For five years, St. Thomas More Catholic School in Bethel Park has held a regional basketball tournament in November.
It gives the young players from a dozen local Catholic elementary schools a warm-up for the coming season, and the tournament is the major fundraiser for all athletic sports at St. Thomas More, which is at 134 Fort Couch Road.
This year, however, Robert Locastro, a school parent who is organizing the tournament, wanted to make it a community event.
So he's recruited speakers, cheerleading and dance teams and bicycle trick performers to make it more entertaining.
Agnus Berenato, head coach of the University of Pittsburgh women's basketball team, will be the opening speaker Nov. 16, the first day of the tournament. Games will be played Friday, Saturday and Sunday for two weekends in a row.
Mrs. Berenato has revived the women's basketball program at Pitt since taking over in 2003, and the team competes with the best in the country. She comes from a Catholic family of 10 children and is a big supporter of Catholic education. Mrs. Berenato and her husband have five grown children.
"She will stress the importance of hard work, discipline and setting goals to reach your dreams," Mr. Locastro said.
On Nov. 18, Theresa Nuzzo, head coach for the Pitt cheerleaders and dance team, will speak, and cheerleaders will perform. The Bishop Canevin High School cheerleaders and dance team also will perform.
Kevin Varley, a past tournament planner, has organized some 30 junior varsity and varsity girls and boys teams to play in the tournament. Sixth-graders play on the junior varsity teams, and seventh- and eighth-graders play varsity.
In addition to St. Thomas More teams, students from these local schools are among those participating: St. Gabriel, Whitehall; St. Louise de Marillac, Upper St. Clair; St. Bonaventure, Glenshaw; Sacred Heart, Pittsburgh; Our Lady of Grace, Scott; St. Bernard, Mt. Lebanon; St. Anne, Castle Shannon; John F. Kennedy, Washington; St. Margaret, Green Tree; St. Alphonsus, Wexford; St. Mary, Glenshaw; St. Elizabeth, Baldwin Borough; and Bethel Park School District girls JV team. One team is coming from Akron, Ohio.
Mr. Locastro, 46, graduated from St. Thomas More in 1980 and grew up in Bethel Park. He is a periodontal dentist and lives in Venetia with his wife, Janet, and four children. His two oldest attend St. Thomas, where he coaches the third-grade girls basketball team and the cross-country team.
"This is about giving back," he said of the tournament. "The education I received was the groundwork for becoming the man I am today."
Sports are an integral part of school life at St. Thomas More, Mr. Locastro said; more than 80 percent of the 425 students from preschool to eighth grade participate in some sport.
During halftime of the games, there will be half-court shot contests. There will also be basket raffles and concession stands.
Admission is $3, $1 for children; family passes are available.neigh_south
Debra Duncan, freelance writer: email@example.com.