to a 32-27 lead with less than five minutes remaining in the game. But the priests, with strong rebounding by Father Jason Freiburger of St. Thomas the Apostle, Elkhart, came back to knot the score at 40 just before regulation time ended.
As the four-minute overtime clock was drawing to a close, the priests set up for a final shot. Father Terrance “Tink” Coonan missed a 13-foot jump shot, but he put the rebound in for the winning margin.
The priests put a full-court press on the seminarians as time ran out, and the youngsters could only manage a desperation shot that didn’t come close.
According to the official results, Father Matthew Coonan was the high scorer for the priests with 21 points, while his brother, Father Terry Coonan, chipped in with 15. Father Andrew Curry had eight and Father Jonathan Norton scored two. Father Zack Barry, Father Mark Gurtner, Father Ben Muhlenkamp and Father Jason Freiburger helped the team, although they did not score.
Landrigan lead the seminarians with 18 points, while Dan Niezer scored nine, Garrett seven and Brian Isenbarger, six. Mark Hellinger and Jay Horning each contributed two points. Patrick Hake, Joe Knepper, Caleb Kruse and Daviud Langford contributed to the seminarians’ effort, but did not score.
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