By Dante Quazzo
The best prep players in The City convened at City College of San Francisco on Sunday to honor former Lincoln High School coach Michael Gragnani, who died in January. The Gragnani Memorial City All-Star Game featured the top seniors from San Francisco’s three primary leagues: the Academic Athletic Association, the West Catholic Athletic League, and Bay Counties League.
“It’s a great way to end the season for the guys and girls. A lot of these kids have played together growing up in youth leagues and playing together in junior high school, and to bring them together one last time, I think it’s just a fun experience for everybody,” said University head coach Randal Bessolo, who organized the event.
The event signifies the end of the basketball season in San Francisco, but this year it symbolized something greater.
“It’s an opportunity to bring the community together. [The event] gave us the opportunity to memorialize Mike Gragnani, who was a real pillar in the basketball community,” Bessolo said. “This was a great way to recognize all he gave to the community.”
Even though the All-Star festivities are composed of The City’s very best, the games are played in a very light-hearted manner.
“There’s no tension, everybody’s getting along having a good time. It’s one big basketball party,” said Bay girls basketball head coach Larry Minnich, who coached the girls’ Eastside team. “It gives them an opportunity to play with other players in other leagues, and they enjoy that because they don’t usually get that opportunity.”
Led by team MVP Johnny Mrlik, the WCAL team defeated both the BCL and AAA teams in the boys’ matchups. Mrlik led all scorers with 20 points on the day. Top honors for the AAA went to Washington’s Jeremy Jetton, who scored 17 total points to lead the AAA over the BCL. The BCL team MVP honors went to BCL West Player of the Year Noah Springwater. The Columbia-bound senior had 15 total points.
The girls’ honors went to Sacred Heart Cathedral’s T.J. Miller, who scored 17 and led the Eastside team to a tight victory. Raquel Avila of St. Ignatius powered the Westside attack, finishing with 11 total points and earning the Westside MVP.
In addition to the games, the City All-Star Game featured two 3-point contests and a slam dunk contest. Ciara Sylvestri took home the girls’ 3-point crown, while Matt Quintana championed the boys’ long-distance event. Mission’s Travis Price-Roku claimed the slam dunk contest title with a thundering alley-oop off the backboard to cap the festivities.
Boys Game One: AAA 59, BCL 47
A balanced offensive attack helped the AAA jump out to a 28-21 halftime lead against the BCL, as nine AAA players scored in the half.
The AAA players got into the lane at will and were able to finish inside the paint.
The BCL countered with long-distance shooting, with University’s Matt Schneider knocking down five 3-pointers. Fellow teammate Noah Springwater added 12 for the BCL squad, but nine second-half points by Washington’s Jeremy Jetton, who finished with 13, fueled the AAA victory.
Boys Game Two: WCAL 63, BCL/AAA 49
The WCAL team faced off against the BCL in the first half, running away to a 31-21 lead at the break. St. Ignatius’ Matt Quintana led the WCAL attack against an exhausted BCL team with 13 points. The WCAL squad also got six points apiece from Sacred Heart’s Robert Yee and SI’s Johnny Mrlik in the half.
Mrlik went off in the second half against the AAA team, hitting four three-pointers en route to 14 second-half points. The AAA team received strong performances from Washington’s Brendan Glapion and Lowell’s Rico Price, but could not catch the WCAL, falling 32-28.
Girls Game: Eastside 49, Westside 47
T.J. Miller showed off her range from beyond three-point arc, connecting on four shots from long distance en route to a game-high 17 points. The game was tight the entire way, with Eastside only holding a one-point lead at the half, 24-23. The Eastside team was also helped with strong performances by Sacred Heart Cathedral’s Geena Giovanetti and Ciara Silvestri, who finished with a combined 13 points.
The Sacred Heart attack was just enough to edge the Westside team, which received strong performances from St. Ignatius’ Avila and Urban’s Lily Burns.