IRVINGTON – Pelham head coach Tim Pitrulle and Irvington head coach Gina Maher made a friendly agreement two years ago to do home-and-home matchups over the next two years — one home game for each.
The Pelicans went to Irvington last year, and Pitrulle was “assuming” Pelham would host the Bulldogs this season. When Irvington’s scheduled filled up, Maher proposed a counteroffer: an invite to Irvington’s annual Autism Classic.
Pitrulle didn’t hesitate to accept.
“I was like, ‘Hell yeah, of course I’ll come,’ ” he said. “It’s got a special place for me because my cousin has a child that’s autistic, so I was like, ‘Absolutely. No problem at all.’ ”
For the past seven years, the Classic has combined exceptional girls basketball with an even better cause.
The high school donates the gym and the staff is made up of volunteers, and for just $5 fans can enjoy four games of hoops. For a little extra they can try their luck in any one of the four 50-50 raffles. Edgemont coach Mike Tracy provided team shirts for the eight participants, and John Girolamo offers his DJ services free of charge.
“I doubt that there’s a person in the world that doesn’t know somebody that is affected by autism,” Maher said after the Bulldogs’ 59-45 win, which wrapped up the all-day event. “Sometimes we forget about the people themselves. All the money that we earn here go to group homes, or to programs, or to classrooms that people who suffer from autism or have autism will be direct recipients of.”
Maher is a Westchester County Sports Hall of Famer with more than 600 wins to her credit, but for this one day out of the season, it’s not about wins and losses.
“It’s about paying it forward, paying back, or awareness,” she said. “I think it’s very important to teach kids that you have to give back.”
Ursuline jump-started the event with a thrilling 54-53 win over Rye to open the day. The Koalas stole the ball with 4.4 seconds left to seal the win, their second over a state-ranked ranked team this week.
“We’re still trying to find ourselves, offensively,” Garnets head coach Dennis Hurlie said. “We had a bunch of turnovers in transition — unnecessary ones, unforced ones that really hurt us — and we missed eight free throws. When you total that up, and you’re playing against a good team, it equals a tough loss.”
Pearl River defeated Carmel in the second game of the day, 61-45, playing without forward Lauren Gallagher, who was at a soccer luncheon in Baltimore accepting recognition for her all-America status.
“I told her, ‘It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, don’t even think twice,’ ” Pirates head coach Chris Woolgar said.
Valhalla topped Edgemont 61-47 in the third game of the day.