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(Posted 7:30 a.m., March 7)
Former St. Peter Knight great honoured during jersey retirement ceremony
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Former St. Peter Knight great Courtnay Pilypaitis poses with her framed jersey along side her former coach Mario Gaetano. Fred Sherwin/Photo

It's been six years since Courtnay Pilypaitis led the
St. Peter Knights to three straight city championships. Since then she has gone on to have a standout career at the University of Vermont where she helped lead the Catamounts to their first ever NCAA tournament win and has represented Canada on the international stage.

On Wednesday, she returned to her alma mater where they retired her number 3 jersey during a ceremony attended by her parents, former coaches and three former teammates.

"It's great to come back where I have so many memories," said Pilypaitis. "I feel honoured that they would think of me and organize all this."

More than 600 students, most of whom were in elementary school when Pilypaitis played her final game at St. Pete's, crammed in the cafetorium to watch a video montage of her career that included video from some of her finest moments at the school.

Her former coach and close friend, Mario Gaetano, introduced Pilypaitis, describing her as an extremely talented player who always put her team first.

"Courtnay was one of those rare players who was more interested in making her teammates better than her own statistics. She played with a lot of attitude, mostly good, and she displayed class both on and off the court," said Gaetano.

When it came time to address the assembly, Pilypaitis referred to Gaetano as her "second father", and then thanked her friends, family and former teammates for making her time at St. Peter so memorable.

"It was probably the best time of my life. We had way too much fun, especially on road trips, and we probably didn't practice enough, but we still found a way to win," said Pilypaitis as former teammates Kelly Stevens and Caitlin Lahey looked on.

Fellow former Knight and long-time friend Dayna Dover was also on hand. Dover transferred to St. Pete's from Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School prior to the start of Pilypaitis' final year and had to sit out the entire season, although she did practice with the team.

The event was supposed to be a surprise, organized by Gaetano, and fellow teachers Shiela Kerwin and Scott Searle who came up with the idea.

"G (Gaetano) said they were having an assembly and they wanted me to talk to the students," said Pilypaitis. "I wasn't really going to come until he told me Monday night that I absolutely had to be here because it was all about me."

Ironically, the jersey they retired on Wednesday is the same blue jersey Pilypaitis "borrowed" after her final year. Her father dug it out from some boxes and gave it to Gaetano.

"It's okay I still have a white one, I think. I'll have to go over to my dad's and try and find it."

Linas Pilypaitis started teaching his daughter the finer points of dribbling, passing and shooting when she was just five years old . He coached her competitively from the age of seven until she entered Grade 9.

She spent one year as a junior under the tutelage of Shella Kerwin, before Gaetano snapped her up for the senior team.

That first year she joined forces with another Knights great, Tina Ethier, and the two girls led the team to a 24-6 record and their first city championship.

The following year they went 25-4 and made it all the way to the OFSAA gold medal game before losing to the Chatham-Kent Golden Hawks.

In Pilypaitis' final year at St. Peter, the Knights went 29-3. Unfortunately, one of the losses was in the OFSAA semi-finals and the team had to settle for a bronze medal.

Not long afterwards, she signed a scholarship to play at the University of Vermont. By the time she graduated, she set all-time school records for minutes played, three-point baskets, assists and games played and was third in points scored with over 1,900.

After graduating she signed a professional contract with VICI Kaunas in Lithuania, where here grandparents are from. In 17 games this season she's averaged 14 points and five rebounds.

(This story was made possible thanks to their generous support of our local business partners.)


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