Leading off today:
"When you played for Mr. O'Rourke, you felt like you could do anything."
That was former Webster basketball player Matt Spadoni's observation on retired coach Bill O'Rourke Jr., who died Tuesday at the age of 72.
"He believed in people," Spadoni said. "He always made a special effort to who ever he was talking to, to No. 1, feel comfortable, and No. 2, feel better."
O'Rourke, a draft pick of the New York Knicks coming out of college, coached from middle school and up for 44 years, including 35 seasons with varsity squads after his father coached at Webster Thomas for 28 years. He rolled up 468 victories and a pair of Section 5 championships before retiring in 2013.
One of the more telling O'Rourke stories involved the 1986 Section 5 Class AAA semifinals at the Rochester War Memorial. Coaches at Aquinas, an upstart with little history of success in the basketball tournament but fresh off an upset of East High, misunderstood the procedure for assigning home and visiting teams in each round and showed up for the game against Webster wearing the wrong uniforms.
By rule, Webster was entitled to a pair of technical free throws for every Aquinas player who entered the game, beginning with the five starters. That could have put Webster ahead by 10 points before the opening tip, but O'Rourke would have none of it. He declined the opportunity to shoot the free throws.
Webster lost that night, 63-60.
Volleyball assistant dies: Longtime Sachem North assistant boys volleyball coach Matthew "Dezy" DiStefano died Monday, a year after being diagnosed with kidney cancer. He was 42.
DiStefano started the Dezy Strong Foundation in August to provide opportunities for cancer patients to have access to experiences that "directly affect a positive mental well-being," according to the organization's website. Since its launch, the foundation has held events with the NHL's New York Islanders, the Hofstra volleyball program and the Sachem East High School football team.
DiStefano was a special education teacher at Sachem North. His coaching career included 14 seasons as the assistant volleyball coach.
A triple for Tuohy: North Rockland distance star Katelyn Tuohy has been selected Gatorade's New York girls cross country runner of the year for the third consecutive year.
It was the fifth statewide Gatorade honor for Tuohy, who has been selected the girls track and field performer of the year in her sophomore and junior seasons. She's also been selected the national cross country runner of the year twice, earned the honor once and was selected Gatorade's overall athlete of the year for the 2017-18 school year.
Her latest honor makes Tuohy the third New York girl to three-peat. Basketball player Nicole Kaczmarski won three straight Gatorade awards beginning in 1997 and Rush-Henrietta middle distance runner Sammy Watson achieved the same feat in outdoor track beginning in 2015.
Two unbeatens fall: Senior Riley Stella scored 26 points as York defeated Red Jacket 69-66 in a non-league boys basketball game.
Red Jacket had entered the contest unbeaten and ranked eighth in the state in Class C by the New York State Sportswriters Association. York is listed in the honorable mentions.
"We scheduled this game on the road because last year (at this time) I felt that we weren't tough enough," said York coach Ed Orman Jr.. "Hopefully nights like this make us tougher."
In girls action, East Aurora handed Iroquois its first loss of the season, 51-48. Iroquois (10-1) won the first meeting between the teams 47-31.
Sophomore Haley Potenza made all three free throws after she was fouled on a 3-point try with 50 seconds left to put East Aurora ahead 50-48. She scored all 16 of her points