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Friday, 16 May 2014 09:56

Clash Of The Legends!

By | News

Fantauzzi, Johns To Square Off In Blue Streaks Reunion 

 

By Brian Cremo 

and Arthur Gonick

Saratoga TODAY 

 

“This time I know it’s for real.”

- Donna Summer

 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – In a matchup worthy of Bob Arum or Don King at the top of their game, the Saratoga Springs High School 35th Class Reunion Committee has scored a major plum by securing the services of former Blue Streaks coaches Damian Fantauzzi and Rich Johns. 

 

The two coaches, who once patrolled the basketball sidelines together, will square off against each other and lead squads composed of returning alumni from the 1979 and 1980 hoop squads. 

 

“I had so much fun with Damian,” Johns said. “We were kids. I was just out of college maybe six years. The kids just loved him. They would do anything for him. Someone once said I was (Fantauzzi)’s sidekick and truly I’ve been his sidekick for all these years.”

 

“It’ll be good to see those guys,” Fantauzzi said. “It’s amazing how time flies.”

 

The titanic tip-off, which is free and open to the general public, will occur on Friday, June 13 at 4:30 p.m. Members of the respective squads will be checking in at about 3 p.m. 

 

In lieu of an admission fee, donations will be gratefully accepted for both Coach Johns’ “Act with Respect Always” and Coach Fantauzzi’s “Toga Field of Dreams” programs.

 

“This is the kick-off to an entire weekend of events for the classes of 1979 and 1980,” said Laura Clark Cavallo, who, along with Patti Clark is part of the reunion’s organizing committee. “Everybody is welcome to this game—no matter when you went to Saratoga Springs High School, or even if you never went there!” She also noted that the post-game after party at Gaffney’s is open to the (21 and older) public as well. 

 

Joy King, who helped put the reunion game together, put it this way:

 

“We want to pack the house,” she said. “And get that old-time spirit going.”

 

When it comes time for tip-off, Fantauzzi will take the 1979 team while Johns will be at the helm for 1980. 

 

According to Ms. King, also committing to the event at press time is official in-game announcer Anthony “Tony” Izzo and former coach Michael McGraw has been designated as honorary officiating coach. Game referees are slated to be Anthony “Tony’ Fischetti, Jay Downing and Steven “Nipsie” Youngblood. Nick Alex will operate the scoreboard. 

 

As far as players, the first class of ’79 alumni hoopster to commit to this event was Robert “Buddy” Clarke. Shortly thereafter, his ’79 backcourt mate Nate Lewis let it be known that he was in.

 

Fantauzzi, who was the head coach in 1979, recalled the defining moment for that season—a sectional upset over No. 1 seeded Albany High.

 

After Clarke, the Blue Streaks leading scorer, fouled out with three minutes left, Saratoga Springs found themselves down one without the ball and about 10 seconds remaining in the game.

 

But sophomores Brian Smith and Gus Degregory forced a turnover out of a trap and immediately called a timeout. 

 

Fantauzzi then set up a play for the late Mike Beach. 

 

“I told the kids no matter what happens everybody has to rebound because there’s no tomorrow,” Fantauzzi said.

 

Beach got the ball and took a jumper, which missed off the rim. That’s when Lewis, a 5-foot-8-inch point guard, followed the miss with a putback off the glass as time expired for the game-winner.

 

In 1980, the Blue Streaks made the transfer from the Foothills Council to the Suburban Council and were coached by Howard “Mooch” McGee, after Fantauzzi became the basketball coach at Skidmore.

 

Known for being a team that could run the floor and press, the Streaks tied for a share of the regular season title in that first year.

 

“They’re a pretty neat group of kids,” Johns said. “When someone asked me about coaching the 1980 reunion team I said, ‘You kidding me? Of course I will.’ We’ll definitely have a good time with those guys if they can still run.”

 

Other names from that time period include Jimmy Parker and Rick Whitney, who went on to play basketball at Alfred and Potsdam.

 

The June 13 matchup is sure to bring about some old laughs and memories—that goes for the coaches who will be coaching against one another for the first time.

 

“I always say that I gave Damian all his ideas on the bench,” Johns said. “And he’ll say, ‘Yeah, I never listened to one of them.’”

 

 

For more information about the reunion basketball game, contact Joy King at (518) 817-8022 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For general questions about the class of 1979/1980 Reunion weekend, contact Laura Clark Cavallo at (518) 221-7978. 

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