Maybe it was the parity up top and emergence of some new star players. Perhaps it was the end of an unbelievable winning streak.
Whatever the reason, the 2012-13 boys’ basketball regular season in the Catholic League has been particularly enjoyable.
Heading into the final weekend, the top four teams – SS. Neumann-Goretti, Roman Catholic, St. Joseph’s Prep and LaSalle – were a composite 40-6. The two teams underneath them – Archbishop Carroll and Archbishop Ryan – were both 8-3. As for the bottom four, they were 3-40, so there has really been some significant ceiling-to-basement disparity in the 14-team standings.
With six different teams jostling for solid position in the standings, rarely has there been so much conversation among spectators during various games discussing who beat whom.
(See related story: Archbishop Wood sets new record by hitting 8 of first 8 shots, all three-pointers)
It’s been fun to listen to the various debates about which team is the favorite to emerge as champion, because that seems to change every few days.
We can thank LaSalle High School for this newfound drama. Because on Jan. 6, the Explorers did what no other team has been able to do since the end of the 2007-08 season – defeat Neumann-Goretti.
After going undefeated in both the regular season and post-season from 2008-09 through 2011-12, and starting this year with three victories, the Saints had won a ridiculous 73 straight league games, which was 24 more than the previous record of 49 set by Roman Catholic from 1989 through 1992, an accomplishment that had been earmarked to stand the test of time.
No offense to N-G, but the rest of the league was getting kind of tired of its monarchical blitzkrieg through the rest of the league. Talk about total domination.
But out of nowhere, Neumann-Goretti blew a 10-point halftime lead against LaSalle and for the first time in more than four years was unable to stave off defeat, the 65-62 decision sparking a mad celebration on LaSalle’s home court.
Amar Stukes scored a game-high 26 while Steve Smith added 19 and Alex Cuoci 10. The senior trio connected on a blistering 21 of 30 from the field and the Explorers as a team shot 26 of 40. Stukes also contributed seven assists.
Therefore, after literally appearing unbeatable, Neumann-Goretti had been deemed as mere mortals. But before the rest of the league celebrated, it had to ask itself this question: was this a good thing or a bad thing?
Could it not be argued that the loss to LaSalle may actually be a disguised blessing since the dreaded “upset” has taken away considerable pressure? Does it perhaps provide Neumann-Goretti with more fuel to prove it is a collective Superman?
Or does it mean that some other team – Roman Catholic more than likely – will become the first different league champion in five seasons?
Honest opinion? No offense to the top brass, but it says here that the championship streak will hit five. The win by LaSalle was momentous and forever a part of lore, but it awakened a sleeping giant.