TRR photos by Ted Waddell

500 + 1000 = 1500 games. Seward’s Rob Gravelle and Roscoe’s Fred Ahart

A Millennial Milestone + 500 Games

“It’s still all about the kids playing the game.” Fred Ahart

ROSCOE, NY — What better way to celebrate a 1,000th and 500th career basketball game than a matchup between friendly rivals.

On Wednesday, December 5, that’s exactly what happened as Fred Ahart, the Blue Devils legendary coach squared off against Rob Gravelle from S.S. Seward in a league varsity game of hoops that respectively paid homage to a combined total of 1,500 basketball games

As Ahart posted his landmark record of 1,000 games in sectional history, on the other side of the court, Spartans coach Gravelle marked his 500th game at the helm.

Talk about a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat, hold on to your butt for dear life race to the finish line in this landmark barn burner.

It all came down to a ‘three-pointer’, with fractions of a minute left on the game clock, and the Spartans up by one. The home team’s Nickolas “Nikki” Breihof nailed a ‘three’ from beyond the arch.

A teammate racked one in from the free throw line to give Ahart a come-from-behind victory as a way to celebrate victory in a gym named a few years ago in his honor as the “‘Coach’ Fred Ahart Gymnasium.”

With the 54-52 win, the home team hoopsters posted a homecoming win, as a fitting tribute to their high school coach in this tightly-knit community where sports are a touchstone and way of life.

Above it all hangs a series of pennants displaying the accomplishments of Roscoe’s scholar athletes, and because this story is about the legions of boys’ varsity bucketeers that Ahart has coached since his first game on November 21, 1969, this is a fine opportunity to recount their notable records.

Western Sullivan League (WSL) championships: 1983-1984, 1984-1985 (undefeated), 1985-1986 (undefeated), 1988-1989, and 1997-1998.

New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Section IX Class D championships: 1983-1984, 1985-1986, and 1997-1998.

Seward’s long-time coach has led the Spartans to Section IX tournament competition every year since he took over the helm, all the while racking up 21 winning seasons, 17 Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA) titles, 8 sectional crowns and the 2003 NYS Class D championship.

Before the opening tip-off, Becky Ahart in her long-time role as sports announcer at “The Home of the Blue Devils,” addressed the crowd. “These two coaches have not only coached against one another, but they work together on the Section IX basketball committee as co-chairmen, and both men have been inducted into the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame…”

“They have supported each other over the years, and their families have become good friends…the competition has always been friendly, yet very competitive,” she added.

Fred Ahart was inducted into the Basketball Coach’s Association of New York (BCANY) Hall of Fame in 2009, while Becky was also honored in 2015. Gravelle was inducted earlier this year.

In the wake of the game, Ahart has posted a 471-529 career record, while Gravelle has amassed a career record of 374 wins and 126 losses.

As part of the mid-court ceremony during Ahart’s golden anniversary as Roscoe’s head varsity basketball coach and athletic director, several students performed musical selections under the guidance of the school’s music director Kelly Bullis.

And then it was time for Roscoe’s superintendent to present the coaches with personalized ceremonial basketballs engraved with their landmark records.

“It’s always great to coach here against Fred, he’s a great man, a role model for every coach,” said Gravelle.

“He’s fantastic, coaching at these small schools. If we weren’t playing here tonight, I would have been in the stands watching.”

Gravelle said the first game he coached was against the Wildcats of Livingston Manor in 1995, but he didn’t recall the score.

“We won, I remember that,” he said.

Fred Ahart lost his first game as a varsity helmsman, but that never stopped his love of the game of hoops.

Afterwards, he summed up his take on the game against the Spartans.

“No matter if it was his 500th or my 1,000th, it’s still all about the kids playing the game, that’s the most important thing,” said Ahart.

According to Ahart, after he checked out his scorebook for his first year as coach of the Blue Devils, the refs on record for officiating his first victory were Paul Zintel and Charlie Hecker…but once again that’s another story, Roscoe having defeated the Franciscan Friars of Saint Joseph’s Seraphic Seminary of Callicoon NY.

One thing about sitting in the stands and hanging out with the fans after a game, is that you get to hear a lot of stories. That’s the stuff that makes a sports column interesting.

Jerry Davitt, has been wearing a striped ref’s uniform for decades and he was up in the bleachers taking in the game.

“I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, we’ve been friends for so many years…the WSL was so great back then, so much competition with [only] seven teams...everybody knew everybody, and it was very competitive,” he said.

Bill Hendrickon of Roscoe was part of Ahart’s team when the Blue Devil’s new coach first took to the court in ’69 against the Comets.

“It was a great game. We played Fallsburg…they had a tremendous team, but we stayed with them for at least the first half…then they started opening up on us,” he recalled.

“Back then the game was a lot different. The game now is much faster…a lot more transitions than it was back then.”

Kevin Feeney played basketball and football for Ahart ‘back in the day’ as a point guard and quarterback/middle linebacker, respectively.

He said his folks moved to Roscoe from Brooklyn when he was in the fourth grade, and starting as an eighth grader, took to the fields of athletic competition under the watchful eye of “Coach” Ahart.

“Through the years he became a mentor, and then a great friend…he took everybody under his wing…this community is very grateful to have someone like him.”

Feeney said his most memorable basketball game while wearing a Blue Devils jersey was against neighboring Livingston Manor, in a match where the “scoreboard went out, and we had to use little flip cards (to keep score).”

“There was a lot of controversy over the whole game…the clock and the scoring…but Roscoe won by a little over 20 points,” he added, noting he was part of the squad that in 1983-1984 won the WSL championship and Section IX Class D title.

“Back then, coach was ‘coach’,” said Feeney of Ahart. “He’s come a long way, he’s a legend. I’m proud to be a part of what he’s accomplished over the years…coach opened up to everybody, and I learned respect from him.”

“We were never scared to go out there, as long as we gave it our best...respect all teams, fear none,” he said.

For a sidebar of the game, click here.


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