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The Butler Did It: A hoops family feud

Sure it was Christ the King against Mary Louis. But more importantly, it was brother vs. sister. Arbitello vs. Arbitello. Yeah, there a big varsity game to be played in a couple of hours, but there was a buzz like no other for this family squabble. On one side, there was Joann Arbitello, the older sister coaching the junior varsity team at Mary Louis, her alma mater. Across from the scorers' table was Joe Arbitello, the baby brother coaching the JV team at Christ the King, his alma mater. Fittingly, sitting at center court in the first row were parents Joseph and Josephine Arbitello, making sure their children were on their best behavior. "They had to play nice," said Joe's twin brother, Robert. "Mom would have probably smacked both of them. I think she has the wooden gravy spoon with her."There's always been a sibling rivalry between all three children, who grew up in Queens Village, involving everything from basketball to eating contests, Robert said.But this is the first time Joe and Joann coached against each other. "Ever since the schedule came out two months ago, I couldn't wait," Robert said.Robert said he was neutral, even though he works at Christ the King. Although assigned the role of peace-maker by his parents, Robert ended up being the conduit for weeks of friendly trash talking. "I'm a big instigator," he said. Joann got the last shot in as she drove to Middle Village Monday. "The penguin is going to make mince meat out of the lion," she texted Joe, referring to the teams' mascots. Adding fuel to the rivalry, Joann, who previously was the head coach at Westchester Community College and Manhattan Community College, was hired by Joe Lewinger, Mary Louis' athletic director and Joe's close friend. The two attended tiny St. Joseph's College in Brooklyn together."Either way, somebody was going to be upset, because we're a close family," said Joann, who is five years older than the twins. "We don't want to see the other one lose, ever."Mary Louis led, 8-5, after the first quarter and, 14-12, at halftime. But Christ the King rallied to take a 31-23 lead after three quarters and won the game, 41-35. "She's a good coach. She did a lot of things to disrupt us," Joe said. "I'm happy we won, I ain't going to lie to you."After, the two shook hands and shared a laugh. "We'll go to dinner and everything is good," Joann said. "Or else our mother will kill us."There will be at least one more meeting, at Mary Louis Feb. 15, and a possible third game in the Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan playoffs."It was a lot of fun. It added a little more to it," Joe said. "I feel bad that she lost. I always feel bad when she loses. I hope she's successful and I hope I meet her in the championship. And then I want to beat her again."Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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