Last weekend, 60 area basketball teams competed in 112 games at four locations including Amsterdam High School, Lynch Middle School, St. Mary’s Institute and Fulton-Montgomery Community College in an Amateur Athletic Union event called “Madness on the Mohawk.”
“What it came down to was having the kids here,” said tournament organizer and Wishful Thinking financial officer Matt Moller. “We’ve been spending money sending kids elsewhere for tournaments, we wanted to do it for the kids here.”
Throughout Saturday and Sunday, teams from every corner of New York State gathered at gymnasiums at the four different locations just to play a game they all love. Each team was guaranteed three games with the top two teams in each of the nine age divisions with a final game on Sunday afternoon.
The Amsterdam X-Plosion team was made up of players from this year’s Amsterdam Lady Rams varsity and junior varsity teams. The Amsterdam X-Plosion took on a South Glens Falls Fury team that they had defeated only fours earlier at FMCC in the championship game of the girls 17-Under division. Both teams were 2-0 in pool play prior to Sunday.
“The girls are using plays we run on varsity,” said Amsterdam X-Plosion and Amsterdam Lady Rams varsity coach Eric Duemler. “They get invaluable reps. This is a preview window for theses girls. They continue to work hard and play as a team.”
Amsterdam was victorious once again on Sunday with a 41-30 victory over South Glens Falls as the X-Plosion completed a perfect 4-0 tournament record. Maria Lomanto continued her successful basketball season after her first year on the AHS varsity by leading the X-Plosion with 12 points. Lomanto’s varsity teammate Giuliana Pritchard earned the tournament MVP award for her team. In addition to playing both varsity track and junior varsity softball for AHS this Spring, Pritchard will also be playing AAU basketball.
“Basketball is my favorite sport, but I really enjoy them all,” Pritchard said. “The coaches have all been supportive and think it’s a good experience for me.”
Pritchard scored nine points and had four rebounds for the X-Plosion, fellow varsity teammates Grace Catena (8 pts.), Brady Sanitago (5 pts), Autumn Duemler (2 pts, 4 rebs), and Rayven Roach (2 pts, 11 rebs) all continued the tradition of teamwork that made the varsity team successful this year. Jailene Irizarry, and AHS junior varsity’s Karly Power (3 pts), Taylor Flint (2 rebs, 2 stls), Lucia Liverio (2 rebs, 1 stl,) and Gianna DeRosa (2 stls), gave the crowd a possible glimpse of the future AHS varsity.
According to Coach Duemler, Madness on the Mohawk was the first of six tournaments that the X-Plosion team will be playing in this season. The team will be in tournaments closer to home in Schenectady, Troy, and Saratoga, and also travel to Lake George and as far away as Connecticut to play AAU basketball to prepare for another run at sectionals in 2016. No Lady Rams basketball team has won a NYSPHSAA Section 2 title. The closest Amsterdam came to holding the championship trophy was the 1993-1994 team that fell in the title game.
Recent graduates of the Amsterdam girls varsity team were not far away from the game. One of three seniors from this years team, Lequela Steen joined the coaching ranks with the girls team called The Fleet, a 15-under team. The junior girls team, comprised of players from the Amsterdam Recreation Basketball League teams, earned their first win of the tournament Sunday morning with a 53-33 win over Scotia-Glenville. Under Steen’s guidance were Madi Carmona, Yarlyn Toro, Kaleigh Smith, Tamia Walker, Lillian Orengo, Jillian Wilder, and AHS junior varsity’s Elena Fedullo who gave the crowd yet another potential glimpse at the future of AHS varsity. At the same time the girls game was underway, the high school court that was temporarily divided to allow for two games, hosted the Fourth Grade Boys title contest.
In the youngest of the age groups, the fourth grade game pitted The Fleet against the Albany Knicks team. The Kicks won the game 57-17, led by 11 points by Danny Bologna, 10 points from JJ Perez, and six points from Bologna’s sister Sophia. The game was an experience-builder for a team made up of players from the Amsterdam recreation league. Jhai Vellon (9 pts), Sal Conti (4 pts), Marco Bottisti (2 pts), TJ Platt (2 pts), Dominic Blair, John Carbone, Oryan DeJesus, Leo Perez, and Allec Bartone all benefited from the experience.
The High School Boys Division pitted The Fleet Amsterdam team with AHS varsity standout Kory Bergh against a team from Saugerties. Trailing 33-28 at he half, The Fleet nearly pulled off the victory with Bergh scoring 10 points, five of which came in the closing seconds to cut Saugerties lead to one point. Saugerties made its free throws and was led by 25 points by Shawn Jansen. A last second heave the length of the court by Izaiah Scurry fell short of the mark and Saugerties came away with a 70-68 final win.
“These twelve guys are committed to playing the game,” said Saugerties Coach Jim Spears of his team. “We go from Saugerties to Verona, from Nyack to Amsterdam to play basketball. We play in ten to twelve tournaments a year.”
Wishful Thinking and the Madness on the Mohawk tournament have put Amsterdam on the map in AAU basketball. The young not-for-profit took a big step forward in their goal of supporting the creation of a city recreation center. The tournament also showed that there is a need for such a facility.
“I think if we had three more courts it could have been centrally located,” said Wishful Thinking president and coach TJ Czeski. “It would be great to have a central location for an event like this.”
According to Czeski, the event was also a fund-raising and operational success for the organization.
“This probably tripled the amount of any fund-raiser we’ve done before,” Czeski estimated.
“Matt Moller and John Sumpter put things together,” Czeski added. “It took a lot of time and effort getting things coordinated and organized.”
As the final games wound down, Moller was busy talking with players and coaches, handing out trophies, and even mopping up the floor of the AHS gym.
“We wanted nothing out of the ordinary,” Moller said. “We wanted to do this for the kids here. We wanted to show we could be a presence in AAU, and I think we proved that with our tournament.”
At the end of the day Moller thanked all those who made the tournament possible with special thanks to the following: John Sumpter, Dan Peterson, Tricia Altieri, Melissa Lasher, Sue Druziak, Lisa Banta, TJ Czeski, Brian Tavares, Bob Hoefs, Mike Kaczor, Wes Moller, Mike Power, and the Fedullo family for all their support in making the event possible.