Playing basketball involves more than placing the ball in the hoop. Successful teams have that special ingredient called chemistry.
Such is the case for most of the Clearwater for Youth AAU girls teams. Since its start in 1992, the CFY program has grown to accommodate girls from the 10-and-under to 18-and-under age divisions.
"I think our program has helped the girls and the schools throughout the area," said Claire Peacock, volunteer coordinator since 1992. "The girls have not just improved, but they have made friends interacting with one another."
Helen Peacock, Sarah McDaniels, Angie Koulianos and Sarah Vollbracht have participated in the CFY/AAU program since 1992 and will be the organization's first graduates this year. Two years ago they helped win CFY's first girls state championship.
Last weekend in Venice, the 18, 13 and 11 age groups won among teams from Venice, St. Petersburg, Orlando and Naples.
Contributing to the 18s' success along with Peacock, McDaniels, Koulianos and Vollbracht were Tine Gillems, Lisa Cronauer, Molly Worrell, Carrie Rulison, Monique Heatly, Allsion Lamb and Aimee Sodencamp.
"These girls have not only improved, but they've had fun and made friends," said Lester McDaniels, the team's coach. "I'm proud of them, their abilities and their successes."
The 13s, coached by Jon East, are two-time state champions who also have competed at the AAU Nationals the last two years.
Competing in the 15s division at the Venice competition, CFY was led by Shauna Danford, Megan East, Linae Gillems, Jennifer Hansen, Bernice Mosby, Kelleigh O'Neill, Dominique Redding, Kelcey Roegiers-Jensen and Erin Vierling. The team won four consecutive games on its way to the title.
"What makes this team so special is that all nine girls can play at this level, and they all make it happen," said East. "In Venice, we saw them come together and play four outstanding games. They showed they're ready to try to defend our title."
Kathy Shaneyfelt's 11s team won both last month's CFY Shootout and the Venice tournament.
"Although this is my first year with these girls, I knew they had the potential and chemistry to win," said Shaneyfelt. "Our strength is in our defense and the fact that our top scorers run pretty evenly among our starters."
Rosanne Tullo, Nicole Ryan, Karley Counts, Nicole Miller, Laura Jurgens and Karen Braden are the team's top players while Rachel Hammond, Katie Platt, Lisa Portmann, Megan Procaccio, Sarah Weaver and Brittni Zimmerman also contribute on both offense and defense.
MORE GIRLS BASKETBALL: Nicole Ryan, 11, of Safety Harbor finished 11th in the Elks Hoop Shoot National Championships last month in Springfield, Mass. About 750,000 youths competed beginning at the local level.
BOYS BASKETBALL: Last month, the Clearwater All Stars 12-and-under team and the St. Pete Beach Bombers 13-and-under squad won their divisions in the Lakers Invitational at Mount Dora.
For the All Stars, Trevor Bing, Chip Brinkman, Spiros Ferderigos, Luke Postorino and Tim Ryan were leaders in the team's success and were joined by Ryan Cowans, Jeremy Hopper, Kyle Johnson, Julius Oie, Ryan Repp and Bradley Sommerville.
The Bombers include Marquell Brooks, Jimmy Fricker, Jorden Kolosey, Brian Leclere, Kyle Masterson, Lasting Milledge, Chad Rodosevich, Lerue Rumph, Jamon Sanders, Lance Skipper and Deon Troupe.
FENCING: Andrew Stroud won the open foil and open sabre competitions at the West Coast Duel 1998 meet. Also winning were Jimmy Malone in the under-11 and under-13 foil, Jessica Blake the D-and-under foil and Patrick Konder the under-15 foil.
Samuel Pullara, Chuck Allen and Mark Steele were vets division winners, as were Pam Talley in women's sabre, Marianne Bosco in women's and D-and-under epee, and Keith Biggs in open epee.
SOFTBALL: Countryside Little League's Senior League team won the LLBB softball Tournament last month in Dunedin. Pitcher Jessica Brinkman was assisted by Laura Falla, Brooke Johannessen, Erin Brunt, Katie Caugell, Ashley Cole, Becky Watkins, Sara Shaw, Chris Tremblay, Erin Stoner, Heather McBroom, Talah Nikjeh, Lindsey Marconi and Alicia Hagenau. The team was undefeated among 22 teams.
GIRLS GYMNASTICS: This weekend, Jacqueline Smith, Kim Conaway, Denise Wedin, Lara Straub, Heather Nerad, Jayne Lauricella, Tatiana Yepes and Julie Corder are in Atlanta, Ga., competing in the Level 8 Regional Championships.
Next weekend in Seattle, Wash., Ashley Shible, Tara Tagliarino, Lindsay Beddow, Jana Gallagher, Krissy Dreger, Lisa Campaniani, Lauren Bernloehr, Emily Earle, Margaret Dann, Lauren Campanioni and Jacqueline Pallardy will compete in the Level 10 nationals.
The Clearwater YMCA Aerials Gymnastics Team competed in last month's YMCA Sunshine League state meet and Kaila Johnston and Christy Hinz took firsts. Ashley Colson, Juliet Norton and Courtney Dean were second.
BOYS GYMNASTICS: Duke VanVleet and Jason Pierce travel to Battle Creek, Mich., next weekend for the men's national championships. VanVleet was third all-around in last month's regional qualifier and Pierce was fourth. Also, Joshua Abdalla was seventh all-around in Class 4 in the regional meet, Alex Khoury was seventh in Class 3, and Colin Christ was fifth in Class 4.
DIVING: Dunedin High senior Sarah Close, 17, was five points shy of winning the 1-meter diving title in the U.S. Diving East Junior National Championships in Atlanta, Ga., last weekend. Close has signed a letter of intent with the University of Houston.
Also in the Georgia meet was Austin Hampton, 11, who was 11th in the 13-and-under 3-meter competition and 12th in the 1-meter board competition.
Close and Hampton both train with the Suncoast Diving Club.