Practice pays off. Just ask the 2012-2013 Garden City Athletic Association (GCAA) third-grade boys travel basketball team, who recently won the Island Garden Super League championship. Coached by Kevin Wood and John Kufs, the team practiced from November through March, alternating with game days. “Kevin did a tremendous job at scheduling practices and getting us gym time,” Kufs said. “We were well-prepared for the games. … By the end of the season, the team was executing many of [offensive and defensive] strategies that they had struggled to grasp months earlier.”
The team competed against 15 “travel/tryout-caliber” teams from all over Long Island, according to Wood. The boys won their first 10 games, beating all of the best third-grade teams in the division. “At that point, the league scheduled our team to play seven of our last eight games vs. fourth-grade teams, [against] which we struggled, losing five of those seven, along with a loss in February in the Syosset Goodman rematch,” Kufs said.
The team finished the regular season 12 and 6. They played only third-grade teams in the playoffs. “We won our quarterfinal game easily, 25 to 13, then won a semifinal nail biter [against HHH-Gruberger] 27 to 25, to force a finals rubber-match with Syosset Goodman,” Kufs said.
“Although Syosset had a better regular season record, they did not have our strength of schedule,” Kufs added. “Unlike us, Goodman had not faced all those fourth-grade teams that we played. They were not used to playing in tight games, in having to play from behind or to have to make on-the-fly adjustments. Kevin and I deployed some strategies in the finals that we had not showed them in our prior two matchups, and by the time Syosset figured it out, the game was over.” GCAA defeated Syosset 30-29.
The championship team has 10 members: Michael Giammona, Houston Kufs, Danny Macchiarola, Luke Paskewitz, Andrew Scattareggia, Jack Schmatz, Luke Schmitt, Brendan Staub, Joe Wood and Kyle Wood. “The boys deserve tremendous credit for being unflappable,” Wood said. “They never panicked or worried when we got down, even as the magnitude of the games grew.”