My niece, Katie Gallagher, came down behind the baskets at Yorktown High last Wednesday night for a kiss hello and to tell me she “wished like heck that Putnam Valley did crazy stuff like this at their games.”
Katie, a junior at PV High, had never seen Yorktown’s fabled “Crop” get behind the Cornhuskers quite like it did last Wednesday when Yorktown hosted Mahopac in an epic battle that would ultimately decide whether or not Yorktown or Mahopac would be crowned league champs of the hardwood this winter.
Members of’The Crop’ bum-rush the court seconds prior to tipoff last Wednesday when their beloved Yorktown Cornhuskers suffered a tough 60-52 loss to Mahopac, which allowed the Indians at least a share of the League I-B title: That was to be decided Monday.
What Katie may or may not know is that it takes quite a bit of organization and dedication to be a Cropaholic; this face-painting, jaw-jabbering student body that packs its collective wit at every big Yorktown game. On this night, the Crop – almost 500 strong – would bum-rush the court in full regalia just seconds prior to tipoff. They would sway collectively in their signature chant led by senior pseudo-leader Emma Cunnington and, ultimately, stand in hushed despair when the vengeful Mahopac Maniacs stormed the court with vim.
“They’re unbelievable… the best, and you can quote me on that,” Yorktown Coach Steve Veteri said of The Crop after his Huskers suffered a 60-52 loss to the Indians, who would follow up that win with a 70-60 win over Carmel, forging a two-way tie atop the league heap between Yorktown (11-6) and Mahopac (14-3).
Mahopac senior Ryan Wagner (21 points) and Yorktown senior Jordan Moody (32 points) gave the Maniacs and the Crop all they could ask for in a game that was as close as one point in the waning moments before the Indians avenged that 55-52 loss to Yorktown back on Jan. 19th. Mahopac senior Anthony Annunziata delivered the death-nail; a three-point dagger from the right baseline with just over a minute left, sealing the deal for Mahopac while burning Crop circles of despair about Yorktown.
“The biggest shot of my life,” Annunziata would call it. Ironically, it was only some two weeks earlier when Husker Chris Mosca shot the life out of Mahopac with a buzzer-beating three ball for the biggest shot of his young life. My point is that both Mahopac and Yorktown have got some pretty good morale going these days; thanks to superior athletics, and it’s no wonder why their fans are teeming to their events and having the time of their young lives.
So school administrators can slash the crap out of school budgets as we head toward the inevitable June cuts, but I suspect they realize the importance athletics plays in getting students out of bed every morning; from the kids who support the athletes, to the modified feeders, right on up to the varsity ranks. So go easy on athletics, my bureaucrat friends…
is one of the most reserved, intense young men you’d ever want to meet. To meet him in person, you’d never know the beast that lies within. To see him on the wrestling mats is to see him at his best. The 140-pound Mahopac senior was crowned Section 1 champion Sunday in Yonkers on the not-so-wr
estling-renowned campus of Lincoln High where both Pagliucca and 285-pound repeat champion Andrew Scopino led the Indians to a 4th-place finish.
“It feels awesome,” Pagliucca said. “It’s the best feeling in the world! All the hard work has finally paid off.”
After placing third last year, Pagliucca (37-3 this year, 138-27 career) started to realize a sectional title was within reach when he started shouldering the top guys in the weight class with regularity this winter.
“Especially when I beat (Mark) Swertfager at our dual meet with John Jay Cross River,” Pagliucca said of Swertfager, who he would go on to defeat 8-6 in the sectional finals and make possible a decade-long dream.
Modesty precludes “Pags”, who would rather walk the walk than talk the talk since the second grade, but his Coach Juan Torres will tell you all you have to know about the kid who leads by example.
“Hungry and humble, that describes Pags to a T,” Torres said. “No questions asked; he does whatever we asks and he never, ever complains.”
Now, on the 25th of February at the Times Union Center in Albany, both Pagliucca and Scopino, the lone Putnam County sectional wrestling champions for 2011, have two weeks to prepare themselves to be put in the same sentence with other Mahopac greats before them… guys like Degl, Mazzurco, Colagiovanni, Oddo and Flamio (and I’m sure I’m pissing someone off by leaving someone out).
“I wouldn’t put anything past either of them,” Torres said of the dynamic duo.
Good luck, lads!
RAY GALLAGHER PHOTOS