Saturday, February 13, 2016

Pink Whistle: Hoop Heaven Tournament

BY RAY FLORIANI

Waldwick, NJ -­ Games chronicled here were actually one week ago. They do bear mention. The Hoop Heaven tournament features boys and girls games from fourth to eighth grade. Each one is two twenty-minute running time halves, with dead ball stoppage the last two minutes of the game. Two games were on tap on the first night, a Friday evening.

Tiger Sharks 31, Uptown Stars 18

A sixth-grade girls game where pressing was allowed (mistake). Let us say it was less than an artistic beauty to begin. Both teams struggled to find an offensive rhythm, though the Tiger Sharks had size and as the half wore down, were starting to jell. Both coaches from Uptown commented on every call or no-call. In officiating, we are taught to just deal with head coaches. The late Edgar Cartotto used to say, “deal with five-star generals, not buck privates.” During a timeout, I ask the one coach if she is the head coach. She replied that she was. “Then your assistant does not talk to us,” I answered. She told the assistant to cease commenting and we moved on.

In the second half, the Tiger Sharks established a lead and were able to pull away. Uptown was constantly reaching in, bumping ball handlers and playing poor defense. My partner then commented to me, “isn’t it always the case, the coaches complaining the most are the worst teachers of the game.” Good point, and unfortunately true.

Tiger Sharks 29, Game Time 24

My final game was a seventh-grade contest. Thought the Game Time coach looked familiar, and I later found out I was right. The game is close from the early minutes, as both teams go on mini runs of four or six unanswered points. Neither can pull away. The Tiger Sharks have a girl over six feet, a respectable player, good in close and emphasizes the axiom, ‘you can’t teach height.’

Unlike game one, both coaches are a pleasure to work for. Listening to the Game Time coach, it is evident she knows the game very well and played at a high level. At the half, I asked where she played. ‘Iona College,” was the reply. Then the memory came back. Jenny Jurevich, graduated from Iona in 2007 and played for Tony Bozzella. I worked for her before and enjoyed it immensely.

The second half sees the Tiger Sharks bringing the ball up. We are behind the time line, no pressure, so I softly ask Jenny if Marissa Flagg (Seton Hall Director of Basketball Operations) was a teammate. She said, “yes.” At that split second, a Game Time defender came out of nowhere to try for a steal. She bodied her opponent and I had the foul no sooner than our two-sentence exchange ended.

Game Time drops a close one. Coach Jurevich reminds her team they have a 5 p.m. game tomorrow here in this same tournament. She goes over a few things and leaves the girls on a note of encouragement. In these days where good coaching, especially on these lower levels, is vital yet hard to come by, the Game Time girls are so fortunate to call Jenny ‘coach.’

It was the last game of the night. Jenny has no time for an interview, but is interested for a future date. We briefly discuss the Iona days and I tell her as a former Iona Gael, she would be happy to hear I gave up the opportunity to cover a Marist game to officiate her contest. She enjoyed hearing that. Last thing I said, “change the name of your press offense from St. John’s, what would coach Tony (Bozzella) say if he heard that.” That brought a good laugh and exclamation of agreement.

Game Time coach Jenny Jurevich, who played for Tony Bozzella at Iona:

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