JV Sharks wrap up local Christmas tourney with title-game win over Naples

The Gulf Coast High junior varsity team makes it known who won the Seacrest Christmas Tournament after Saturday night's 68-61 win over Naples at St. John Neumann. GREGG HARDY/CSI


The Gulf Coast High School boys basketball program is bursting with holiday cheer.

After guiding the Sharks’ varsity squad to an unbeaten run through the Gateway Holiday Tournament, first-year coach Rob New caught the junior varsity team wrap up the Seacrest Christmas Tournament on Saturday night at St. John Neumann.

The two-day, eight-team JV event was co-hosted by Seacrest Country Day School and St. John Neumann. It featured six Collier County schools (Seacrest Country Day, Neumann, Gulf Coast, Naples, Golden Gate and First Baptist Academy) and included two freshman teams (Gulf Coast and Naples).

Gulf Coast held off a feisty Naples squad, 68-61, to win the championship. Earlier Saturday, the Sharks beat Seacrest in its own gym, 60-43. (Gulf Coast opened the tournament Friday with a 48-45 win over First Baptist — also played at Seacrest.)

Gulf Coast’s Mike Abruzzese launches — and makes — a shot from half court at the end of the first quarter. GREGG HARDY/CSI

Both New and Naples High varsity coach Garrett Hull were spectators on their teams’ respective benches for most of Saturday night’s title game. (While New was driving back from Fort Myers, Hull enjoyed the short five- to 10-minute drive from Golden Gate High, where his team had just won its final Kelleher Firm Gulfshore Holiday Hoopfest game to go 2-1 in the top-flight event).

During a timeout, though, in the game’s last tension-filled minutes, the varsity coaches big-footed their JV counterparts and took over in the huddle. Sharks JV coach Andrew Grillo didn’t seem to mind. He likes what’s going on with the boys program from top to bottom. (The varsity team has won seven straight following a 1-3 start.)

“We’ve got a new coach, we’ve got a new program, a new mentality,” Grillo said, “and it’s infectious from all three programs (freshmen included), especially JV and varsity. It’s exciting times coming up for Gulf Coast.”

PHOTO GALLERY: View images from the SJN-Naples and Gulf Coast-Naples games

Grillo called the tournament “a great test in the middle of the season.” His sentiments were shared by event organizer and Neumann JV coach Dan Ross, who said the tourney was created to help players stay sharp over Christmas break and to keep them invested in their respective school’s basketball program.

Mike Abruzzese, who sank a halfcourt bomb — “I knew it was going in,” he said — at the end of the first quarter to give Gulf Coast a 21-18 lead, was asked if this championship gives the Sharks bragging rights among all of Collier County’s JV teams.

“To us it does. I’m not sure if any other teams think that,” Abruzzese said.

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