John Knebels
Special to The CS&T

Replete with talented players and a unified proud tradition, the Catholic League once again finds itself among the area’s high school basketball elite.

After playing an average of five non-league games – some of them taking place during Christmas holiday tournaments – both the Red and Blue spanisions have commenced league play. Although it’s always fun to propose a Cinderella team that appears poised to startle the unprepared favorites, the early returns suggest that as an unlikely scenario.

In the Red spanision, Roman Catholic figures to dominate most of its competition, but that always seems to be the case. On Dec. 23, the Cahillites avoided an upset by a determined North Catholic squad. With Rakeem Brookins scoring 26 points and three teammates also reaching double figures, Roman emerged with a 71-66 triumph. The Falcons stayed close behind Mike Terry’s 21 points, Woody Redding’s 17 and David Williams’ 14.

Challenging the Cahillites could be St. Joseph’s Prep and La Salle. Both teams have looked impressive so far and are, through Jan. 4, undefeated in spanision play. That will change by Friday night, since the two rivals will meet at 7:30 at the Prep.

With standout players such as college-committed seniors Tony Chennault (Wake Forest University), Tyreek Duren (LaSalle University), Danny Stewart (Rider University), Mustafa Jones (University of Hartford), and junior Lamin Fulton, Neumann-Goretti is in a league by itself in the Blue spanision. Not surprisingly, the South Philadelphia juggernaut that travelled all the way to Hawaii for a prestigious non-league tournament (the Saints lost in the finals) has already won two games by 39 points and another by 19. Barring injuries, that trend is likely to continue all the way through Feb. 14, when the final games of the regular season will be played.

But outside any game involving Neumann-Goretti, the Catholic Blue promises to provide thorough entertainment for fans that enjoy nail-biting intensity until the final buzzer.

For instance, take defending AAA state champ Archbishop Carroll’s 80-77 overtime victory over Conwell-Egan Dec. 21. Despite a heavy snow covering the

ground and causing traffic delays, the schools were somehow able to navigate to the C-E gym, and the loyal spectators were treated to a record-breaking performance by Conwell-Egan swingman Ike Robinson. His 42 points eclipsed the school record of 39 (Andrew Holland, 2000), highlighted by his fifth three-point shot in six attempts on the Eagles’ final possession.

By that time, the Patriots had clinched the win behind the exploits of junior Juan’ya Green, whose team-high 28 points complemented teammate DJ Irving’s eight assists and 15 points, seven of which were scored in overtime.

Two days later, both teams found themselves in a tense environment once again. With Green, Irving, Vince Mostardi and Ben Mingledough each scoring in double digits, Carroll raised its spanision record to 2-0 by edging Archbishop Wood 55-50. Meanwhile, Conwell-Egan evened its mark at 1-1 by nipping Lansdale Catholic 58-57, as Mike Payne tallied 18 points. Robinson was “held” to 16, and Devon Thomas added 10.

Undaunted, on Jan. 3 Lansdale Catholic bounced back to defeat Bishop McDevitt 57-55, as Mike Barr poured in 26 points to give him 68 in three games, while Brian Murphy added 11. For McDevitt, freshman Kenyatta Long contributed 17 points and junior Matt Conroy scored 13.

On Jan. 4, Archbishop Wood began 2010 in style by squeaking past Cardinal Dougherty 54-52. Brian O’Grady (19 points), junior Joe Goetz (18) and Doug Macrone (15) scored all but two of Wood’s points; Brandyn Wims led Dougherty with 16.

Catholic League Red spanision coaches include Bernie Rogers at Archbishop Ryan; Tim Kelly at Cardinal O’Hara; Sean Tait at Father Judge; Joe Dempsey at LaSalle; Tom Meakim at Monsignor Bonner; Guy Moore at North Catholic; Chris McNesby at Roman Catholic; and the legendary Speedy Morris at St. Joseph’s Prep.

The Blue spanision is comprised of coaches Paul Romanczuk at Archbishop Carroll; Jack Walsh at Archbishop Wood; Jack Rutter at Bishop McDevitt; Bill Day at Cardinal Dougherty; Rick Sabol at Conwell-Egan; Jack Flanagan at Kennedy-Kenrick; Bernie Fitzgerald at Lansdale Catholic; Carl Arrigale at Neumann-Goretti; and Bill Ludlow at West Catholic.

John Knebels can be reached at