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Fledging Leonia CYO Basketball Team Rejuvinates Program With Perfect Season

First Row (L-R): Evelisse Castro, Syndey Araujo, Sade Adeyeri, Nina Giannantonio. Middle Row (L-R): Tobias Hammid, Elijah McLean, Dylan Gallagher, Tade Adeyeri, Jack Sclafane, Tristan Perri. Top Row: Coach Lenno McLean
First Row (L-R): Evelisse Castro, Syndey Araujo, Sade Adeyeri, Nina Giannantonio. Middle Row (L-R): Tobias Hammid, Elijah McLean, Dylan Gallagher, Tade Adeyeri, Jack Sclafane, Tristan Perri. Top Row: Coach Lenno McLean Photo Credit: Jamie Sclafane

LEONIA, N.J. — Leonia's St. John the Evangelist’s Eagles ran the table in the northern New Jersey CYO league to finish 12-0 on Friday.

The perfect season by the group of ten kindergarten, first and second grade children comes despite declining interest in CYO basketball at St. John the Evangelist Parish, which closed its catholic school in 2013 due to low registration numbers.

"After watching this team I have a renewed love for the game of basketball," said 10-year Coach, Lenno McLean. "This team turned something that felt like a chore into something I cherished."

McLean, a union worker in New York, said when he first started coaching at St. John's the parish fielded CYO teams for all grade levels up to eighth grade.

Before this season, McLean said he was unsure he would be able to fill out his roster.

"Finding kids to sign up has been a struggle yearly," said the Paterson native, whose son, Elijah, plays on the team.

McLean, 38, believes his team's performance comes from their love of the game.

"They are dedicated," he said. "They played defense and they have fun out there.

"I hope our team can revive the program. Maybe these kids' younger brothers and sisters will want to play after they saw how much fun we had this year."

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