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When the final horn sounded in Gorton’s 55-36 victory over Sleepy Hollow in the championship game of the 20th Annual Sleepy Hollow Holiday Tournament, the Gorton players celebrated a little bit more than most teams would in an early season tournament.
The celebration was not just because they had won the tournament, but more about who they had beat in the tournament — former head coach and current Sleepy Hollow coach Rob Rizzo.
“It was very emotional,” said Gorton senior David Slater, who finished with 12 points in the win. “Coach Rizzo was with us for three years; he’s a great coach and we all still really like him. But we have a new coach now, coach (Tom) Brown and we like him a lot too. So we wanted to win this game for him and for us. It was strange looking over and seeing coach Rizzo on the other bench, but I think we all really wanted to win more than anything.”
Junior Dane Williamson played great down the stretch for Gorton, scoring 19 points and taking home the tournament’s MVP.
“It was definitely strange (playing against Rizzo),” Williamson said. “We had so much love for him and he taught us a lot in his three years here. But Coach Brown is our new coach and fit in with us right away. He told us what we needed to do and we got a win tonight.”
Sophomore Rashan Mckay added 12 points and reiterated Williamson and Slaters comments after the game.
“It was kind of weird,” Mckay said. “Coach Rizzo was my first varsity coach; I came right out of middle school and was attached to him. Then after my freshman season we change coaches and we all had to adapt. Luckily we got another good coach, so this was a great win for us.”
While the final score was a bit lopsided, the game was tied at the half and Gorton led by only five points heading into the third quarter. But the fourth quarter belonged to the Wolves as they outscored Sleepy Hollow 18-4 to run away with the championship trophy.
“On the bus ride over, you could see playing against their former coach was on the kids’ minds,” said Brown, who was given the job after previously coaching at Sacred Heart. “But I had to tell them, ‘Guys, you’re not playing Coach Rizzo tonight, you’re playing Sleepy Hollow.’ Coach Rizzo did a great job with these guys the last few years, but we had to move past that if we wanted to win. I think we did that in the second half.”
Tommy Fahey scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds in the loss for Sleepy Hollow, earning him a spot on the all-tournament team. Ronniel Munoz was also named to the all-tournament team after hitting the game-winning basket with 1.1 seconds left in the semi-final game yesterday.
After the game, Rizzo spoke about the game and what it felt like coaching against his former team.
“First off, our (Sleepy Hollow) guys showed a lot of heart, playing without two starters (injured LJ Garrant and Harley Falasca),” Rizzo said. “Tied at the half and in it in the fourth; I just think that their pressure defense got to us in the end and they played better than us at the end. It’s not that big of a deal at this point in the year because it gives us a chance to develop our bench and get some action for guys who wouldn’t necessarily be getting this experience. It’s much more important that we have (Garrant and Falasca) in February then in December.
“But if we had to lose, I’m happy to lose to (Gorton). They’re good kids and I care a lot about them. Just because I came here doesn’t mean I didn’t put my heart and soul into working with those guys for the last three years. It’s nice to see them progress and be successful. If we can’t win, then I want them to win.”