Northeast Ohio Basketball Tournament
The first Northeast Summit Academy Basketball Tournament, featuring the Parma Fighting Phoenixes, the Youngstown Knights and the Canton Roos, was a razor-sharp competition with each game being decided by one or two points.
Each school played two games during the Jan. 23 competition in Youngstown Summit Academy gymnasium. In their first year as a team, Parma Director Frank Cheraso said his school’s 13 players were well prepared for the tournament.
“They worked really hard at practice and it carried over to motivating them at school,” Cheraso said.
Players must maintain a certain level of behaviors to practice and play with the team. Parma plays in a YMCA league and practice twice a week after school. Younger students came to the games and cheered on their older classmates.
The tournament was a memorable experience for the Phoenix players.
“They were all fantastic games,” Cheraso said. “The competition was great and they had great sportsmanship, too. After the game, the players shook hands and talked to one another, saying things like ‘Good shot.’ It was like watching some NBA players.”
Canton Secondary Coach John Fullerman said his team practiced on an outside court, then moved indoors when the weather worsened into a half court gym in the church next door. The team doesn’t play in a league but the effort displayed in the six weeks of practice before the tournament really paid off when they came in first place.
“I was really proud of them, they worked really hard,” Fullerman said. “In the game, you could see a lot of them were tired but they just kept pushing through it for the team.”
Winning the tournament was all the more remarkable because the Canton Roos only had seven players.
“I give those seven kids a lot of credit,” Fullerman said. “They ran the whole game, all seven of them really contributed to the team. They had to depend on each other and they did a good job.”
When they saw photos and a story about the southern basketball tournament on the summitacademies.com website, the Roos asked their coach if they could play the winner of that tournament for the chance to be Summit Academy champions.
The Youngstown Knights were coached by Lorne Laney and Eric Pelligrini. Laney said he was pleased that everyone played so well and there were no injuries. Getting Summit Academy teams together from different cities was very educational.
“It opened their eyes,” Laney said. “They learned that if you’re not playing your best ball, you can get beat by anyone.”
Youngstown Secondary Coach Eric Pelligrini said his co-ed team of 13 boys and two girls demonstrated tenacity.
“The best part of the tournament was the team never gave up,” Pelligrini said. “In the first game, we came from behind to win it. The player who made the winning shot had just had a foul called against him.”
All coaches said they were looking forward to next year’s tournament.
“I think everyone wants to play next year,” Pelligrini said. “We want to get even more Summit Academies involved.”