Suffern High School to retire No. 22 of teen killed in car crash
December 17, 2010

By James O’Rourke – The Journal News

Suffern High School is set to retire the basketball uniform number of Vincent Crotty, a senior killed in a car crash this year.

Crotty’s No. 22 will be retired during a ceremony at the high school at 7:45 tonight before the game between Suffern and Nanuet. The game starts at 8.

Crotty, 18, a talented student-athlete, played on the varsity baseball and basketball teams. He and Christopher Konkowski, 17, were killed March 30 on their way to baseball practice after Crotty’s 2008 Ford Focus crossed the double-yellow line on Route 202 and collided with a truck.

The deaths of the two teenagers — described by family, friends and teachers as popular students and inseparable friends— prompted an outpouring of grief across the community.

In the months following the accident, a Vincent Crotty Memorial Foundation was founded to assist local children and families in need as well as youth sports programs. A memorial baseball tournament was also dedicated to both Crotty and Konkowski, who had planned to play ball together this spring at a college upstate.

“We thought this would be a nice way to honor Vince’s memory,” Suffern Athletic Director Bob Buono said Thursday, adding that many at the school were still grieving for the two teens but doing their best to keep their memory alive. “It hasn’t been a year since the accident, but we’re moving forward.”

During the ceremony, coaches and players will present a framed No. 22 uniform to Crotty’s parents and younger brother, Sean, who plays for Suffern’s junior varsity team. A memorial plaque also will be mounted in the high school’s Walk of Fame, Buono said.

George Kunzman, who coached Crotty for three seasons, said he had played an outsized role on the team, on and off the court. Crotty played guard and had been a strong shooter, making 53 three-pointers in his senior year and leading the team to the playoffs.

On a personal level, Kunzman recalled Crotty as a lovable kid and a kind person who could disarm people with his laughter. During a benefit game for breast cancer awareness last year, players wore pink shoelaces.

Crotty had a good game that night and adopted the pink laces as his personal good luck charm.

“Vinny being Vinny, he left them in for the rest of the year,” Kunzman said. “He liked to kid around. He really enjoyed the camaraderie of team sports.”

As a tribute to Crotty, Suffern players will lace up in pink at tonight’s game — and for the rest of the season, Kunzman said.

THE CEREMONY
Suffern Retires Crotty’s Jersey Number

SUFFERN — Suffern High School’s varsity team members stood arm in arm Friday night as Vincent Crotty’s family took to the basketball court to receive a framed jersey bearing his now-retired number 22.

Their left shoes laced with pink laces — just as Crotty would have done — the players donned shirts bearing the Montebello teen’s calling card, “VC3.” On their backs, a sentiment felt by many in the high school’s gymnasium: “Always in our hearts.”

Crotty, 18, and friend Chris Konkowski, 17, died March 30 when Crotty’s Ford Focus collided with an oncoming truck on Route 202. The pair of star athletes had been on their way to baseball practice.

Before the Suffern Mounties took on the Nanuet Knights at Friday’s varsity basketball game, Suffern High School honored Crotty with a brief ceremony.

“It means a lot, not just to the team, but to the community itself,” said Suffern Varsity Basketball Coach George Kunzmann. “It’s a testament to how much everybody loved Vincent and Chris. They were both really good kids with a lot of vitality. They were really good people.”

During the ceremony, Kunzmann spoke about Crotty’s love of the sport and his team. He described how Crotty once wore pink laces during a game to benefit breast cancer research and played so well that he decided to adopt the look permanently.

Pointing to a spot on the court to his left where Crotty hit seven 3-pointers against the Clarkstown South Vikings, Kunzmann spoke of the “VC3” Suffern’s announcer used to call whenever Crotty hit a shot from beyond the arc, a feat he did 53 times last season.

Eyes across the gym teared as the framed number 22 was presented to the Crotty family. No one at Suffern — short of Vincent Crotty’s brother, Sean — will ever wear number 22 again.

A number of tributes to Crotty and Konkowski have taken place since the boys’ tragic deaths.

The baseball team retired both their numbers in the spring and in the summer a tournament was held in their honor. Konkowski’s volleyball number 15 was retired in September.

Peter Crotty, Vincent’s father, said his family was grateful for the support shown by the Suffern community.

“This whole experience, obviously, is incredibly saddening. It’s had a deep impact on our lives,” he said. “For him to be recognized by his coaches and by the students and community … in a very bad situation, it brings a little bit of happiness.”

Though Vincent Crotty was honored Friday, the charity that bears his name has made it a mission to place others in the spotlight.

In November, the Vincent Crotty Memorial Foundation assisted 9-year-old Aidan Sullivan after $7,000 raised during a fundraiser for the Brewster boy was stolen.

Sullivan was born with a medical condition that left the right side of his face underdeveloped. In large part because of the foundation’s efforts, the Sullivan family will be able to afford a surgery that will give Aidan a right ear.

Peter Crotty credited those who have volunteered with the foundation and those who have donated to the cause for the good that has been done in his son’s name.

“Where we can help people out on behalf of the Foundation, and in my son Vincent’s name and in remembrance of him and his friend Chris, we’re going to continue to do that,” he said.

John Brennan, a 17-year-old senior at Suffern High School who played with Vincent Crotty for two seasons, felt confident about winning the game with his friend serving as a sixth man on the floor. He said he had been watching Vincent Crotty since they were just boys.

“He just loved to be on the court. Even when he was little, he would just heave up those 3s and they would miraculously go in,” Brennan said. “To be here tonight, on a night like this, with this crowd, in his honor … there are just no words for it.”

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