Cinella, Lafave lead latest Girls Basketball Hall of Fame class
Berkshire County's Girls Basketball Hall of Fame will induct its second class Saturday, Feb. 8 -- with arguably the most decorated coaching duo in the county's sports history.
Longtime Lee girls basketball coach Tom Cinella and longtime Lenox boys and girls coach Fred Lafave are the two coaches in the 14-member Class of 2014, which will be honored Feb. 8 at Taconic High School.
Between the two men, they won eight state championships. Cinella won six with the Lee girls, while Lafave won with both the Millionaire boys and girls. He is the only coach in Massachusetts history to win state crowns leading both boys and girls teams.
"Of course, it's a nice honor, and it's good to be going in with an outstanding coach like Tom Cinella," Lafave, 76, said Tuesday.
Cinella, when reached Tuesday, said he felt the same.
"He and I coached against each other for a long time," the coach said. "That's certainly an honor to be brought in with Coach Lafave. He has a great passion for the game. He's a gentleman."
Like Lafave, Cinella also coached boys basketball. He coached the Lee boys before making the move to the girls team.
The induction ceremony is part of an all-day basketball event at Taconic. A free youth clinic, open to all players and teams, will take place in the gym from 10 a.m. until noon. The induction ceremony is at 3 p.m., with this year's Hall of Fame Game, Lee's girls vs. Taconic, being played at 3:30 p.m.
Both Cinella's and Lafave's teams are also represented in this year's class, which includes players from as far back as the 1940s, and as recently as the early 2000s. Lenox standout Abigail Lemanski was one of Lafave's top players in the 1990s, and is a member of the county's career 1,000-point club.
"There's no secret to being outstanding. Abby was a real hard worker," Lafave said. "Came in every day and worked hard in practice, and that runs over to the game."
Cinella will be joined in the hall by 1990s Lee standout and 1,000-point scorer A.J. Skowron. After becoming a state champion with Cinella's Wildcats, Skowron went on to play at Assumption College.
"A.J. could be a distributor of the basketball but when she knew it was her time to score, she would go to the hoop," Cinella said. "She made really, really big plays. She always seemed to remain extremely calm under pressure."
The class also includes players who are teaching what they learned as high schoolers to the current Berkshire County standouts. Courtney Shepard, a member of Pittsfield's back-to-back Western Mass. Division I championship teams and state runners-up in 2001 and 2002, is now an assistant on Joe Racicot's staff at PHS.
Pittsfield's all-time leading girls scorer with 1,498 points, Shepard mostly works with the post players, and does a lot of work on defense and rebounding with the current Generals. She always considered herself to be most effective in the post, and sees current General Lauren Carnevale as the player who is the most like she was.
"Lauren, just because she really goes for everything," Shepard said. "She's not scared. She's pretty much an animal on the court."
One of Shepard's college teammates will join her in the Class of 2014. Drury standout Katlyn Cunningham, who scored 1,265 points in her Blue Devil career and was a teammate of Shepard's at Union (N.Y.), is the other inductee from the 2000s.
"She's one of my best friends, too," Shepard said. "When Coach Racicot told me she was being inducted, I was excited. In the same year, we get to celebrate [induction].
"She was just really quick, and faster than most post players. Somehow, she always got to the basket and was able to finish."
Shepard will join her high school coach, the late Bob O'Neil, in the Hall of Fame. With this class, the Hall grows to 32 members. Lafave joins former Lenox standout Samantha Herrick, a 2013 inductee.
"I think it's good to honor them," Lafave -- the father of current Lenox girls coach Nicole Patella, and the grandfather of current Lenox boys player Bailey Patella -- said. "Sometimes they don't get a lot of recognition, although girls basketball has really improved over the years, to a point now where it's highly competitive."
"A lot of the young ladies on that list played against me," Cinella said. "I'm glad to see they're being recognized."
Other inductees are:
• Hoosac Valley: Nicky Vallieres, 1990s
• Monument Mountain: Lauren Pelligrino, 1990s
• Mount Everett: Sue Carpenter, 1980s; Jen Bennett, 1990s
• St. Joseph: Peg Kirby, 1940s
• Taconic: Maureen Michaels, 1990s
• Wahconah: Shannon Hoosick, 1990s
• Contributor: Official/assignor Mike Kinne, Great Barrington
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