12/27/02 Patalano leading her team from
Knee injury doesn't stop C-C senior from being a role model
By Jeff DiVeronica
Democrat and Chronicle
(December 27, 2002) — RIGA — Before their girls basketball game last week,
the Fairport players approached the Churchville-Chili bench to offer their
best wishes to Joanna Patalano, who found out the day before that her senior
season was over because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Fairport was about to try to avenge last year’s loss in the Section V
Tournament semifinals to C-C, but that gesture -- moments before a big early
season game -- showed the type of respect Patalano has earned.
Over the past four years, she has grown from talented young player to solid
contributor to unquestionable leader for the Saints in soccer, basketball
and softball. They used to be a dangerous underdog. Now they’re a
championship contender and Patalano has been a driving force.
“It’s bigger than just sports,” basketball coach Ryan Raftery says. “She’s a
role model to kids who aren’t that much younger than her. And it’s more
than, ‘I want to be like Joanna because she’s a great player.’ They want to
be like Joanna because she’s a great kid -- a straight-A student, someone
who spends countless hours helping kids in little biddy basketball and
Joanna Patalano, left, chats with Lisa Howe, whose daughter Caitlin ended
her senior season prematurely last year with a torn anterior cruciate
ligament. Patalano, a Churchville-Chili senior, has been a leader in the
school and admired by opposing players.
A guard-forward and All-Greater Rochester pick,
she averaged 19.8 points, 10.1 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 5.2 steals last season
in basketball, guiding C-C to its second straight Section V title.
She averaged 17.5 points and about seven rebounds as the Saints started this
season 3-1, but she suffered the ACL tear in a Dec. 10 loss at Penfield.
It’s the second straight winter Section V has lost arguably its top player to an
early season ACL injury. Caitlin Howe’s standout career at Fairport ended Dec.
11, 2001. Surgery is scheduled for Jan. 15 on Patalano’s right knee. But she
will be on the bench and in the huddle, helping her younger teammates with
“It has raised my spirits to know people out there care,” she says.
Patalano was initially devastated by the injury. “Sports have pretty much been
my life in high school,” says the All-Monroe County pick in three sports last
But her legacy won’t soon be forgotten.
“She’s the best leader I’ve coached in my 20 years,” softball coach M. P. Dewey
says. “In every sport, she’s had a huge impact on teammates.”
It was Dewey, then the basketball coach, who brought Patalano up to varsity as
an eighth-grader for sectionals and gave her immediate minutes. Before
Patalano’s freshman season, Dewey said she had the tools to become one of the
best players in school history.
Indeed, she has. The 5-foot-8 Patalano ranks first in career points (1,200, 15.8
average), assists (479, 6.4 avg.) and steals (272, 3.6 avg.) and third in
rebounds (587, 7.7 avg). C-C is 57-19 in her career.
“She’s always hustling. She’ll find ways to beat you,” said Fairport
guard-forward Liz Hahn, an AAU teammate of Patalano’s with the WNY Lady Lakers.
“She’s not a dirty player, but she’ll find a way to get in your kitchen and get
you frustrated. She outrebounds people who are 6-foot or taller.”
It is because of sheer determination and smarts. Patalano says her father, Gary,
has taught her a ton and “given me the drive I’ve shown the past few years.”
“If she went to anyone’s practice, even a Division I (basketball) team, and just
practiced with them for a week, the coach would find her a spot,” Raftery says.
“But she’s not the best shooter, the best rebounder or defensive player.”
He pauses, points to his heart. “But she’s the best inside. You can’t match
She’d like to play soccer and basketball in college. Roberts Wesleyan, Brockport
State, William Smith and Cortland have shown interest.
Patalano has a favorite moment in each sport. A two-time AGR defender in soccer,
she helped guide the Saints to their first sectional title last fall. They had
lost two of the past three finals. In basketball, it was winning a second
straight crown. Underdog C-C, the No. 4 seed, upset No. 1 Fairport and No. 2
Greece Athena to finish on top.
“No one thought we could get to where we went,” she says.
Patalano is a vocal leader, never afraid to raise her voice, but teammates
understand that’s just how she is.
“They know I’m passionate about the game. They respect that,” she says. “They
know I’m not trying to be hurtful.”
The young basketball team, which also is likely will be without starting guard
Kelly Monahan (mononucleosis) the rest of the season, will now have to listen to
Patalano’s advice from the bench.
“The girls cried about Joanna’s injury, not because they thought their season
was over,” Raftery says. “They cried because their leader, their friend, the
girl they look up to, isn’t going to be there on the floor anymore.”
Sports: Soccer, basketball, softball.
Academics: 96 average.
Height/weight: 5-feet-8/140 pounds.
Positions: Defender/goalie (soccer), guard/forward (basketball), center field
Honors: Twice named All-Greater Rochester in soccer and an AGR basketball pick
last season. All-Monroe County in three sports last school year. 2002 Monroe
County Division I Soccer Player of the Year.
From the coach: "She's the best leader that I've coached in my 20 years. In
every sport, she's had a huge impact on teammates," Churchville-Chili softball
coach M.P. Dewey.