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The top sports stories in Queens this year

Monsignor McClancy senior baseball standout Quentin Holmes was selected by the Cleveland Indians with the 64th overall pick, making him the highest drafted New York City player in over two decades.
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Sports have always been a big part of Queens and 2017 has been no different. From tennis to baseball to some hoops, there have been plenty of big stories throughout the year.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of the top stories of the year.

Monsignor McClancy duo selected in MLB Draft

Two members of the Monsignor McClancy baseball team took a big step toward reaching their dreams.

Crusaders standouts Quentin Holmes and Charlie Neuweiler both heard their names called in this year’s MLB Draft in June as both were selected in the second and fifth rounds by the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals, respectively.

It was a historic moment for the program. Holmes became the earliest New York City selection in over two decades on the first day of the draft Monday night. Neuweiler’s phone call Tuesday put a cap on a season that was nothing short of dominant for the duo.

“It was just utter excitement,” Holmes said after the draft. “I couldn’t think of who to thank first. I had my close family and friends there with me and the first thing I could do is just jump for joy.”

Neuweiler was just as thrilled.

“We [were] going to have my family come over afterwards, just because I wasn’t sure how crazy it was going to get,” Neuweiler said. “I wasn’t really sure where I was going to end up. I’m not the guy who was going to be upset if I didn’t get picked today, but I didn’t want to have people over and have them feel like that. I just kind of wanted to wait for it to happen.”

It was a whirlwind of a spring for both Neuweiler and Holmes, who drew a small army of Major League scouts every time they suited up for the Crusaders.

On a related note...

McClancy outfielder ready for next step, signs with Cleveland Indians

Holmes made his pro-baseball decision rather quickly when he officially signed a contract with the Cleveland Indians.

He was quick to point out after the draft that he wasn’t sure whether or not he wanted to sign — he had committed to play college ball before his junior year — but also admitted the phone call from the Indians left him with a lot to consider.

Holmes’ straight-line speed was the highest of any prospect — high school or otherwise — and his ability to track down fly balls in the outfield or steal a base was unparalleled.

The highest New York City draft pick in over two decades, Holmes pairs his speed with a strong bat — he hit .411 with seven home runs and 33 RBI this year.

Holmes reported to the Single-A Arizona league, the first step in a career he hopes is successful. He saw a familiar face in that league in Neuweiler, who signed with the Royals after being selected in the fifth round.

“It’s definitely crazy and it’s amazing that we were both able to do something like that,” Holmes said. “It makes me really happy that Charlie was able to get drafted in that spot as well. It just shows how good a program McClancy is.”

Terriers back on top: St. Francis Prep tennis captures city title

The St. Francis boys’ tennis team defeated Iona Prep to clinch the program’s first CHSAA city championship in the last five seasons.

It’s the 10th time the Terriers have wrapped up the season with a title, but after a few years falling short, this one felt particularly special.

“We hadn’t won for five years and for us that was a long time,” Prep coach John Brennan said. “I was obviously very happy to win this. You have to have some players and you have to have the commitment. I’d always like more commitment and players, but we had just enough this season.”

Action: Cardozo’s Naclerio ready for his closeup

Ron Naclerio’s resumé is packed with games and victories and history. It now also includes something he never quite expected – an acting career.

The longtime Cardozo High School basketball coach made his on-air debut earlier this month, appearing in a NY Lottery commercial and an April 13 spot on the CBS drama “Bull.” Naclerio didn’t quite plan on having an acting career, but he’s already anxious to book a few more gigs. After all, he’s still got some space on that resumé.

“I got a phone call saying they liked the stuff I did,” Naclerio said of his stint on The Cash Court commercial. “It was great.”

Naclerio’s transition to TV started because of his basketball ties at ‘Dozo. One of his former players, Ryan Williams, has built a career as a basketball body double, working with Slam Dunk Bookings, LLC, and playing hoops or doing stunts when TV shows and movies need a bit of an athletic spark.

Williams spoke to his boss, Susan Torres, about the possibility of using Naclerio when bookings needed a coach. It it only took a few phone calls for Torres to realize he was the perfect man for the job.

“[Ryan] said, ‘I think you should maybe check out my coach from high school’,” said Torres, who owns Slam Dunk Bookings. “I called him, we talked a little bit, and I said ‘OK, you do have a personality and maybe I could start using you for print work, commercials, TV and film.’ ”

Those few phone conversations became a brand-new job, and Naclerio quickly found himself standing on an outdoor basketball court in Manhattan with money raining down on him.

Stanners sophomore sparks squad in Brooklyn-Queens title game

The top-seeded Archbishop Molloy boys’ hoops team cruised to an 80-67 victory over Bishop Loughlin in the BQCHSAA boys’ basketball championship game at the end of February.

Sophomore guard Cole Anthony finished with a game-high 32 points as he controlled the tempo from the opening tip.

“I was feeling pretty good during the game, I had my adrenaline pumping and everything just clicked,” Anthony said after the game.

The Stanners took a 10-point lead into the break and never felt particularly challenged against Loughlin.

Molloy led by as many as 19 points in the fourth quarter and cruised to victory.

Dreaming big: Bowne star makes PSAL history on wrestling mat

It was quite a season on the mats for John Bowne senior Brandon Nunez.

The 99-pound standout became the first PSAL wrestler to clinch a Division-I state championship, winning a 5-3 decision at the Times Union Center in Albany in March.

Nunez’s road to the state championship was far from easy. In fact, when he first arrived at Bowne, he often found himself practicing by himself – simply because there was no one else his size on the team.

“When I first started on the team, the lowest guy that was there was like 180 pounds,” Nunez said. “So I wasn’t practicing with anyone my weight or anything. I just had to catch on quick.”

Despite his less-than-traditional start, Nunez saw success immediately, placing fourth in New York City as a freshman. He earned a state championship berth as a sophomore and finished sixth upstate as a junior.

Still, he was far from satisfied. Nunez wanted a title and in his final season on the mat, it was championship or bust.

“It was all about having that gut check feeling,” he said. “I knew I placed sixth and I wanted to do even better this year. I knew I could place, but I was always gunning for first”

Nunez dominated throughout his senior year – taking a title at the Eastern States competition and compiling a perfect record during the regular season – and he couldn’t have asked for a better end to his high school career than his championship match.

There were several other big sports stories in Queens, but these were the best of the best. Now, we prepare to head to 2018, which promises to deliver more big moments.

Reach reporter Zach Gewelb by e-mail at zgewelb@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4539.

Updated 1:41 am, December 29, 2017
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