EAST GREENWICH, RI—The game of basketball is gaining momentum in its sophomore year at the AYF Olympics.
Fourteen men’s teams had registered to play in the all-day tournament at the gymnasium of East Greenwich High School on Saturday. There was also a small women’s tournament, which was won by the AYF Philadelphia Chapter powered by Ani Javardian, Ani Dardarian and sisters Victoria and Rebecca Selverian.
The teams were made up of four players, who substituted as needed in the fast-paced, half court, three-on-three games. The clock runs for 25-minutes. First team to score 21 points or the team with the most points before the clock runs out wins the game. The players were scrappy, and the sportsmanship across all teams was palpable.
Fans trickled in and out of the gymnasium throughout the day. One would have been hard-pressed, however, to find an inch of space to watch Anto Keshgegian in action. The shooting guard has played Division 1 basketball at Temple University and Drexel University, where he is wrapping up his final year pursuing a master’s degree in marketing. “I get to play competitive Division 1 and then get to showcase my skills here and everything I’ve learned,” he told the Weekly following Philadelphia’s 20-9 victory over Manhattan. “Everything I learned playing college basketball, I get to share that experience playing with my teammates and other Armenians. I’m very fortunate I get to do that. I get to teach the guys and learn a lot from them as well,” said Keshgegian, who accurately predicted a tough face-off against North Andover in the semi-finals.
Indeed, it ended up being an intense and physical game with some unexpected calls from officials against both teams. North Andover, however, ended up winning by 10 points. “Philly’s very competitive,” said #21 Armen Almasian. “Anto’s great…definitely a workload,” he continued.
By the end of the tournament, the courts had cleared and many fans had dispersed except for a small loyal crowd of supporters to watch a blowout championship game between North Andover and the West Coast. North Andover maintained a pretty wide lead throughout the game and won handily 21-7.
The AYF chapter based out of the small community in Merrimack Valley with 15 athletes registered to compete was ultimately named the ‘Most Improved’ chapter of the weekend. “It’s all about the kids,” said proud coach Greg Minasian, who noted that the team also plays for the Merrimack Valley Homenetmen. “We took a small chapter in the organization, and with hard work, it paid off.”
“It was a good run to the championship,” shared an elated Michael Baltayan, a towering defender and versatile power forward who delivered from the top of the key during several games in the tournament. The 22-year-old said he practiced quite a bit with his team and has been playing basketball since he was a young child. “I loved playing Philly. I was drowning in the pool yesterday, so this was a lot of fun,” he laughed.
“We’re not always getting gold medals left and right, so whenever we get a medal, no matter what it is, it’s definitely pretty special,” said Almasian.