Penn Yan’s basketball legacy

Rob Maeske
The Penn Yan Mustang 2020 Champions include the daughters of two Hall of Famers. In front, left, Jenna Curbeau, and back, fourth from left, Sierra Harrison.

In the 2019–2020 season, the Penn Yan girls’ varsity basketball team had one of its best seasons in years; 25 years to be exact. This year, the girls from Penn Yan grabbed the Section V Championship title for the first time in two and a half decades. Their success came from skill, perseverance, tight teamwork, and perhaps, genetics. 

Two of the Mustangs’ fiercest competitors this year are the daughters of two of Penn Yan’s most decorated players of all time. Jenna Curbeau is the daughter of the Deb (Eaves) Curbeau, and Sierra Harrison is the daughter of Kirstjan “Kiki” Seago, who are both members of the Penn Yan Athletic Hall of Fame.

Deb Curbeau was a member of the Lady Mustangs from 1983–1986 and a starter throughout her varsity career. While running with the Mustangs, Curbeau recorded a monumental 1,781 points and 1,166 rebounds, and was a four-time All-Star in the Finger Lakes East. In her senior year, Deb racked up an impressive list of achievements, including being named MVP of the Section V, Far Western Regional and New York State Championship tournaments. She was also named the N.Y.S. Small School Player of the Year, MVP for that year’s McDonald’s High School All-Star game, and was a Converse High School All-American. The 1986 Mustangs, composed of Curbeau, Linda Turner, Tammy Fingar, Kristin Snyder, and Mary Jo Allison and coached by Bob Church (himself a Hall of Famer), went an undefeated 26-0 that year and won the State Championship.

Said Curbeau of her time with the Mustangs, “My memories from being a Lady Mustang start with my teammates and how close we were. We had all been playing together since 8th grade… we loved playing together.”

The Penn Yan community truly rallied behind the ‘86 team. They played to gyms packed with supporters and despite the fact, at that time, the girls’ teams didn’t have cheerleaders, the ‘86 Mustangs were never at a loss for a boisterous cheering section.

“Our crowds were enormous,” said Curbeau. “If you weren’t there by halftime of the JV game, you probably wouldn’t be getting a seat. Our team really brought the community together for a magical ride.”

After high school, Deb joined the University of Delaware basketball program, where she set records in scoring, rebounds, and shots blocked. At Delaware, Curbeau was again linked up with a tight-knit team. “There were four of us that came in together and they were my first friends [who] were my height,” laughed Curbeau. “To this day (we) are still close and try to get together a few times a year to reminisce about the good old days.”

Deb Curbeau has been inducted into the Penn Yan Athletic Hall of Fame, the Section V Hall of Fame, and the University of Delaware Athletic Hall of Fame. Curbeau currently coaches Penn Yan’s 8th grade Modified girls team, though she has coached at various levels in Penn Yan since joining the Penn Yan Central School District in 1991. The Modified team she helmed in ‘91 went undefeated that year, and would go on in their varsity years to win the Section V title in 1995, the last time the Lady Mustangs held the title since this year.

Deb’s daughter, Jenna, is a senior at Penn Yan Academy, and was named to the Finger Lakes East All-Star Sportsmanship team this year. Jenna’s season included 151 points, 150 rebounds, and she led her team in both steals and blocks. Like her mom, Jenna is headed to the University of Delaware in the fall, where she hopes to be part of the basketball program and continue the legacy started by her mother.

Of her own time with the Mustangs, Jenna said, “To have all this come together my senior year has been a great experience! Everyone was supportive and played unselfishly to pick each other up, no matter who we were playing or how we were playing. Coach Davenport and Coach Storm have been great to play for. Being able to win a Section title…was a dream come true. It is something I’ll never forget.”

Jenna started her varsity career playing for her mom. At that time, Deb was coaching the varsity team and brought Jenna up as an 8th grader, giving her a shot during a game against Newark. “I subbed her in at the end of the first quarter and on her first touch she drove the left side and scored,” said Deb. “I’m pretty sure I shed a tear.”

Another vital player for the Mustangs this year was sophomore Sierra Harrison. Harrison led her team in points, finishing the season with a total of 250 points in the books and an average 10.4 points per game. Sierra was named to the 1st All-Star team for the Finger Lakes East and was the 2020 FLE MVP, an honor she shares with her mother, Kiki Seago. With 31 years separating the titles, they are one of the only mother-daughter team of recipients of the Sectional MVP title in the history of the league.

Kiki Seago played two seasons for the Lady Mustangs from 1987-1989. During her time with the Penn Yan basketball program, Kiki recorded 598 points and 369 rebounds, and played on a team that won two sectional titles and made two trips to the State Tournament. Seago was a captain on the ‘88-’89 team that went 16-0 in the Finger Lakes East, 23-2 for the season, and won the Section V Class B title. In her senior year, Seago suffered a broken arm at the beginning of the season that caused her to sit for the first four weeks of the season. However, Kiki came back and was named to the FLE 1st All-Star team, the All Greater Rochester team, and was invited to the McDonald’s High School All-Star game. Seago was a multifaceted athlete while at Penn Yan Academy, also playing on the soccer team and the track team where she was one of the school’s all-time best in the Triple Jump.

“My memories of being a part of the basketball program are happy ones,” said Seago when recalling her time with the Mustangs. “I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by very good athletes throughout my high school career in basketball, soccer and track and field. We had coaches who were knowledgeable, committed, and caring. The sectional titles won with my teammates, fire engine escorts through town, and celebration with our community are things I will never forget.”

After her varsity career, Seago went on to join the SUNY Cortland basketball program, where she logged over 1,400 points and over 700 rebounds. In her junior year, the Cortland team won the SUNYAC Championship and played in the NCAA’s “Sweet 16.”

“I have many happy memories of my basketball career at Cortland,” said Seago. “Again, I was surrounded by great teammates and good coaches. Cortland is full of athletes and it was and continues to be a great place to play!”

Kiki was inducted into the SUNY Cortland Athletic Hall of Fame in 2014 and, like Deb Curbeau, is also a member of the Penn Yan Athletic Hall of Fame. Currently, she is in her 18th year in the Penn Yan Academy Physical Education program, and has coached on and off during that time.

“When my girls were born, I stopped coaching to be home with them more,” she said. “When they became of age to play youth sports, I coached them in soccer and basketball, including both years of Modified. I was a volunteer assistant coach for the girls’ varsity soccer team the past two seasons, but just a mom in the bleachers for basketball.”

Both Curbeau and Seago expressed how important this season has been for them. Said Seago, “To watch our daughters win a sectional title was the best!”

The Hall of Famers also had good things to say about Penn Yan’s current basketball program as well as its coaching. “The team this year had many quick, strong, and hard-working players,” said Seago. “They were a balanced group of gals who played the game unselfishly; all of them could score. Katrina Davenport has put in a tremendous amount of time to keep some consistency in the program and to be well prepared for practices and games.”

Curbeau said, “Coach Davenport has done a great job of reaching out to our youth and creating a desire in them to work and improve to be like her current team. This year’s team was a great example of how summer leagues, AAU and open gyms in the off season can create the bonding and skill needed to be Section V champions!”