NYC Heat scorches summer foes

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The New York City Heat’s girls’ basketball AAU team proved it can compete at the national level by going 12-2 during the month of July.

Coaches Kevin White and Tommy Catalanatto started practicing three times a day with the girls in March and played in close to 30 scrimmages in order to prepare the girls for the Penn State Tournament and the United States Junior Nationals.

The Heat won all of its six games at the Penn State Tournament, beating such teams as the Maryland Metro Heat, the Rochester Warriors, the Blue Ridge Maryland Force and the Chicago Team U.S.A.

The team then went on to compete at the Junior Nationals. A tournament known for the ability to expose the nation’s top high school talent to Division I, II and III colleges.

On its first day, the Heat squeezed out a tough 61-60 overtime victory against the New Jersey Blue Thunder — a tremendous accomplishment since the Heat players come from around the city, while teams such as the Blue Thunder are comprised of players from around the nation. Six of the Heat players come from Archbishop Molloy, and others come from such schools as Francis Lewis and Bishop Loughlin.

Riding high from that victory over New Jersey, the Heat then took on the D.C. Extreme. After a closely played first half, the Heat exploded after halftime and went on to a 75-50 victory.

The Heat won its next two games, including a victory over the Columbus Blaze, in which Molloy’s Jessica McEntee hit a shot from the top of the key and was fouled. She sunk the free throw with 14 seconds left, and the Heat held onto the one-point win.

After a couple of thrilling victories, the Heat finally lost a nail-biter. Despite valiant efforts by Janelle Henderson and Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, who had 12 points with a sprained ankle, and McEntee, who scored 22 points, the Heat fell to the Houston Hoops, 63-57, in triple overtime.

The Heat responded with a victory over a team from Elmira, N.Y. to improve to 5-1, good enough for first place in their pool.

The Heat then played the Family I, a team known for its outstanding outside shooting. Backed by 22 points by McEntee and clutch shots at the end of the game by Molly Tubridy and Jen Kelleher, the Heat won, 65-60, advancing the team to the Sweet 16.

The Heat then ran into the West Virginia Tornadoes, ranked fourth in the nation. In front of a crowd of around 100 Division I coaches at American University, including Gino Auriama from UConn and Pat Summit from Tennessee, the Tornadoes stopped the Heat’s run toward a title by winning 65-43.

“The tournaments were a great accomplishment for the girls,” said White, who has been coaching the AAU team for 10 years. “The girls gained a lot of confidence in themselves. They showed they belonged.”

The Heat has one last tournament in September before the players return to their respective high schools. White expects all these girls to play ball in college.

“There were around 120 college coaches at our last game, which is a tribute to the players,” White said. “It was quite an experience. These girls might not play against competition this tough in college.”

Players such as Gold-Onwude, Jessica Fuller from Francis Lewis and Janelle Henderson from Bishop Loughlin have received interest from major basketball schools.

White allows for the girls to build on what they learn in high school. He just gives them a forum for their exceptional talents.

“I just go over the fundamentals,” White said. “I try to keep things simple.”

Going into the Nationals this year, the Heat was not expected to do much. Once next year comes around, the Heat will certainly be a powerhouse among the nation’s top girls’ basketball teams.

Posted 7:24 pm, October 10, 2011
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