Thursday, March 13th, 2008
By Gary R. Rasberry
Local CYO teams are off to state in Cleveland
  Local success in basketball isn't just for the high school teams.
Four area Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) teams, two boys and two girls, will head to Cleveland this weekend for the state CYO tournament. All four teams play in the North Valley League, made up of teams from Mercer, Auglaize, Darke and Shelby Counties.
The teams from the St. Peter/St. Joseph parishes, which make up one team, and Coldwater's Holy Trinity Orange team is in the 16-team high school boys finals. St. Peter/St. Joe captured the NVL tournament title while Coldwater made the semifinals, earning one of the four spots for state.
For the girls, Mary Help of Christians from Fort Recovery captured the NVL girls title with St. Peter/St. Joe taking the runners-up, earning spots to the eight-team high school girls tournament.
"It's a lot of fun. It's pretty interesting," said Holy Trinity coach Moe Voskuhl. "Seeing the other teams down at the hotel, playing against some of the other competition from throughout the state. The kids and parents enjoy it."
I can't believe the talent we produce anywhere in Mercer County," said St. Peter/St. Joe coach Ryan Steinbrunner. "Just around Fort Recovery, especially. Having our high school's team do good and have all these athletes around and compete so well in both boys and girls basketball."
Holy Trinity has a solid team featuring Alex Geier and Kyle Ahrens, the center on the Coldwater state football title team this season.
"During the year, some teams are out there just to have fun" said Voskuhl, who guided the Holy Trinity team to state three years ago in Cincinnati. "When you get into the tournament, it gets more competitive, especially in the state tournament."
St. Peter/St. Joe's boys team also has plenty of experience, several who have played varsity ball in high school. Curt Heitkamp and Eric Lamm have some high school hoops experience. Other key players include Ross Overman and Lucas Staugler, solid players from the football team.
"Lot of them played school ball and a lot play football," said Steinbrunner. "That was the thing this year, I had so much strength on my team. We were able to compete that way."
The St. Peter/St. Joe's girls have a history of solid play, capturing the state title in 2006. Mary Help of Christians also are no strangers to state, making its third straight trip to state.
St. Peter/St. Joe's girls team has a veteran group that has played some high school ball. Coach Jon Homan has three starters at 6-0 or better, led by Jill Pottkotter with guards Sara Braun and Heather Schmackers.
"We're going to be able to compete with everybody," said Homan. "That's all I can pretty much ask for."
With the St. Peter/St. Joe's and MHOC teams knowing each other well from school, both teams are hoping the other does well, unless they end up facing each other.
"The only way we would face each other would be in the championship," said Homan. "(MHOC) beat us twice, the last time by one point in overtime. It's a lot of fun playing those girls. I know the coach (Jennifer Link), I know the players on the other team. ... We just can't seem to beat them."
Link is also glad that Fort Recovery will be well represented in Cleveland.
"Last year, we both went too," said Link. "I know all the girls are friends. I'm real good friends with Jon. I grew up with Jon, he and my brother are best friends."
With talented players like Val Fortkamp and Janessa Siefring, Link has a solid group of eight players that get plenty of playing time.
"I have all my team back from last year," said Link. "They've played for the last three years together. In the first game (of the season), I was kind of nervous, ended up, we won by like 50 points. I knew it was going to be a pretty good season."
In the boys tournament, Holy Trinity opens play Friday night at 8:30 p.m. against Our Lady of Victory from Cincinnati at Hawken Lower School. St. Peter/St. Joe faces off against Queen of Heaven from Green at 8:30 p.m. at Hawken Upper School. The championship game will be played at 2 p.m. at Woodling Gymnasium on the campus of Cleveland State University.
The girls tournament gets underway on Saturday. Mary Help of Christians faces Lake Catholic of Mentor at 10 a.m. at Hawken Lower. St. Peter/St. Joe faces St. Francis DeSales of Akron at 11:30 a.m. at Ursuline College. The finals take place on Sunday at noon at Woodling Gymnasium.
"We're going to see a lot of good competition up there," said Steinbrunner. "Schools from Cleveland and Akron and Cincinnati. It's going to be neat what we face up there. It's all about having fun and that's what we're going to do."
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