On Saturday, March 9, two Great Neck fifth grade boys CYO basketball teams faced off against each other in the St. Aloysius gym to see who would advance to the third round of the playoffs. Everyone in attendance would agree that the game was a thrilling match to watch. With multiple lead changes and a comeback from a deficit of as much as eight points by the team coached by David Ohebshalom, it was only fitting that the game would go to overtime tied at 31.
Before the start of the overtime period, coaches Peter Chang and David Ohebshalom walked over to each other and embraced for a moment, congratulating each other on a job well done and wishing each other luck. This grand gesture did not go unnoticed by Jon Sobolewski, veteran CYO coach, who commented that “this was the best moment of the season for him to see two respectable coaches bring out the best in the kids by setting an example themselves.” Unfortunately, only one team could advance and the team coached by Chang won the game 35-33 in overtime.
The remarkable thing is what happened the following day, when the advancing Great Neck St. Aloysius team would play its next playoff game against an undefeated St. Catherine team from Franklin Square. The boys from David Ohebshalom’s team, who had lost the game the day before, some shedding tears, were back in the gym with their coach. This time it was to root for the team and players that had just knocked them out of the playoffs.
Also in the crowd was another Great Neck fifth grade CYO coach, Jason Pinsky, with some of his players who had lost earlier in the playoffs. With thunderous chants of defense and deafening cheers whenever Great Neck scored, the crowd willed the remaining Great Neck team to overcome a five-point deficit and eventually win the game, 28-21. The Great Neck 5th grade team coached by Chang now advances to the Final Four.
Sports are supposed to bring out the best in our players and community in a fun and participatory way. In a country that is becoming more divided and less cordial, what was demonstrated by coaches Chang, Ohebshalom, Pinsky and their players this weekend should be a lesson for others to learn. When we see each other as community, we all are winners.
The Great Neck CYO travel basketball program, led by sports coordinator, Sal Bonavolonta, has been in existence for over 30 years. The program continually produces winning teams years after year. More importantly, it teaches our young men and women the importance of character and work ethic and instills in them the love of the game. Many of the kids that participate in CYO continue to play basketball on their middle school and high school teams.