St. Catherine’s girls basketball team hungry for next year’s CYO championship


The St. Catherine’s fifth grade girls’ basketball team of Franklin Square, led by Coach Jeane-Marie Zarzycki, took on the St. Francis-Dunn team of Wantagh for the Catholic Youth Organization championship title on Feb. 10.

While the Franklin Square squad of 12 girls fell to St. Francis-Dunn with a 25-15 loss last Saturday, the game was a hard-fought battle between the two competitors.

The St. Catherine’s- Zarzycki team had a successful season through the playoffs, with a 13-2 record overall. This was the first year the girls had playoffs in CYO basketball, and they brought the heat throughout the season.

A majority of the girls have been on the same team for the past three years with Zarzycki as their coach.

“It’s nice that they’ve built this great bond, because they really work well together and I’ve had a great time being with them,” she said of the team.

The girls’ skills really developed this year, Zarzycki said, with a combination of organized plays and improvisation throughout games.

“They just talk to each other if the play doesn’t work out, and it’s really evident what their connection is when they’re playing the game,” she said.

Through going to clinics, camps and participating on various travel teams, the girls put in the work to go the distance this season.

As a coach, Zarzycki said she has connected with the girls on different levels to understand their social and emotional needs on and off the court throughout the years.

“The biggest thing is when they make a mistake, I’m like, ‘I’m not mad at you, I just don’t want you to do it again. So, let’s learn from it,’” Zarzycki said. “And that tends to work pretty well.”

While other coaches might use more intense language with the kids they coach, Zarzycki believes taking a different approach is crucial to the success of the individuals on the team.

“I want them to enjoy being there, because if they’re doing something they enjoy they’re going to work that much harder for it,” she said.

“I want to be the coach I wish I had as a little girl,” Zarzykci said. “So that’s one of the driving forces.”

In the first round of the playoffs, St. Catherine’s-Zarzycki team beat St. Anthony’s team from Oceanside. In that game, one of the girls on the team hit a buzzer beater basket at half time, which Zarzycki described as a TV-movie moment for the team.

“We’ve had a lot of great moments, and the best thing is I don’t have one star on my team,” she said. “I literally have a compilation of great athletes that work really well and interchangeably. And I think that’s really why we’ve been able to be so successful, because every single person contributes to our success.”

They were first place in their division, losing one game to Our Lady Victory’s team from Floral Park by one point during the regular season before the championship game on Feb. 10.

“It was kind of a good thing, because the kids were really crushed when they lost and it kind of refocused them,” Zarzycki said. Getting that “undefeated monkey” off the team’s back was a great thing to drive the team to push harder through the rest of the season and playoffs.

Following their loss last weekend, Zarzykci said the girls are hungry to come back next year and take it all with her as the coach for the fourth year.