2001-04-21 / Sports

Fontbonne’s Basketball Brilliance

Fontbonne’s Basketball Brilliance

By Robert Cavaliere

The Fontbonne Hall Academy campus is sizzling with excitement with the recent victory of their cheerleading squad and the upset triumph of their varsity basketball team. The basketball odyssey began in 1999 under the helm of Jeff O’Brien, who installed an aggressive curriculum with impressive goals. He eyed Christ the King or at least their division with his vision. As part of his master design, a junior varsity team was created. Coach O’Brien chose Ed Ryan as his sidekick and the quest began.

A so-so 2000 season was very encouraging as the team established a solid foundation and displayed a relentlessly positive attitude.

However, a slight setback nearly stopped Fontbonne’s forward motion. Reality bit when head coach Jeff O’Brien left for a full time position at Xaverian high school. A tragedy was averted when assistant coach Ed Ryan took control of the team’s destiny with assistant coach Eugene Jackson. Ryan’s compassionate hard line approach enabled the team to overcome some splinters in the parquet, as it were, and forge a unity of purpose that would enable them to enter the Division II playoffs with more than a hope and a prayer.

The first obstacle was St. Agnes. That proved to be a piece of cake for Bonnie Blue. Their dominance was manifested in a final score of 51 to 28. Pam Walsh was on top of the hit parade with 12 points and 6 assists. Jennifer Cuprill was the closest to Walsh with 8 points, while Diana Mancusi, Aileen Berran and Kelly "TNT" Jackson contributed 7 points apiece.

The finals pitted the Bonnies against St. John’s Prep, which created a proverbial "cloud of doom" over the Fontbonne squad. During the regular season, two tragic defeats occurred and coach Ryan had to deal with depressing sentiments that were wreaking havoc in his ranks. He knew the Bonnies were a solid team with untold potential. The trick for the coaching duo of Ryan and Jackson was to convince the team of their own abilities. Tensions and anxiety soared mire than usual until tip off and the Bonnies weathered the emotions as well as could be expected.

Team captains Jillian Guarino and "TNT" Jackson pumped the team up with support but it was sophomore Gina Pisano that initiated the relentless assault. Perhaps it was the bitter taste of defeat that was experienced twice before in the regular season against St. John’s Prep that motivated Pisano and the other Bonnies. St. John’s Prep must have felt confident at the onset of this match-up but the start they were wishing on was all used up and the Bonnies were taking no prisoners.

Ryan called for a full-court press throughout the game and the hard twilight training and conditioning paid off in dividends of never-ending stamina. The Bonnies took an immediate lead and never looked back. Pisano hit the net from every angle, scoring 14 points and becoming the top gun. Berran, Walsh, Mancusi, Cuprill and Guarino joined in the attack and soon ball control became the top priority. That caused a major disturbance under the boards but Cuprill, Berran and Mancusi met the challenge head on and refused to yield.

When the dust settled, the Bonnies were sitting on top of a 43-36 ball game and the Division II title to boot. Janis Joplin said it best, "you know you got it child, if it makes you feel good" and that’s as good as it gets.


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