Eight seconds remained in the finals of the annual St. Agnes Christmas basketball tournament when Oceanside’s Keaton Levine got the ball and heaved what proved to be the game-winning shot.
“The kids went bonkers,” recalled Frank Wassenbergh, the head coach of the Oceanside sixth-grade CYO basketball team. “The place went nuts, the kids went nuts. For sixth-graders, this was their first real taste of competitive action.”
Upstart Oceanside outlasted six teams in its bracket to win the tournament, which was held from Dec. 26 through 30, and had to win three games. Oceanside faced host St. Agnes in the finals, and after jumping out to an early 13-0 lead, it found itself all tied up late in the fourth quarter. That’s when Keaton sank the winning bucket to ice the game, 34-33.
A last-ditch effort by St. Agnes was snuffed out by Wassenburg’s son, Dylan, who corralled a defensive rebound with one second left in the game and held the ball until the buzzer sounded, which was followed by an uproar from the Oceanside faithful in attendance.
Owen Joyce, a starting point guard who overcame frequently being double teamed by the opposition to put on stellar performances, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, while Dylan and Matt Monfileto were named All-Tournament players. Dylan had nine steals in the championship game, while Matt contributed eight rebounds.
“The tournament for them was a real confidence booster as we head into the meat of our season,” said Wassenbergh, who coaches the team with his assistant, John Hunt.
To prepare for the tournament, the team woke up early and weathered the blistering December weather by participating in two outdoor practices leading up to it. The team comprises 12 players who are 11-years-old, and half of whom are first-year players.
“These kids are all energy and all hustle,” Hunt said, referring to the championship performance. “They feed off each other and this was a game that we built up the momentum early and didn’t let up.”
Wassenbergh lauded his team for its all-around effort, including those who came off the bench and Will “Magic” Purrman, who had many defensive rebounds and a big bucket to put Oceanside up by 5 late. Wassenburgh added that he believed that after the tournament, the playoffs are a real possibility for his squad, and noted that his priority is for the players to learn the right way to play the sport with effort and heart.
“Our motto is play smart, play hard and play together,” he said.