Maddie Ennis (left) of St. Ignatius won one of the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club’s Athlete of the Year awards, and Talo Li-Uperesa of Sacred Heart Cathedral (right) took home the Kevin Restani Trophy as the girls’ basketball Player of the Year at the club’s awards dinner on May 13, 2019 in North Beach. (Ethan Kassel / Special to S.F. Examiner)

SF Preps: Local stars honored at SFIAC Awards Banquet

San Francisco Italian Athletic Club hands out awards to top high school athletes in City

NORTH BEACH — The San Francisco Italian Athletic Club held its third annual High School Awards Banquet on Monday night, honoring athletes and coaches across generations and providing one of the rare occasions in which all three main San Francisco athletic leagues were connected under one roof.

Honorees from the Academic Athletic Association, Bay Counties League and West Catholic Athletic League, joined by representatives from the University of San Francisco and San Francisco State University, all came together for an evening of Italian food, drinks, trophy presentations and speeches to connect past and present generations of great athletes.

With University head basketball coach Randy Bessolo serving as one of the main organizers of the event, there were plenty of representatives not only from the Red Devils’ athletic department, but from all around the BCL. University’s own Max Fried was honored as the boys recipient of the Kevin Restani Basketball Trophy, and other BCL representatives to be honored included Zach Johnson (Lick-Wilmerding basketball), Miles Amos (Stuart Hall basketball) and Charley Moore (University basketball and baseball).

Moore was among the small handful of multi-sport athletes to receive awards on the night, along with University’s Ella Pearl (field hockey, basketball and lacrosse) and Jack Dyke of St. Ignatius (football and baseball). Dyke, along with Lincoln volleyball’s Lana Radakovic, was honored as one of the club’s Athletes of the Year.

Radakovic wasn’t the only Lincoln Mustang to be recognized on the night, as the school’s state championship football team had a full table reserved and was recognized for its undefeated season. Additionally, quarterback Jovon Baker won the Vince Tringali Trophy as the City’s top football player. Other AAA athletes to receive recognition on the night included a pair from Mission as C.J. Pino won the Joe DiMaggio Trophy as San Francisco’s top baseball player while Ben Knight was recognized as one of the Club’s Athletes of the Year.

The Hank Luisetti Trophy, given to the Scholar Athletes of the Year, went to a pair of St. Ignatius seniors, volleyball star Lizzie Fleming, who will continue her career at Duke, and Stanford-bound Neal Begovich, who dominated for the Wildcats on the basketball court.

St. Ignatius and rival Sacred Heart Cathedral had some of the largest representations of the schools at the event, with droves of SHC alums coming out as longtime baseball coach Steve Franceschi was honored as one of the recipients of the Dante Benedetti Trophy, the SFIAC’s lifetime achievement award.

Along with Marc Christensen, who has coached around San Francisco for 50 years, Franceschi helped wrap up a night of camaraderie as athletes and coaches who had competed against each other were thrilled to see their peers recognized for their achievements. Rivals from SI and Riordan cheered as other members of the Fightin’ Irish were recognized, including girls basketball player of the year Talo Li-Uperesa and volleyball coach Margi Beima, who, along with Lincoln football coach Phil Ferrigno, was honored with the Steve Mariucci Trophy as coach of the year.

Other SHC honorees included Oisin McCormack, who helped lead the Irish to the CCS Open Division Championship in his only year playing basketball, and outfielder Keshawn Ogans, who will be continuing his baseball career at Cal and would have won the hypothetical award for Best Dressed, wearing a dark blue tuxedo with subtle patterning.

While the event mainly honored outgoing high school seniors, a few underclassmen were recognized, including Riordan basketball juniors Je’Lani Clark and Bryce Monroe. Monroe is among the most heavily recruited players in the Bay Area and has recently added to his list of offers with Boston University, New Mexico State and Sam Houston State.

The lone award that didn’t pertain to high school sports was given to Frankie Ferrari, as the USF basketball star was recognized as the Italian-American College Basketball Player of the Year. Ferrari, currently training for the NBA Draft in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was unable to accept the award in person but delivered a speech via video. His father, Paul, was present to receive the award and also spoke on his behalf.

Ferrari’s University of San Francisco was well-represented, with new head men’s basketball coach Todd Golden and longtime baseball coach Nino Giarratano in attendance. Dante’s Boys, an organization named for Benedetti dedicated to continuing the spirit and legacy of the longtime Dons baseball coach, is a main beneficiary of the dinner, as is the Academic Athletic Association. San Francisco State head men’s basketball coach Vince Inglima was also in attendance.

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