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Friday, 16 May 2014 09:56

Clash Of The Legends!

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. 

Published in News

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Head coach Ken Mantia and the Saratoga Central Catholic Saints have completed the first Western Athletic Conference undefeated regular season since Fort Plain accomplished the feat in 2000.

Being on the coaching staff for the 1999 Spa Catholic team that went 20-1, losing to Mechanicville by two in the semifinals of sectionals, this is the first group Mantia has head coached to an undefeated league record (12-0) in his six years at the Saints’ helm.

Q. If you could describe this team in one word, what would it be?

A. Relentless

Q. How are they relentless?

A. We keep the pressure on them the entire game. Even if we get behind, we’re never out of it because we tend to come up with a steal and wear teams down. We can beat you in many ways: in transition or offensive rebounding or good ball movement. So I think that’s really our strength is we keep coming the whole game.

Q. What would you say has been the most surprising thing this year?

A. The thing that has made me the happiest is the ball movement. I knew we had seniors and the capability to play unselfishly, but we’ve moved the ball as well as any team has moved it here in several years.

Q. What does this team have to do to remain successful as they head into sectionals against the Lake George’s and Hoosic Valley's, if it comes to that?

A. I told the kids Monday, it’s kind of like looking at the Super Bowl. Defense wins championship. Well, Denver played defense. They held [Marshawn] Lynch down, but you have to play elite defense. You have to force turnovers. You have to dictate the tempo of the game with your defense, get deflections and hold teams to one shot. If we do that and really contest all shots, the offense will take care of itself. But we cannot have an off game on the defensive end.

Q. Where would you rank both the on and off-the-court chemistry of this group compared to other teams you have had in the past?

A. We always have great kids here, but as far as unselfishness, this team would be at the top. It’s almost to the point where you need to get on guys to shoot the ball because they may be overpassing, but that’s a great problem to have. If you find yourself being frustrated because your kids are too unselfish, feel lucky because that happens once every 10 years.

Q. As a coach, is it safe to say this is a fun group?

A. Oh yeah. It’s been very enjoyable. I know there are great things we could potentially accomplish, but it’s already been a tremendous season that we can always look back on. We’d love to do more things, but what these guys accomplished and the unselfish way in which they did it…everyone chipped in. Everyone contributed, so it’s been a very rewarding season.

Q. If there was one guy who you had to choose as the glue who holds this team together, who would it be?

A. It’s funny because Evan [Pescetti] and Keegan [Murphy] are tremendous kings of the unorthodox play. They can post up, make runners in the lane, do spin moves. Michael [Naughton] and Brian [Hall], every game they bring tremendous defense, they play tough, they can score points for us. They give us that consistency every game, but the guy who is kind of the glue—seems to come up with a deflection, the assists and free throws at the end—I think would be [Luke] Spicer. Luke’s been outstanding the whole season and it’s kind of funny because he’s the one guy who could have two points and dominate the game. That’s a rare talent.

Q. A big key this season has been the bench, right?

A. [Ryan] Czarnecki—this is a kid who would start for 99 percent of teams in the area and he’s totally embraced his role. I give him full freedom. I want him to run the lane and look for his shot. He has no problem doing that, but he’s playing unselfishly when he comes in. This is a kid who will be All-League next year and he’s totally embraced his role. Jake VanPatten and JR Hmura, they just pound people in practice and make them better and work hard. When they come in the game I know we are going to get tremendous defense and these kids understand their role is to defend and rebound. When you have that consistency, it really completes the team.

Q. As far as your preseason expectations, was going undefeated anything that you visioned?

A. No. I had no thought of that. When we had our league meeting, really the sense was that Canjo, Fort Plain, us and St. Johnsville were almost a flip of the coin—any of us could win it. There was absolutely no chance we thought we could go undefeated, but we thought we could compete for a title if we were unselfish and defended. Because of all the unselfishness, we overachieved what we thought was possible.

Q. Are there any coaches you draw inspiration from or try to emulate?

A. Early in my career it was Coach [Jim] Zullo at Shenendehowa. If you don’t defend for him, you just wouldn’t play…tremendous coach who believed in ball movement. Coach [Mike] Beson, who gave me a shot at Shenendehowa, also taught team play, defense and enthusiasm. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to coach with Coach [John] Catone here at Spa Catholic. He totally believed in the up-tempo game. You don’t give up any of the court. You pressure full court. You wear the other team down. You take the fight to them. You don’t back down no matter how good the other team is. Coach Catone really influenced me seeing that you really can win a game on the defensive end by forcing turnovers and getting into your transition. I was also lucky enough to play here for coach [Bob] King. If you did not defend for Coach King, you didn’t play, and you had to play unselfishly. They all had kind of the same mindset. I’ve been coaching for 25 years now and that’s just how I look at basketball because of who I’ve coached under.

Q. When you look back at this season, what would you like to say you accomplished?

A. This was a year the main thing we wanted to accomplish was to do something memorable in honor of Coach Beson. We felt some pressure in the first tournament and I felt we just took it out on the teams we played. A lot of the kids have Coach Beson’s name written inside their sneakers. And I felt the pressure. To go on and win a league championship and go undefeated, that’s what the season has been about. For them to accomplish that, it makes the season memorable no matter what happens the rest of the way.

Q. If you have three dinner guests, all-time, who do you sit down with?

Peyton Manning, Larry Bird and my wife [Mary Beth].

Friday at 7 p.m., the Saints play Duanesburg at Fulton Montgomery Community College in the first of two WAC crossover games. Aside from Duanesburg, the tournament also includes the Southern Division’s Mekeel Christian Academy, as the Saints warm up before the Section II Class C tournament begins. 


Published in News


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