2017 FOCA National Basketball Recap

A “wild and wonderful” national basketball tournament was hosted by the Weirton “O” Club of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Weirton, West Virginia over the weekend of April 28-30. This was the chapter’s very first national event – the activities were a “slam dunk” thanks to event chair Dr. John Schultz, past national president, and his hardworking committee. It was also the Fellowship’s first “tri-state” national event ever held. Even with 3 venues in 3 different states, the convenience and proximity of everything were excellent (which way on Route 22??).

Friday evening saw a delicious buffet in the lovely church hall. An unexpected glitch was quickly remedied by the wonderful “chefs” who managed in short order to get boxed dinners to the road weary travelers from Minnesota. So great to see them make it to Weirton! And after dinner, players enjoyed games and improvised activities on the parish grounds.

Beginning early Saturday morning, the basketball games were played across the Ohio River at Steubenville High School (new & old gyms) in nearby Steubenville, Ohio. Father Andrew Nelko (who officially became pastor of St. Nicholas Church in June after graduating from St. Tikhon’s Seminary in May) led the opening prayer and singing of “Christ is Risen.” The facilities were great but oh, those steps! The games were competitive and included several overtime thrillers!

Melanie Clark, national sports director, ably ran the tourney (Editor’s note: assisted by Michele all the way from Florida). Players hailed from Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey and even Minnesota as St. Mary’s Cathedral in Minneapolis sent a bus supervised by Father Benjamin Tucci, junior department director.

After the games (and a heavy thunderstorm), vespers was served by Fr. Nelko at the church (back in WV) with a full choir conducted by Lory Nescott of St. Alexander Nevsky’s. The banquet was then held in yet another state – Pennsylvania – at the Pepsi Roadhouse, a concert venue featuring autographed photos of musicians of all types. Clergy were well represented as were members of the FOCA executive board and board of trustees. Among the other clergy present were Fathers Bill Evansky and John Steffaro, past national spiritual advisors, and Father Andrew Nelko of Campbell, OH. Past national presidents Nick Vansuch and Michael Steffaro attended.

Dr. Schultz welcomed the crowd and thanked all for their participation and his committee for their efforts. National President Marge Kovach gave an inspiring speech, urging the youths to look around at the friends at your tables because they will be your friends for life; she also reminded everyone about the upcoming national convention in Hershey, PA over Labor Day weekend. Melanie and Michele announced the all-stars (as chosen by the referees) and awards were distributed. The dance floor then filled with young and old alike dancing to the tunes of a local DJ. They especially enjoyed the folk dances – albeit at a blistering pace!

On Sunday morning, Archbishop Melchisedek of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania (OCA) celebrated the Divine Liturgy at St. Nicholas Church assisted by Fathers Nelko and Tucci as well as Deacon Peter Ilchuk, CP&O director. Matushka Tanya Nelko directed the choir which included many ballplayers. The church was SRO. A bountiful brunch followed liturgy in the fellowship hall, and then it was back to Steubenville for the championship games and awards. Sunday’s games lived up to championship expectations – there were nailbiters to the end!

Congratulations to all of our players and our 2017 champs! A big “thank you” goes out to Weirton for a “Wild & Wonderful” weekend.


Very proud to say once again that our officials were impressed with our group’s sportsmanship and fellowship . . . Steubenville High staff liked us so much they said they would be happy to have us back . . .Who knew bus drivers kept such good track of time?  . . . The Steffaro family seemed to enjoy their walk down memory lane . . . Never saw so many happy Senior men’s players when told they could only play half-court due to a roof leak from the rain deluge . . .Thrilled to see how players and coaches came together to play on makeup teams and fill in where needed on short-handed teams . . . Oh my, oh my – the threepoint line! . . . Melanie, did you ever get that printer to work properly? . . . Met lots of friendly WV locals – free pizza anyone? . . . Saving the best for last – can’t tell you how heartwarming it was to hear the voices of our players break out into spontaneous singing of the FOCA anthem when leaving the dance – a special moment! . . . See you next year in Cleveland!