For the first time in 52 years, New York School for the Deaf’s Boy’s Basketball team, the Tornadoes, won the championship at the annual Eastern Schools for the Deaf Basketball Tournament this past weekend. The last time NYSD, known as Fanwood, had won this tournament was back in 1964 when they bested Pennsylvania School for the Deaf for the title.
At the start of the tournament, senior, Agron Deski, stepped onto the court vs. Ohio School for the Deaf knowing that he had a chance of scoring his 1000th career point. Earlier in the season, when asked if he was excited to achieve this goal, his thoughts were focused only on winning the ESDAA tournament. “I want to accomplish this dream, but scoring 1,000 points is not as important to me as winning the championship at the ESDAA tourney this February.” Assistant Coach and Fanwood Athletic Director John Diehl, noted at the time, “Agron is undoubtedly a great leader and team player, but I’m still rooting for him to attain the 1,000 points milestone while also pursuing his dream to win the championship.”
After winning over the West Virginia School for the Deaf in the semifinal on Saturday and before Sunday’s championship game against the American School for the Deaf from Connecticut, the NYSD team received inspiring words of encouragement from 2 alumni who were in their shoes 52 years ago. Harry Storch, captain and leader of the 1964 team and Stewart Gerlis, the current president of the Fanwood Alumni Association. The team went to the court fired up by Harry Storch’s words: “90% of this game is mental; the rest is physical. Make up your minds whether you want to win this game and then get out there and do it!”
After falling behind in the first two quarters, Fanwood took control of the game in the 3rd quarter and held on impressively the rest of the way. NYSD fans at the well-attended tournament erupted in excitement at the buzzer and stormed the court to celebrate the historic win.
Dr. Ron Stern, NYSD Superintendent, is so proud of these student-athletes. Never missing a game, Dr. Stern is as supportive and encouraging of the team as the coaches. When asked his thoughts after the tournament, Dr. Stern stated “It is said champions do not become champions when winning but in the hours, weeks and years in preparation prior to the victory. This is exactly the story of Fanwood’s historic, exhilarating championship of the prestigious Eastern Schools for the Deaf basketball tournament last weekend. In a testament to the time and effort our student athletes and their coaches and teachers have put forth in the classroom and on the court, we won the title. Such is the essence of the special school and community Fanwood is as it heads into its 200th year of meaningful existence.”
This victory comes at an exciting time for New York School for the Deaf, as they are just about to kick off a year-long series of events celebrating the school’s 200th anniversary.
84th Annual ESDAA Tournament Game Highlights
NYSD 55 vs. OSD 53
Seeded #1 in the tournament, NYSD opened the first round against #8 Ohio School for the Deaf, the Spartans. The team got off to a bad start as they were down 15-4 at the end of the first quarter. Refusing to give up, they played hard and were down by 7 at halftime.
The Spartans started the 2nd half ready to play, and NYSD once again struggled both offensively and defensively being down by 11 points at the start of the 4th quarter. NYSD picked up their speed of play and intensity on defense to finally catch up with Ohio near the end of the game to force overtime. Being down 5 points in overtime, Fanwood had to once again come from behind and with the help of probably Agron Deski’s most important points of his illustrious career, his 1000th point put Fanwood ahead for the first time in the whole game with about 35 seconds left. By eking out this hard-fought win, Fanwood advanced to the semifinals.
Deski- 20 pts, 11 rebounds, 2 assists
Banton- 18 pts, 11 rebounds, 1 block
Vega- 16 pts, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 8 steals, 1 block
Lora- 1 pt, 4 rebounds
NYSD 62 vs. WVSD 51
NYSD faced West Virginia School for the Deaf in the second round. Though hobbled by a badly sprained ankle incurred in the first game, it was mind over matter for Agron Deski. With Banton, Vega, Lora, and the rest of the team stepping up, they pulled ahead in the second quarter after falling behind at the start and built on their lead in the 3rd period to win handily. Point guard Carlos Vega led the team with 22 points.
Vega- 22 pts, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 5 steals
Banton- 15 pts, 9 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 block
Deski- 14 pts, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals
Lora- 6 pts, 2 rebounds
Pon – 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals
NYSD 48 vs. ASD 39
NYSD faced American School for the Deaf of Connecticut for the title in the third and final round of the tournament. The team had played ASD three previous times in the season, resulting in a 2-1 record in ASD’s favor. But this did not deter Fanwood’s determination or confidence going into the game.
After both teams got off to a slow start, ASD pulled ahead by 5 points at the end of the second quarter. After a pep talk from Coach Tegni and putting on a full court press, the team roared back in the second half winning the championship with a score of 48-39 with Deski bringing his superb all-around game and Owen Banton scoring 22 points and garnering 18 rebounds.
Owen – 22 pts, 18 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 blocks
Deski – 19 pts, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 6 steals
Vega – 7 pts, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 2 steals
Pon – 1 rebound, 2 assists, 5 steals
Tournament All Stars
Carlos Vega – 45 pts, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 15 steals, 1 block
Owen Banton – 55 pts, 38 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals, 3 blocks
Agron Deski – 43 pts, 30 rebounds, 9 assists, 10 steals
Senior Agron Deski was named tournament Most Valuable Player