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When the Catholic High School Athletic Association announced prior to last season that the varsity basketball teams competing in the Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan would merge with the three remaining A league teams from the Archdiocese, there were both supporters and detractors to the proposal.
But by the end of last season, most of the coaches in the league of the experimental 10-team, two-division SuperLeague as it has come to be called were pleased with the results, even if every game was not competitive or every match-up marquee quality.
The defection of LaSalle Academy to Division II, or the B league, two seasons ago, just a year after Cardinal Hayes had also jumped ship, left only three teams in the Bronx/Manhattan A league, All Hallows, Rice and St. Raymonds. A merger was necessary for those teams, and it was passed by a 6-1 margin by the B/Q coaches.
The result has been an overwhelming success for a variety of reasons.
Parity is hard to come by on the high school level in New York City, regardless of the sport. Basketball offers perhaps the best forum for teams to compete on equal footing and the CHSAA, widely regarded as the best high school hoop league in the country, certainly draws the most attention. And even though there are still mismatches, still blowouts, it has become clear that even the worst team in the CHSAA is still a heck of a lot better than most other teams, not only in the city, but in the nation.
Im not saying its a mortal lock that Monsignor McClancy will beat a PSAL powerhouse, such as Lincoln or Cardozo, but it has a better shot, a dramatically better shot, than no offense, guys Flushing does at beating St. Raymonds or Christ the King.
This holiday season is a perfect example of what Im trying to point out. The Holy Cross Knights, a team many expect to finish at or near the bottom of the CHSAA standings, traveled to Washington, D.C. to take part in the annual St. Johns College High School Christmas Classic, where the team finished runner-ups to perennial area powerhouse Archbishop Carroll.
Following the holiday festivities, the Knights record stands at 7-3 with a daunting league schedule ahead of them. Head coach Paul Gilvary, who guided Cross to the league semifinals two years ago, realizes that his teams winning ways this season may be behind him, but neither he nor his players are going to pack it in.
But step outside the league and Cross is a juggernaut.
Every year it is the same story. The three teams on the bottom looking up St. Francis Prep, Monsignor McClancy and Cross all take their best shots at the league elite, which are the remaining seven teams, Archbishop Molloy, Christ the King, Bishop Loughlin, Xaverian, Rice, St. Raymonds and All Hallows. And every year the results are pretty much the same, a few seasons aside.
And it is not for lack of trying or because the coaches are not as good. The seven other schools are known in the sports world primarily for their basketball programs. No one talks about Rice when they talk football or soccer, but talk basketball and Rice is right there at the top of the list.
And despite the years of tradition at those schools, the three Queens programs always show up and always make a game of it. Sure McClancy may lose by 26 to Christ the King, as they did last week, but that doesnt mean they are not capable of pulling off an upset or two.
A few seasons ago I saw an undermanned Holy Cross team upset Christ the King in the first round of the Brooklyn/Queens Tournament, a game forever etched in CHSAA folklore because St. Johns-bound CK guard Omar Cook completely lost it after the game and shoved an official.
And every year there seems to be that kind of upset, either during the league season, in one of the post-season tournaments or in the citywide playoffs.
The reason: parity.
Parity can not be defined simply as teams competing on a level plane, especially when you are talking high school sports. Like Gilvary always says, there are no long-term contracts in high school. There is constant turnover and the league is always morphing, albeit slightly, year to year.
Like I said before, somehow, the elite teams stay in the upper echelon. Jack Curran at Molloy has been coaching close to half a century and his teams are always good, if not great. But the lesser teams are never far behind and always capable of turning an expected loss into a surprising win.
This year things are as interesting as ever. With the bulk of the CHSAA league season ahead, there is still plenty of quality action to take in. St. Francis Prep, though not big, seems capable of being a team to pull off a shocker here and there, while Holy Cross and McClancy cant be counted out, either.
At the top, St. Rays seems solid, as does Rice, of course, with Christ the King, Molloy and All Hallows not far behind. Then there are the Brooklyn schools, Loughlin and Xaverian. It is anybodys ballgame.
Ive heard it from more than one coach already this year, but it has never been more true: There are no easy games in this league.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.
©2003 Community Newspaper Group
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