STAMFORD — It was about more than just about girls basketball as the Westhill and Scarsdale (N.Y.) teams returned to Stamford High School’s Paul Kuczo Memorial Gym Tuesday afternoon.
History will show Scarsdale rallied for a 47-40 victory over Westhill in the completion of the third place contest of the Kuczo Holiday Classic.
But the most important lesson members of both squads took away Tuesday was how the preciousness of life trumps everything.
This game, originally started back on December 28, 2019, was suspended when referee Tom Ferrarese collapsed on the court with 6:03 left in the second quarter.
The timely intervention of Stamford High athletic trainer Jordan Napolitano kept Ferrarese alive until EMS workers arrived to take him to Stamford Hospital.
The event put the idea of playing basketball on the back burner. Westhill and Scarsdale athletic officials had conversations to come up with a new date to return to Stamford High to complete the contest.
“Coming here today means we’ll be playing three games in three days. But we don’t mind. Our objective is to try to get better each day,” said Scarsdale coach Mike Blanco, who has happily brought his Raiders teams to play in the Kuczo Holiday Classic the past five seasons. “The girls were upset at the incident. But I had friends in the Stamford area as well as the Stamford High athletic people giving us updates that Tom (Ferrarese) was doing well. That lifted all of our spirits.”
Employing the motion offense that Blanco watched the Red Holtzman New York Knicks run to NBA Championships at the old Madison Square Garden, Scarsdale (4-9) opened the third quarter with a 15-3 surge to take control for good at 39-29.
Westhill (4-9), led by Candese Osborne’s 14 points and 11 from Peyton Hackett, got as close as 42-38 with 2:55 to go. But Abigail Talish (all nine points in second half) and Kayla Maroney (team-high 14 points) got Scarsdale to the finish line.
Maroney and Osborne earned belated Kuczo Holiday Classic All-Tournament team honors for their efforts.
“We’re 4-2 in our last six games,” Blanco said. “We’ve led in seven of our losses.”
Ironically, referee Ferrarese has been convalescing the past month. And on Tuesday, he had his heart surgery. His son Brian texted Stamford athletic director Chris Passamano to say that doctors described the surgery as a success. And the procedure went as smooth as it could.
That news was greeted with a standing ovation from all players, coaches and fans in attendance.
Thanks to a suggestion from his wife Karen, Stamford AD Passamano had the Westhill, Scarsdale and Kuczo Classic champions Stamford High players sign three basketballs to be delivered to referee Ferrarese.
“It was a good day for the girls. And a good day for me,” Blanco said. “It puts in perspective the place we should put the game of basketball in our lives.”
“This was good closure for us. The original date was a traumatic day,” said Westhill coach Mike Smeriglio as the teams bonded over a post-game pizza banquet. “It’s great to know the referee is doing well.”