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Girls basketball: Capital coach's middle name is adversity

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Capital girls basketball coach B.J. Calabrese has experienced a tumultuous year filled with pain and heartbreak.

During the early part of the summer, Calabrese's mother-in-law passed away due to complications from liver cancer.

Also, in a one-week span, Calabrese's house flooded and partially burned down.

Recently, Calabrese's father has fallen ill and Thanksgiving weekend, Calabrese's longtime friend and mentor, Frank Scagnelli Jr., passed away.

With everything that Calabrese has been through this year, his one refuge has been basketball.

Calabrese hopes to get a reprieve with hoops and his Cougars certainly helped him get his mind off things with a good start to their season, defeating Lincoln County 47-32 victory Tuesday evening.

"Being able to take two hours after school and work with these young ladies have been amazing," Calabrese said. "I'm thankful to be able to spend time with the team."

Calabrese admitted this year has been a rough one and challenging to concentrate on the task at hand at times.

"2013 is almost over and 2014 is coming," Calabrese said. "I'm really looking forward to a new year and getting this bad luck 13 out of the way.

"It's been really difficult. It's been tough focusing on work but I'm doing the best I can. You try to spend time with the team, teaching, trying to work on the house, and dealing with all the family things."

After struggling to juggle dealing with the death of his mother-in-law and spending hours working on the majority of his house that burned down, Calabrese was happy to return to work.

Calabrese is the golf coach at George Washington and began the season with the Patriots in early August, still with everything else going on.

That's when more bad news hit with his father turning ill after suffering internal bleeding with his colon.

"Dad was in the hospital for a week and half to two weeks," Calabrese said. "They had to take him off the blood thinner. That is a bit of a concern. I've been really worried about him."

Scagnelli passed away on Thanksgiving after a fall that led to brain surgery, a stroke, and pneumonia. Calabrese was on the Charleston Catholic girls basketball coaching staff with Scagnelli for 15 years from 1988-2003.

"Frank did a tremendous amount for me," Calabrese said. "My dad worked with him for 30 years. He was my high school golf coach. We have been really close and watching all that was very painful to deal with."

Calabrese indicated he is where he is today in the coaching ranks because of Scagnelli.

"When I got to Catholic, I coached seventh through ninth graders my first year," Calabrese said. "At the end of the year, Frank told me he wanted to come up and help him.

"I had doubts and reservations. I didn't think I was ready but he had all the confidence in the world in me. Frank meant to much to me and helped me so much."

Calabrese is doing wonders for the Capital program and will be looking to guide the Cougars to another strong season, especially off a year in which Capital reached the State Tournament.

Capital stunned undefeated and No. 1 seed Greenbrier East in the regional co-final last year in Fairlea, sending shockwaves throughout the state.

"That was the one great thing that happened in 2013," Calabrese said. "From that point forward, it went all downhill. Getting back to the State Tournament was a great experience.

"We really felt we could win that game. It surprised everyone throughout the state but not us. I can't tell you the number of messages from Morgantown to Huntington to Parkersburg before I even got back on the bus."

Calabrese knows he has a long way to go to repeat that feat with only two players back with much varsity experience in India Hairston and Dashia Foster.

However, Calabrese is just happy to be back on the court guiding his team.

""It's been a challenging week and year but I'm so happy to be with the team," Calabrese said. "When you step on the court, you try and put everything aside and focus on the team."

The players have Calabrese's back, just has he has theirs.

"I love coach to death," Hairston said. "He has been through a lot. He was there for me when I lost my mom in sixth grade and I will always be there for him with what he is going through."

 


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