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January 22, 2004

Deaf club hoopsters set high goals

From: Staten Island Advance - Jan 22, 2004

Island squad hopes to bring back championship title from national tournament

The 17th-century metaphysical poet George Herbert's witticism about those who will not hear are deaf need not apply to Danny Gabel or Anthony Lopez or Richard Jordan.

Joey Gagliardi or Lou White or Chris DiSantis cannot listen to the orchestral beauty of the New York Philamonic or the simplistic sounds of a mountain sunrise, but then they don't have to put up with the irritating ramblings of Dick Vitale, either.

All members of the Staten Island Club of the Deaf, their audio disability has not prevented them from making inroads in the noisy world of basketball. And they've certainly created their own noise!

After finishing second in last year's NCAA version of a national tournament at Gallaudet University, the Tompkinsville-based club has been busily prepping for the Feb. 14 return.

First-year coach Evan Winegard and Karl Gabel, who's now considered the general manager, has the Islanders hopping all over the Northeast, honing their skills while getting in tournament shape.

With the addition of Gagliardi, whose prowess at both ends of the court has given the SICD something to cheer about, the group has more than held its own in the fairly competitive SportsFest unlimited loop.

Back-to-back second-place finishes in tourneys at Farmingdale (L.I.) and Hartford (Conn.), preceded this past weekend's fourth spot in the prestigious Spotswood (N.J.) tournament.

The next stop for the Blue Thunder is next Saturday's Philadelphia tourney before a Valentine's Day precursor at Gallaudet where they want to come home with more than just roses and chocolates.

But then the really big show returns to Gallaudet come March 1 and 2. This time the Islanders don't want to settle for less than first.


Apparently, the balmy climes of New Year's Day was not a portent, considering what's we've gone through since. And the Franzreb clan certainly took advantage to play in its 34th annual Hangover Bowl.

Headed by patriarchs John (and sons John, Jeff and Jarad) and Bill (and sons Will and Matt), the respective teams ran around like it was a spring day. At 55 degrees? That's summer weather right now!

Jeff tells us that the great weather didn't help either team offensively, as the defensive ruled the roost.

John's Frank Ficaro was a constant presence in the backfield and Kevin Mahoney and Neil O'Reilly wouldn't let the receivers get open. For Bill's team, Bart Chiminski had four sacks and Joe DiForte made a key intercept, which he almost converted into a touchdown.

When the offense did get something going, it was usually because of the blocking of Willie Cheatham for John's team and the arm of Wayne Owen and the moves of Brian Gaspar for Bill's.

This defensive gem was determined by two plays. Early in the second half, John Hagen got all-alone open for Bill's but, as Jeff tells us, "the thought of having his name in the headlines was too much and he dropped the ball."

Conversely, the deciding play came on the last series. Ed Dunphy threw a deep pass that was intercepted momentarily by Ed Leahy. But as he pulled it in, the ball was ripped away by MVP Shawn Cheatham, who ran it in for the only score.

Afterward, everyone went to victorious John's house for food, drink and good times.

"We caught up on each other's lives over the past year," said Jeff. "It was great to see everyone come out again. We'll be back again next year, even if the weather is a bit cooler."

Copyright 2004 The Staten Island Advance.