St. Thomas Aquinas High School and Middle School (STA) proudly welcomed its 2013-2014 State Runner-Up Boys Basketball team back home on Friday, December 16. The team and coaches were invited to a reception in the STA Board Room and were honored before the varsity boys’ basketball game versus Rootstown High School.
The dynamic team was led by head coach Matt Hackenburg, and assistant coaches John Dempsey, Greg Duplin, and Lee Foster. Joe Pellegrene was also a coach. They won district championships in 2013 and 2014 and became Stark County's runaway team of the decade among the lower enrollment divisions.
In 2013, the team scored a 104-43 win in the Division II sectional finals. They reached the Sweet 16 before falling 54-50 to Beachwood. In 2014, they competed in Division IV and rose to the state finals, with an 11-11 regular season record. In the district tournament, they overcame McDonald by a score of 90-48 and earned a 58-37 victory over Cornerstone Christian in the regional semifinals. The team then advanced to the final four with a hard-fought 52-50 win against Richmond Heights. They met Harvest Prep with a 54-41 victory until falling to Convoy Crestview in the state title game.
Notable players included Austin Hill (first-team All-Ohio), Daniel Piero, Sam Pusateri, Jacob Paul, and Frank DiMarzio. Gino Pellegrene, Logan Newman, Bryson Knott, Michael Sommers, Andrew Duplin, and Jaret Knox also helped lead the charge. Other team members included Anthony Moeglin, Zayin Richards, Pete Ruthe, Jimmy Donnelly, Brad Duplin, Cullen Smith, Trent Davis, and Brandon Bihlman.
“Aquinas has had a lot of success throughout its history on the basketball court,” said Nick Stanek, STA Athletic Director. “This group of young men was the driving force that began a run of five straight district championships. They are a perfect representation of Aquinas’s motto of Truth, Scholarship, and Excellence.”
Stanek adds that following the school’s team's successes last season, it seemed to be the right time to properly recognize and honor this team that carried Aquinas to the State Championship game.
“We are proud and honored to welcome them back home to Aquinas where they ‘showed the way’ to be champions, on and off the court,” proclaimed Stanek.