At Immaculate Conception Regional Catholic School in Cranston, basketball is more than a game.
It’s night practices that include classroom meetings filled with life’s lessons centering on behavior, respect, proper conduct on-and-off the court and even heart-tugging videos like The Blind Side instead of chalk talks and diagramming of offenses and defenses that are intended to help the Saints develop into well-rounded student-athletes.
It’s practices in the gymnasium featuring a variety of drills done to music that help the Saints develop quickness and learn when you do something, do it right.
It’s the philosophy of Johnston resident David DelFino, the Saints’ head coach who doubles as Immaculate’s physical education teacher, that he learned during his younger years as a standout and captain at Bishop Hendricken High School, which he led to state championships in 2006-2007 and 2007-2008.
DelFino, who runs well-organized and upbeat practices and seems to never stop coaching, stresses that his players “become better people before becoming better basketball players and that the process is more important than the outcome.”
As for the Saints season, it was nothing less than super and special.
IC started the season 1-3 in the Rhode Island Catholic Athletic League’s Grammar Division that features players in grades seven and eight. Then, the Saints picked up their second win that mushroomed into an 8-game winning streak and regular season 9-3 record and berth in the annual CAL state tournament.
The best, though, was yet to come.
IC, which was seeded third, knocked off two favored opponents – St. Augustine’s of Providence in the first round then upset previously undefeated and top-seeded St. Joseph’s of West Warwick – to gain a berth in Saturday’s state championship versus St. Philomena of Portsmouth.
Unfortunately, the Cinderella season stopped Saturday, as IC was on the short end of a 45-32 loss.
However, DelFino wanted it known there’s no need to shed tears.
“To us, it was about the ride more than the destination,” he offered. “This is the best group of kids I’ve coached in all my years doing this. Their character, work ethic and respect for everyone have been unrivaled since we started in September. I couldn’t be more proud of a group of young men.”
DelFino, who once worked in the Johnston Recreation Department before taking over the Athletic Director’s post at Johnston High School and Ferri Middle School prior to arriving at Immaculate Conception and has extensive youth coaching experience, added while consoling his players: “We have grown so much as individuals and as a family together. We have learned so much from each other and have working extremely hard which will help these boys become successful in all aspects of their lives.”
It’s that sort of approach to the game that has earned the DelFino-led Immaculate Conception Saints praise from people like Stephen Martin, the Catholic Athletic League Athletic Director.
“What a great run for IC,” Martin said during Saturday’s championship that was played inside the packed Wellness Athletic Center at St. Mary’s Academy Bay View in East Providence. “David has been a mentor for his basketball team on and off the court. He stresses discipline, respect and hard work from his team and has earned respect and accolades from the administration at Immaculate Conception School and from opposing teams and coaches.”
So, the 11 boys that represented IC in the 2017-2018 CAL basketball season, will remember their impressive ride to nearly the summit, just as teams in the upset-marked NCAA have done during March Madness.
IC’s eight grade starters Chris Leek Connor Kennedy and Will Sampson will move on and take with them memories of what they’ve learned this season.
Likewise, seventh graders starters Anthony Corsinetti, the son of Johnston High girls’ basketball coach Chris Corsinetti, will be back and look forward to another season at IC.
However, each member of the Saints – Owen Smith, Tommy Choun, Caleb Fitzgerald, Steven Meloni, Elijah Nyahkoon, Brady Mcgloin, Anthony Corsinetti, Dylan Leung, Connor Kennedy, Will Sampson, Chris Lee, Colby Kuzman and Colin Naughton will never forget the lessons they’ve learned this season in the classroom and on the basketball court.
“Memories and teachings,” people like Martin will readily attest, “that they’ve passed with flying colors and done so with respect for their school, their teachers, their coaches and super support they’ve received form their families through it all!”