Panebianco’s No. 11 To Be Retired Tonight
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following column appeared in The Post-Journal in January 2015, the senior year for Jamestown High School student/athlete Zack Panebianco. Tonight, before the Red Raiders take on Fredonia at 7:30 in the final game of the United Way Showcase at McElrath Gymnasium, Panebianco will have his No. 11 jersey retired, joining Donn Johnston (Class of ’69), Terry Chili (Class of ’72), Justin Johnson (Class of ’94) and Maceo Wofford (Class of ’99) in that exclusive fraternity. For his career, Panebianco scored 1,332 points (No. 3 all-time), had 318 assists (No. 3 all-time), 178 3-pointers (No. 1 all-time) and 162 steals (No. 6 all-time).
In March 2008, I was assigned to take photographs at a season-sending Tom Buttafaro League basketball tournament, which was being held at the Levant Church gymnasium. The YMCA-sponsored event was a day-long affair, featuring games from various age groups, so I arbitrarily picked a time that worked in my schedule and drove over.
Upon my arrival, I took a seat in the bleachers and began to snap photos. Almost immediately, I found myself drawn to one particular 10-year-old who was clearly the best player on the floor. He dribbled with both hands, scored from the perimeter and the paint and was the leader of his team. Equally as impressive to me was that he never showed a hint of emotion. Not one bit. He just kept playing.
When I returned to the office and downloaded my photos, I discovered I had taken a pretty good one of the young man I’d marveled at.
Seven years later, I’m still amazed at the things Zack Panebianco does with a ball in his hands.
The Jamestown Red Raiders’ boys basketball game scheduled for Thursday against Erie County Interscholastic Conference Division 1 rival Orchard Park was postponed due to the weather.
It meant Jamestown’s effort to extend its winning streak to eight games would have to wait until Saturday night when it has a showdown with Section V Class A power Greece Athena in Rochester.
Trojans’ Coach Jim Johnson won’t have to his memory jogged too much as he prepares for the rematch. For it was last March when the two teams met — Greece Athena was a Class AA school then — in the Far West Regional at Buffalo State Sports Arena. In that contest, Panebianco poured in 34 points, including 22 in the second half, to send the Red Raiders to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Final Four in Glens Falls.
It was the kind of performance that followers of JHS athletics have become accustomed to since Panebianco first walked the hallways as a freshman. The bigger the game, the better he seems to play. So on the heels of his 33-point effort against Amherst earlier this week — 28 of which came in the second half — I decided to do a little number crunching.
With seven regular-season games remaining, Panebianco finds himself among the all-time career leaders in Jamestown’s basketball record book, including points (1,107, which is No. 6); 3-pointers (151, No. 3); assists (274, No. 6); and steals (140, No. 11). Assuming the Red Raiders make a deep playoff run, Panebianco could find himself — if his per-game averages remain intact — No. 1 in 3-pointers, No. 3 in points, No. 4 in assists and No. 6 in steals.
In other words, he has, from this view, locked up a “starting” berth on Jamestown’s all-time first team. And we haven’t even talked about what he did during his four years on the Red Raiders’ varsity football team.
In Jamestown’s run to its NYSPHSAA Class AA football title, Coach Tom Langworthy talked endlessly about the special collection of high-character seniors who took the field each week. It was a special group indeed, one that put the Red Raiders at the top of the gridiron heap for the first time since 2000.
All told, seven players received all-state recognition, including four on the first team. Panebianco, who was selected as a defensive back, was one of them. If truth be told, he could have also been a first-team wide receiver or a first-team all-purpose athlete, because he did it all.
Jamestown’s 41-20 championship game victory over Newburgh Free Academy was a mircrocosm of his football career. With the Carrier Dome in Syracuse as his stage, Panebianco caught six passes for 125 yards and a touchdown; was credited with six tackles; intercepted a pass, broke up four others; returned a punt 67 yards; kicked five extra points; and booted a punt that pinned the Goldback at their 1-yard line.
Not surprisingly, Panebianco’s efforts earned him Most Valuable Player honors.
At JHS, basketball players earn Wall-of-Fame honors at McElrath Gymnasium for scoring 1,000 career points and/or for being chosen to an all-state team (first through fifth). For football, a Red Raider has his number retired and displayed atop the bleachers on the home side of Strider Field if he is a first-team choice.
Incredibly, Panebianco will be recognized at both venues.
I’m not surprised, though. If JHS ever put a Mount Rushmore of athletes together, the young man known as “Zip,” would have one of my four votes.