Sports Columnist

John Knebels

Wasn’t it just yesterday that last year’s basketball season ended?

Time does indeed fly, but despite the fact that defending champion North Catholic hoisted the 2008 plaque high above its head more than nine months ago, it is almost as though last year hasn’t left because the top teams – at least on paper – haven’t changed much.

North Catholic … Neumann-Goretti … Roman Catholic. Until someone proves otherwise, those are the three teams to beat come playoff time.

And speaking of playoffs, six teams in both the Red and Blue spanisions will qualify for the postseason, with first-round byes earned by the first- and second-place teams from both spanisions. The semifinal winners will be determined via the cross over format that 50 percent seem to love and 50 percent seem to loathe, before ultimately decided by one overall champion.

Through Dec. 29, most of the non-league games had been completed – save for a few holiday tournaments still in progress. Below is a breakdown of each team (listed alphabetically) that includes how they have done thus far and which three players have emerged as early go-to performers.

Blue spanision
Archbishop Carroll (Coach: Paul Romanczuk) – The Patriots are one of the two hottest teams in the spanision. After going 4-0 against non-league competition, the Pats defeated Bishop McDevitt, Kennedy-Kenrick, Lansdale Catholic and Cardinal Dougherty. Top Trio: DJ Irving, Andre Wilburn and Ben Mingledough.

Archbishop Wood (Coach: Sean Tait) – And the other hottest team in the Blue is the Vikings. It’s difficult to top a 9-0 record for a rookie head coach taking over for Joe Sette while on sabbatical, but that is what the Vikings have achieved after racing through five non-league games and then upending Lansdale Catholic, Conwell-Egan, Kennedy-Kenrick and McDevitt. Top Trio: Tim Fahy, Fran Dougherty and Brian O’Grady.

Bishop McDevitt (Coach: Jack Rutter) – The Lancers amassed a strong 5-1 record in non-league play before losing to Carroll, Lansdale Catholic, West Catholic and Wood. Top Trio: Reggie Charles, Rodney Ellis and Linburg Green.

Cardinal Dougherty (Coach: Mark Heimerdinger) – A tough start for the Cardinals and their 27-year head coach includes a 1-3 non-league record and three straight spanision losses to Neumann-Goretti, West Catholic, and Carroll. Top Trio: Brandyn Wims, Brandon Brown and Ryan Colbert.

Conwell-Egan (Coach: Rick Sabol) – After defeating West Catholic, the Eagles dropped contests against Wood and Neumann-Goretti. Top Trio: Shayne Bonner, Isaac Robinson and Jonas Skovdal.

Kennedy-Kenrick (Coach: Jack Flanagan) – The Wolverines are similar to aforementioned Bishop McDevitt. After a 4-1 sprint, the Wolverines lost their first three spanision games to Carroll, Wood and Lansdale Catholic. Top Trio: Brad Miller, Dave Tornetta and Robbie Griffith.

Lansdale Catholic (Coach: Bernie Fitzgerald) – The Crusaders, whose coach begins his first year at LC after previous stints at La Salle College High School, have flip-flopped so far, losing to Wood, beating McDevitt, losing to Carroll and then defeating Kennedy-Kenrick. Top Trio: Brendan Stanton, Liam Coyne and Mike Barr.

Neumann-Goretti (Coach: Carl Arrigale) – Three straight wins over Dougherty, Egan, and West doesn’t come as a big surprise because the Saints are stacked. No offense to the rest of the Blue, but one of the Saints’ top challenges come playoff time might be becoming accustomed to more challenging competition. Top Trio: Tony Chennault, Andre Gillette and Daniel Stewart.

West Catholic (Coach: Bill Ludlow) – The Burrs took four of five non-league games before splitting four league games. They defeated Dougherty and McDevitt and lost to Egan and Neumann-Goretti. Top Trio: Aquil Younger, Haleem Hayward, and football standout Rob Hollomon.

Red spanision
Archbishop Ryan (Coach: Bernie Rogers) – The Raiders’ 5-5 record includes a spanision win over O’Hara and a loss to St. Joseph’s Prep. Top Trio: Anthony Keiter, Rus Slawter and Jerry Smith.

Father Judge (Coach: Frank Cahill) – The Crusaders are 4-6 overall. They lost to La Salle and Wood and defeated Cardinal O’Hara. Top Trio: Tom Ryan, Fran Hennessey and Seamus Radtke.

Cardinal O’Hara (Coach: Tim Kelly) – The Lions and first-year coach Kelly are off to a disappointing start. They’re 1-6 overall and 0-2 in the spanision, dropping decisions to both Archbishop Ryan and Father Judge. Top Trio: Anthony Bertolino, Josh Rogers and Dan Kearney.

La Salle College High School (Coach: Joe Dempsey) – The Explorers are 6-3, with league triumphs over Judge and Bonner. Top Trio: Tom Cooney, Eddie Joyner-Mitchell and Troy Hockaday.

Monsignor Bonner (Coach: Brian Daly) – Coming off a year in which a strange, debatable foul call could very well have cost them a championship, the Friars are 2-6 overall, including losses to North Catholic and La Salle. Top Trio: Henry Smith, Jamal Melvin and Keefer Francis.

North Catholic (Coach: Mike McCarron) – The Falcons, coming off an amazing 22-5 overall season and 12-2 spanision campaign, are 3-3, including a victory over Bonner. Top Trio: Rakeem Christmas, Jack O’Neill and Jaleel Mack.

Roman Catholic (Coach: Chris McNesby) – It is going to take some time to get used to Dennis Seddon not running the show. The Cahillites have yet to play a league game and are 2-4 in non-league play. Top Trio: Maalik Wayns, Rakeem Brookins and Koron Reed.

St. Joseph’s Prep (Coach: Speedy Morris) – The Hawks are 5-2 overall, highlighted by a spanision win over Ryan. Top Trio: Joe Nardi, Dan Fitzpatrick and Pat Stewart.

John Knebels can be reached at