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Spring into new season by celebrating winter’s finest

If you drove by a field last week, you wouldn’t know it, but the spring sports season is in full swing.

But before we turn our attention to the great outdoors, let’s look back on what was a fantastic winter season for Northeast Philadelphia athletes and coaches.

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It wasn’t easy, but we put together a roster full of great winners who will be honored at the Northeast Times sports banquet May 15 at the FOP. 

But before we party, let’s find out who the winners are!

Boys basketball

Catholic League Player of the Year

Darren Williams

Archbishop Ryan

Darren Williams was one of the seniors who led Ryan to a fantastic season. TIMES FILE PHOTO

When you play with one of the best players (Thomas Sorber) in the history of Northeast Philly, you could get overshadowed. Not Darren Williams.

The crafty scorer hit some of the biggest shots of the season for the Raiders en route to their magical postseason run that included advancing to the Catholic League championship in one of the greatest PCL games ever played, and a trip to the state semifinals.

Williams was not only an elite scorer, he was one of the best leaders in the league, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better teammate.

Next year he’ll continue his career at Florida Gulf Coast.

Public League Player of the Year

Darrius Gaeta

Northeast

Darrius Gaeta helped Northeast advance to the Public League quarterfinals. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The Vikings enjoyed a great season this year. They advanced to the Public League quarterfinals and won 19 games. 

The team had a lot of young talent, but whenever they needed the perfect leader, they turned to their point guard.

Gaeta ended up leading the team in scoring and assists. He also was one of the better defenders in the Public League and whenever the young team needed a boost, he was there both on and off the court.

Next year, Gaeta hopes to continue his basketball career, though is unsure where as of now.

Coach of the Year

Joe Zeglinski

Archbishop Ryan

Joe Zeglinski (center) led Ryan to the Catholic League final and state semifinals. File photo

Ryan had a fantastic season. Any time you can make the Catholic League championship, it’s a massive accomplishment. But to do so in a year where there were at least six elite teams, it took even more coaching care.

But Zeglinski’s greatest accomplishment might have been getting Ryan to rebound from losing one of the greatest games in Catholic League history.

Zeglinski is losing a lot, this team had nine seniors on the roster, and the ones who want to play at the next level are doing so. 

Girls Basketball

Catholic League Player of the Year

Reese Power

Nazareth Academy

Reese Power helped Nazareth make the Catholic League semifinals. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The Pandas sure have loved playing in the Catholic League.

After making the Catholic League championship during soccer season, the Pandas tried their luck in basketball, and they once again shocked everyone.

Despite playing in one of the most difficult leagues around, Nazareth advanced far in the playoffs, making it to the semifinals.

The Pandas were led by Power, who after starring last year as a sophomore in the Catholic Academies League, played just as well against the tough teams in the PCL.

Public League Player of the Year

Meiara Staton

Franklin Towne Charter

Meiara Staton plays forward and point guard for Franklin Towne Charter. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Whatever the Franklin Towne girls basketball team needed, they didn’t have to look far to find it.

Their top player was always in the center of the action, leading the Warriors in both scoring and rebounding. And what made her stand out even more was her ability to lead the defense.

She helped Franklin Towne reach the postseason in her final season. She’s unsure if she wants to continue her basketball career.

Coach of the Year

Jonathan Michels

Frankford

The Pioneers were one of the youngest teams in the Public League. But that didn’t matter.

Despite having a young lineup, Michels coached his Pioneers to a strong season. They won 15 games, including a playoff game, and went 8-3 against Public League foes.

Falling to Imhotep Charter, which the Pioneers did in the second round of the playoffs, is nothing to be ashamed of. And that game will help this team next year when it returns most of the players.

WRESTLING

Catholic League Wrestler of the Year

Rickie Melendez

Father Judge

The Crusaders had some strong wrestlers, but Melendez proved to be one of the great leaders of this team.

The senior finished with a 29-6 record and ended his career with 85 career wins. He likely would have joined the 100-win club if he had a freshman season.

For the year, Melendez scored 14 pins with four major decisions. He finished second in the All-Catholic tournament, falling to Jeffrey Spofford of Conwell-Egan in the finals.

Public League Wrestler of the Year

Deshawn Woodhouse

Northeast

The Vikings had a solid wrestling team this year, and were led by their junior 189-pounder who compiled a 29-9 record

Woodhouse, also a star football player, recorded 19 pins, a tech fall and three major decisions. He also had a huge hand in helping Northeast win another Public League championship.

He’ll return next year for his senior season.

Coach of the Year

Mike Siravo

Northeast

It’s not easy to build a program into one that is expected to produce championship after championship, but that’s what Siravo has done at Northeast.

This year, it didn’t start out that way. Northeast lost its first Public League match, falling to rival Central by 18 points. The Vikings turned the season around and went on to win another Public League championship.

The Vikings had some key pieces in place, but the bulk of the team consisted of inexperienced wrestlers, and Siravo turned the team into a championship squad in a couple of months.

Swimming

Boys Swimmer of the Year

Oleksandr Zholob

Philadelphia Academy Charter

Zholob wasn’t just one of the best swimmers in the area, he was one of the best in the state.

The junior was First-Team All-Public in the breaststroke. He also won a District 12 championship in the event and went on to finish fourth in the PIAA State AA Championship.

Zholob also excelled in other races. He finished second in the 50-yard freestyle in both the Public League and District 12.

Girls Swimmer of the Year

Claire Ciamiachelo

Philadelphia Academy Charter

For the second year in a row, the best swimmer in our area is Ciamiachelo, and she might have had an even better year this year.

The senior collected a lot of golds this year, taking first place in both the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard breaststroke at both the Public League and District 12 championships. 

She then went on to finish 13th in the 50 free and eighth in the 100 breaststroke at states.

Next year Ciamiachelo will continue her swimming career at La Salle University. 

Swimming Coach of the Year

Ed Roussel and T.J. Farrell

Nazareth Academy

The Pandas’ coaches made sure their swimmers took to the Catholic League.

Thanks to a great showing in both swimming and diving, the Pandas were able to win two championships in their first year of competition.

Nazareth first won the Catholic League championship, and followed that up with a District 12 championship. 

The team also posted great times in the race, including some personal records, showing the Pandas were swimming and diving at their best when it mattered most. 

Special Honorees

Bill Koch

Father Judge

If you’re a fan of the Crusaders, you’re a fan of Bill Koch. Because nobody is more Father Judge than the longtime coach.

An assistant football coach has done it all over the years for the Crusaders, and he might be the all-time winningest junior varsity coach in the country.

But what he’s taught kids about sports doesn’t scratch the surface of what he’s done for the school over the years. 

This year marks his 50th with the school. Koch isn’t about publicity. He’s there for the kids. But few have done as much as he’s done and anyone who played at Judge over the years in any sport will tell you that.

Dave Picariello

Father Judge

He didn’t play baseball, but nobody had a better eye than Dave Picariello.

The senior was one of the busiest people in all of sports. He served as the team photographer for just about every school. He did it last year when Judge won a state baseball championship, he was front and center when the soccer team ran roughshod through the Catholic League, he snapped photos at some of the biggest football games of the year and he was the man running the show at the Palestra when Judge returned this year.

Picariello not only gets great shots because he has a great eye, he takes great care in his work. Any athlete at Judge will tell you Dave made their athletic career better by capturing the highlights.

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