Taste of CYO basketball
Sacred Heart CYO players Anthony Siracusa, (30), and Amanda Daum, (24,) compete with Auburn CCYO players Brandan Pepin, (8), and Corey Allen, (21) for the rebound in their games at the CYO tournament on Friday night. Although the Auburn CCYO team is not part of the same league, they were invited to the tournament to even out the number of teams. Auburn CCYO won 49-25. Jeff Costello / Staff Photographer

AUBURN - While most of us spent yesterday dodging raindrops, six Auburn CYO basketball teams got their feet wet in a preseason youth basketball tournament.

The CYO 2002-03 season officially starts next weekend but local 7 & 8th graders use the annual Al Ianiri tournament to scout other teams and work through any preseason kinks.

Most of the teams have been practicing for only a week or so and for many of the players the three-day tournament is their first taste of CYO basketball.

"I just started playing this year," 13-year-old Sonjia Droczak said. "I just moved here from Syracuse and basketball is a really great sport. It's fun to do. We really don#'t expect to win or anything tonight. We just want to get better."

Tournament play continues today, 2-8 p.m. and winds up tomorrow with three games beginning at 1 p.m. in the Holy Family gym on North St.

Last night St. Alphonsus beat SS Peter and Paul 45-25, the Auburn CCYO team defeated Sacred Heart 49-25 and Holy Family won over St. Mary's 41-17.

Eric Short played CYO basketball in middle school and has been a coach for the St. Alphonsus team for the past six years.

He is one of many including SS Peter and Paul coach Joe Rusinko and CYO cheerleading coordinator Pam Okussick who have maintained a lifelong commitment to the CYO.

"It's a good community thing for families and I think the strength of the parishes have kept it going," Short said. "I didn't play for coach Ianiri but I know he did a lot of good things and was a real quality guy."

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Al Ianiri passed away in the early 90s but his dedication during the Auburn CYO League#'s formative years, the 1960s and 70s helped make the CYO what it is today; one of the preeminent youth sports leagues in Cayuga County.

The tournament itself is the first of many for the Auburn players who travel to Oswego, Waterloo and as far as Ottawa, Canada to compete in youth basketball tourneys.

"The best part is we get to go places," 13-year-old Nick Neville said. "Every game is different and it all depends on who you're playing. We take each game like any other game. We're here to win and should come in first or second this weekend."

"We're one of the strongest teams around here," teammate JD LaRue said before Friday night's match-up with SS Peter and Paul. Last season St. Alphonsus finished second behind St. Francis.

"We've got a good shot if we can beat Holy Family," LaRue said.

At last count there were between 150-200 players in the Auburn CYO program along with 100 or so cheerleaders. The program is as big and competitive as ever but this weekend's tournament is low-key.

"Yes we're giving out trophies for first, second and third place but most of it#'s for fun," Auburn CYO coordinator Mike Festa said. "We're trying to get these kids who haven't practiced a lot or played in a game some playing time. Every team is going to get in at least three games, possibly four. "

Next weekend's season opener will be played at Cayuga Community College but all other regular season games are open to the public every Sunday afternoon in the Holy Family gym.

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