WATERBURY — The first Naugatuck Valley basketball all-star games in 18 years took place Sunday at Sacred Heart High School to benefit the B.A.G.S. Foundation.
Players from every NVL school were invited to participate along with those from Kaynor Tech and Chase Collegiate.
The girls and boys doubleheader was a fundraiser for the B.A.G.S. Foundation, which stands for Boys and Girls Succeeding. Sacred Heart football coach Chris Ortiz organized the game for B.A.G.S. founder Nakia Reddick, who started the organization in Chicago in 1991. Waterbury began its own chapter last year.
The B.A.G.S. Foundation provides a student development program, an after-school program, SAT classes and sports clinics for kids in the Family Life Center on Thomaston Avenue in Waterbury.
The extravaganza matched up the City All-Stars against the Suburban All-Stars that included a show between games with the Sacred Heart cheerleading team, disc jockey KG of HOT 93.7 and the Berkley Knights Drill team.
Naugatuck’s Jodie Ruccio coached the girls City All-Stars while Sacred Heart’s Ryan Sullivan coached the girls Suburban All-Stars. The boys coaches were Ed Sakl of Watertown with the City All-Stars and Armand LeVesseur of Kennedy with the Suburban All-Stars.
“It really didn’t take a lot to get these girls on the same page,” said Ruccio. “They all know each other from AAU ball and they all get along really well. I figured we would meet one time and discuss a game strategy but after the first practice the girls were asking me when the next practice was. We ended up practicing three more times.”
Representing the Suburban All-Stars were Naugatuck’s Lauren Piroscafo and Woodland’s Lindsay Feducia. Woodland’s Heather Framski was also named an all-star but had a previous commitment and couldn’t attend.
Piroscafo scored 317 points this year for Naugatuck and averaged 15.9 points per game. Framski became the all-time leading scorer at Woodland this year, knocking down 487 points for a 20.3 average to lead the Hawks to an 18-6 record. Feducia averaged 12.2 points per game and was also named to the Connecticut High School Coaches All-Star game along with Framski, who will represent the West squad in the Class S and M game.
“It was a lot of fun competing at that level,” said Piroscafo, who scored 10 points in a game won by the City All-Stars, 64-58. “Playing with teammates with that kind of skill level really takes the pressure off and you can go out and have some fun. It certainly was an honor to be named to the team and I think I did okay. I probably could have done better but the defense was so intense.”
Ruccio said Piroscafo making the team was rewarding enough, but the coach had a blast herself.
“Having one of your own, Lauren Piroscafo, on the Suburban team really will get the younger girls in our program to take notice,” Ruccio said. “Outside of winning the state championship in my senior year of high school and beating Torrington two years ago, this is the most fun I’ve had related to hoops, coaching this team.”
Representing the boys Suburban All-Stars were Naugatuck’s Brandon Kuczenski and Woodland’s Yahmad Rountree. Kuczenski scored 331 points this year with an average of 16.6 per game for the Greyhounds. Rountree scored 415 points for the 13-10 Hawks at an 18.0 clip.
“I worked real hard this year and it certainly paid off,” Kuczenski said. “This is a great honor to be named to this all-star team.”
Kuczenski said the team didn’t practice much but he felt chemistry with the group. The Suburban All-Stars pulled the upset and won, 79-70.
“We only had one practice last week at Kennedy and we showed a lot of chemistry working well together,” Kuczenski said. “We had a few scrimmages towards the end of that practice and things really started to come together.”
Kuczenski knocked down 13 points in the game and was a force inside along with Rountree.
“We didn’t have a lot of big guys on our side so it was pretty much me and Yahmad pulling down the rebounds,” Kuczenski said. “We played as a unit and passed three and four times each possession and got good shot selection.”
Like the other all-stars, Kuczenski said he enjoyed the opportunity and is already looking forward to next year.
“It certainly was a good experience for me to play with that level of competition,” Kuczenski said. “I will play for Connecticut Select in the off season and try to get to a few camps to get ready for next season.”