The teams ranged in age groups from 8 years old (sub novice - 3rd grade) to 14 years old (intermediate – 8th grade). “The program from that parish is more like an AAU program, which might typically recruit and travel – and even play a 12 month schedule… and that doesn’t fit with the level of our teams, which are typically made up of children who live in one or two neighborhoods, and don’t really need to have exceptional skill to make the team,” said the source. “It makes for very lopsided competition, which helps nobody involved.”
But Ann Pinto, the 15-year director for the St. Cecilia basketball program has a different view of the move. “They suspended my 5 & 6 year-old team? Come on …. They don’t even keep score at that level. That’s ridiculous and the parents of my 91 kids want answers,” she said in a phone interview Tuesday. “The six teams … all my rosters have been the same for years. Why now … in the middle of the season?”
She talked about her intermediate division team with passion on Tuesday. “I’ve had 7 boys on the 8th grade team for 6 years now. They have played together all that time and have practiced 3 days a week and played in league after league, tournament after tournament. Of course they are good. We all work at it. These boys attended St. Cecilia, when it was open. Then it closed and they are now going somewhere else to school… so they now lose their eligibility? It doesn’t make sense.” She says officials from CYO need to sit down with her so they can see the map of where they all live.
“We don’t have another parish with a team they can play on south of our parish for miles. Where else can these kids play?”
Dr. Joe Catenello, director of CYO spoke to us just before press time Tuesday. He said he has spoken to Ann on at least four occasions in the past 6 weeks. “This was not sprung on Ann,” he said. He has also spoken to Fr. Grande, the pastor of Devine Mercy (which is the merged parishes of St. Cecilia and St. Francis of Paola) on a number of occasions. “We offered an alternative basketball program for the younger teams to join – and told him that the suspension was just for this season,” Catanello said. “This is the first time that teams officially protested some of the games against St. Cecilia. They were official protests that we had an obligation to examine – and we did get information that points to a problem,” he said.
Phone calls to Fr. Grande were not returned by press time.