The New York City Heat 16-and under AAU basketball team coached by Kevin White and Tom Catalanotto recently traveled to the famous Boo Williams Tournament in Virginia to take on the best of the best in the nation.
The Heat played was against teams from all parts of the country, including California and Florida, with the majority of the teams from the Northeast and Southeast, from states such as Virginia, North Carolina, Connecticut, New Jersey, etc.
The Heat had a spectacular outing in Boo Williams, going 4-1, beating teams such as the Maryland Waves, the Philadelphia Vogues and the Philadelphia Belles and advancing to the final four.
In a tournament of 32 teams in this showcase in front of many Division I college observers, the players showed that they can compete against the best, despite being only juniors and sophomores.
This past weekend at St. John’s University, the Elite Slam Jam Tournament hosted some of the best local teams from New York and New Jersey.
The Heat team is comprised of the “starting five” of the state championship Archbishop Molloy team, including Jennifer Kelleher, Jessica McEntee, Roslyn Gold-Onwude, Annamarie Ciorciari and Keri-Anne Jetter.
Coaches White and Catalanotto have gathered other outstanding talent from local teams, including Janele Henderson from Loughlin, Stephanie Leondis from Garden City, Jessica Fuller from Francis Lewis, Molly Tubridy from Loyola, Maureen Marzano from Midwood, Erin Canning from Massapequa and Jessica White from St. Agnes.
The Heat had no problems marching through its first two games by 30-point margins, beating the New Jersey Athletics and PPY from New York City. In the third game the Heat came up against well-known opponent Bronx Gauchos.
The Gauchos boys’ program has been around for a long time, and they are quickly developing an elite girls’ program as well. The Gauchos’ win was necessary to advance to the semifinals. The New York City Heat team held off the Gauchos and a 32-28 win.
Their 3-0 record enabled the Heat to enter the final four. On Sunday afternoon their first game was against a strong Long Island Lightning team that also was 3-0. Due to the outstanding efforts of Gold-Onwude and a strong support staff, the Heat was able to hold on to a 10-point lead through most of the game. However, the Heat’s exhaustion started to show early in the third period.
The Heat fought hard in the fourth quarter, and as the clock started to wind down, a key rebound by McEntee and putback resulted in a four-point lead. The Lightning cut Heat’s lead down to one, but, Jetter hit two foul shots that extended the lead to three.
Once again the Lightning fought back following a foul and two made shots. With 28 seconds left, Heat held on to a slim 50-49 lead when coach White called a time out. A “special play” was implemented when Gold-Onwude and Tubridy worked a give-and-go on the inbounds play, resulting in an easy two.
The New York City Heat team held on to its 52-49 win, which set up a titanic matchup between the young, fast New York City Heat team and what appears to be the best team in the Northeast, Frederick Douglas.
The Frederick Douglas AAU program is comprised principally of the Murry Bergtrum team that includes standouts such as Crystal McFadden. Additionally, Douglas has secured the assistance of Candice Lindsay from Christ the King and Akeeta Barrett from Loughlin.
Early in the game, White sent out McEntee, Gold-Onwude, Kelleher, Fuller and Jetter to take on the starting five of Douglas. Heat’s five played well against Douglas. Early in the game Douglas held on to a 16-14 lead following two baskets from Jetter and McEntee and one from each of the other three starters.
About that time McEntee drove the lane and was fouled hard.
McEntee made the shot and was awarded a foul shot. The Douglas coach argued against the call and eventually Heat was awarded two more shots following a technical.
McEntee stepped to the line to take three shots instead of one, but the Douglas coach continued to argue and was removed from the gym, and McEntee was then given five opportunities from the foul line. She sunk all five, giving Heat a three-point lead.
Midway through the second quarter the score was locked at 23; however, as fresh troops came in for Heat they did not have an answer for Douglas’ starters.
In the second half the Heat looked strong, cutting the Douglas lead to eight. Tubridy came off the bench and put up big points, as did Henderson. McEntee, Kelleher and Gold-Onwude continued to score.
With three minutes left, Heat still found itself behind by eight and White went to the bench once again in an effort to infuse life into the Heat. Douglas proved to be too strong in the end and went on to a 60-45 victory.
The Heat team put forth a great effort all through the tournament, and McEntee was awarded Tournament MVP following her 13 points and 9 rebounds in the Douglas game.
The New York City Heat team will continue to play against the best AAU teams in the Northeast throughout the next eight weeks until they go down to Washington, D.C. to the Junior Nationals in late July.