By Michelle Castleman
FORT WAYNE — Many people have Thanksgiving weekend traditions — football, Black Friday shopping and special time with family. For the past 23 years, Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) teams and other Fort Wayne area hoopsters have been busy showcasing their basketball talents in the annual Queen of Angels Invitational.
Crowned the 2015 pre-season champions for the girls’ field was St. Joseph-Hessen Cassel (SJHC). The Squires kicked off their season in an impressive fashion playing seven games in all over the three-day marathon. In their opener, SJHC reignited their Blue League rivalry with St. Rose-St. Louis slipping by the Twins in a come-from-behind 28-25 overtime win Friday morning. But later in the afternoon, the Squires fell to a towering St. John the Baptist, Fort Wayne, squad, 37-38, booting them to the loser’s bracket.
However, Coach Maria Parsenow’s team was not ready to go home just yet. The determined Squires returned on Saturday and went 3-0 beating Queen of Angels, St. Rose-St. Louis once again and the seventh-grade ladies from St. Charles.
This allowed SJHC the chance to return on Sunday to avenge their loss against SJFW. In the double elimination format, the mighty Squires were required to hand the Eagles their first loss then turn around and beat them again to win the championship, and that’s just what they did, 42-39 and 47-44.
Jelena Girod and Ali Beard led the team offensively with help from Maddie Parsenow, Hannah Sweeney and Madalyn Rauner, who all played tough defense. In her eighth year of coaching at SJHC and final season with eighth-grade daughter Maddie, a pleased Parsenow explained, “Our team played very well together this weekend — and we hit our free throws. It is always fun to watch how much the girls grow from Friday to Sunday.”
The former Bishop Luers guard continued, “All the girls contributed in the games to get us to the championship. Rachel McKinnon, Leah Lashure, Ingrid Spenn, Addie Knipp, Jaiden Jordan and Maggie Hare all contributed and stepped up when they were in the games.”
In the championship, SJFW made a valiant effort clawing their way back from a 9-27 halftime deficit. Taylor Bransfield led all scoring with an amazing 30 points.
For the boys’ seventh-grade tournament, St. Vincent chalked up a 4-0 start to their season and came out on top in the championship game against St. John the Baptist, New Haven. In the eighth-grade frenzy, a solid St. Therese team had a strong showing over the three days with four victories in all. The experienced Crusaders, who list 13 on their roster this season, including seven eighth graders who have been playing in the system for three to four years, were beat both times by Central Lutheran. The final score in the championship was 26-35.
Looking forward to the 2015-2016 CYO season, Coach Zach Palmer summarized, “Our team is coachable and very unselfish. We have a great mix of height and speed this year.”
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