Urbas notches 500th win

BY MARTY MYERS

Times-Shamrock Writer

Carl Urbas can’t recall the first game he coached back in 1984. But he does remember a couple of the classics.

He remembers vividly the night in 1992 that his girls beat Western Wayne in double overtime to win a league title, and Tarey Keast hitting a buzzer-beater at Hazleton to knock defending state champion Lebanon Catholic out of the PIAA playoffs in 1993.

And while Tuesday’s 62-31 win over Lackawanna Trail won’t stick in his memory as one of those classic endings, it will be a game he won’t forget.

Cassandra Bendyk scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and Carly Erdmann scored 13 to go with eight assists and five steals as the Lady Foresters rolled to Urbas’ 500th coaching victory in the final year of his 30-year coaching career.

“I look back now and say, ‘Boy, how did I make it 30 years?’ ” Urbas said. “That’s a long time. But every year I enjoyed being competitive, the kids are competitive and we’ve done a good job over the 30 years.”

A banner at the far end of Julius Prezelski Gymnasium shows just how good, winning nine straight District 12 Class A titles between 1987 and 1995, and then five of his six District 2 championships from 1999-2003.

His team played at the level of those title teams Tuesday.

“Actually the last three games we’ve played very well,” Urbas said, “Elk Lake and Carbondale we played great team games, and also tonight.

“Somebody gave me a compliment several years ago that I seem to know what everybody’s role is on the team. Not everybody is going to score a lot of points. Some people play defense, some people handle the ball, and I think for the most part, kids respond to their roles on the team.”

Most important against Trail (1-2 league, 3-15) was getting off to a quick start. Forest City (3-0, 10-8) did that, and never took its foot off the gas, remaining unbeaten in the second half of Lackawanna League Division IV play.

Bendyk scored eight in the first quarter before picking up a pair of fouls.

“I think we were all pumped up to win,” Bendyk said. “It’s awesome. To get this win for Mr. Urbas, it’s the best feeling ever. I’m glad we got it for him.”

Erdmann nailed a 15-footer to end the first quarter and Madison McGraw buried a 3 to start the second as the winners went on a 15-0 run to build a 22-6 lead.

“I feel pretty honored to be part of it, to be honest,” Erdmann said. “To be from such a great school, to have such great coaches. The girls he’s coached, I’ve always talked to them, always been inspired by them. I’m just so happy for him.”

While Bendyk and Erdmann have been the keys to this year’s team, there were other key contributions from the role players.

Kaitlyn Zembrzycki scored 11, and off the bench, McGraw added eight points and Larissa Grigaitis scored six and had eight boards.

As a team, the Lady Foresters shot 55 percent through three quarters and also made 16 steals.

“Offense wins game, but what really puts us in first place is defense,” Erdmann said. “You’ve got Mo Barrese, Larissa Grigaitis, and they are always just pounding, pounding, pounding defense. We couldn’t be happier. There’s offense and there’s defense, so we pulled together as one.”

The night featured a full house, a rarity for a girls game, with Urbas surrounded by his five grandchildren, as well as other family and his many friends.

Included in that circle of friends was Trail coach Bob Fitzsimmons, who got 10 points apiece from Brianna Smarkusky and Melissa Grimm.

Ironically, when Fitzsimmons made his head coaching debut, it was at Carbondale Sacred Heart and against Urbas.

“He always was a real help to me with a lot of different things, and we’ve been friends for years,” Fitzsimmons said. “Any time you needed something, he was there for you. He’d always have answers.

“My first varsity game I coached against him, and now he wins No. 500 tonight. It’s pretty unique I think. We’re part of history.”