When it comes to making playoffs and winning championships, a team’s record against non-league competition doesn’t exactly amount to a whole lot.
It might garner a tournament trophy or two. Or perhaps provide some fun braggers’ rights. Or aid in the cosmetics of personal statistics.
But as soon as the games that count in the standings commence, anything that has been accomplished earlier is largely forgotten.
Or is it?
“You look at the start we’ve had so far, and I think that shows that we have a good team,” said Father Judge senior Brian Hennessey. “The goal is to win the Catholic League, so hopefully we’ll still be playing good ball once our league games begin.”
At minimum, Father Judge’s basketball team indeed deserves some time to bask in a preseason that has been rather eye opening.
Before the Crusaders open their Catholic League schedule by hosting both West Catholic on Jan. 6 and St. Joseph’s Prep three nights later, they have already emphatically established themselves as a team that should compete for a postseason spot.
After graduating a handful of major contributors from a 2010-11 squad that accrued a 16-6 overall record, a 9-5 mark in the Catholic League, and a quarterfinal playoff loss to Roman Catholic in what was Judge’s first home playoff game since 1999, the Crusaders figured to struggle early.
That obviously has not been the case.
Through Christmas, the Crusaders were a perfect 6-0. That included a hard-fought 57-56 win over all-star laden Red Land of Lewisbury, Pa., and arguably their most impressive win, a 63-62 victory over one of the area’s top teams, Math, Civics & Sciences. That triumph was particularly memorable because Judge had trailed by 12 points in the second quarter.
“It was a team win,” said third-year coach and 1995 Judge grad Sean Tait. “We didn’t back down. We played until the end.”
Tait’s Crusaders have imitated his team-first concept. Try and get a Crusader to talk about his own contribution and be prepared to hear about one of his teammates. Talk about how good the Crusaders are on offense and prepare to be reminded that defense wins games.
Talk about last year and be prepared to quickly shift into the present. And the future? That’s way too far down the road.
“We lost a lot of good players, but we have a lot of new ones who have fit in and played really well,” said second-team All-Catholic junior guard Steve Griffin, referring to several transfers and promotions from last year’s junior varsity. “I’m really not surprised we have such a good record.”
The bulk of Judge’s scoring has come from Hennessey (18 points per game) and Griffin (12 ppg). Juniors Joe Robinson (11) and Sean Hanna (8.5) have added balance. On defense? It seems like every Crusader has made his presence felt with a rebound here and a steal there.
The playoffs begin in mid-February. Father Judge aims to be involved. By that time, the Crusaders’ sizzling non-league performance will be long forgotten.
Or will it?
John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.