Latest edition of tourney keeps memory alive for fallen firefighter from Riverdale

Hoop games are played to honor Pat Joyce who hailed from St. Margaret of Cortona


The 12th installment of the Pat Joyce Memorial Tournament was the latest reminder to Marty Joyce why he became a coach.

Most of last week, Marty made several treks across the bridge with his St. Peter’s teams from River Edge, New Jersey, to compete in honor of his late brother. Fittingly, it was his school’s sixth grade team that rallied around the fallen firefighter’s nephew en route to securing the championship.

It’s been 14 years since Pat Joyce was killed while responding to a fire that was intentionally set on a three-story building in Yonkers. He was only 38.

Pat grew up in Riverdale where he attended and played basketball at St. Margaret of Cortona, which this past year merged with St. Gabriel School. A plaque that bears the name of the 1984 graduate adorns a wall near the entrance to school located in North Riverdale.

For 12 of the 14 years since his passing, the week between Christmas and New Year’s is blocked off on the calendar for the series of games that make up the Pat Joyce Memorial Tournament. The teams are generally the same ones, with each holding some form of connection to Pat, including the elementary school which helped shape his upbringing. Other competing teams include St. Joseph’s School in Bronxville, where Pat competed in a men’s basketball league, or traditionally any schools attended by Pat’s 10 nephews.

“Pat’s nephews look forward to it the most,” says Marty, whose two sons, Regan and Pat Jr., have both played on their father’s teams.

On Saturday, St. Peter’s beat Annunciation from Yonkers, 40-27, in the championship game played at Fordham Prep, where Pat earned his diploma in 1984. The eighth grade division was won by St. Barnabas from the Bronx as they defeated Annunciation, 46-35. The triumph marked the second time St Peter’s had won the annual tournament, and this latest run included a win over St. Margaret, 22-14, on Dec. 26 at the Riverdale-based school.

“In 12 years about 1,500 boys have cycled through this tournament,” Marty said.

St. Peter’s lost to Annunciation by a narrow margin their next time out before responding with a win over St. Joseph’s in the semifinals round. That set the stage for the finals, where the rematch with Annunciation beckoned. The outcome was different this time, and Marty was able to celebrate the proud win alongside his son, Pat, a sixth-grader on the St. Peter’s team.

“I think my son put a lot of pressure on himself to perform well in the tournament because of that,” Marty said. “He always takes pride in being named after his uncle despite never having the chance to meet him.”

The post-game festivities were special in their own right. After Luke Koth was named the tournament’s most valuable player, he handed the trophy over to Pat Jr. as a thoughtful gesture to his friend whose namesake aligns with the tournament. 

“It made it that much more emotional for them to share a moment like that on top of winning the tournament,” Marty said of his son and his friend coming together for a bigger cause.

The parents of many of the winning players were not all aware of the connection that united their team during the post-holiday euphoria. However, if they didn’t already know, they came to find out about a story of family, faith, tragedy, and basketball that has enveloped Marty’s life. The hardest chapter, of course, dates back to 2009.

Pat Joyce is survived by his wife, Tara, and two daughters, Isabella and Charlotte, who are now both in college. Given the family’s love for basketball, a vision to build a CYO basketball tournament was born and carried out by four men who knew Joyce. That would be Dan Harrigan, Billy McLoughlin, and Pat Woods, the longtime coach at St. Margaret’s who also coached Pat.

“The organizers for the tournament make it easy on us because it’s so well run and so well-attended,” Marty said.

Pat Joyce’s story could resonate with the families of victims who have died in the line of duty. He had dreamed about becoming a firefighter, despite his early career pursuits coming in business.

Every year, the  funds raised from the tournament’s ticket sales are donated to the Tree House program at the Bereavement Center of Westchester, which supports those struggling from the loss of a parent or sibling. The organization directly served the Joyce family for the same reason.

“I think about him all the time,” Marty said. “Pat was a very giving person. He was successful in business and owned a few restaurants and he used that to give back and to donate.”


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