Saturday, February 23, 2013

St. Rita defeated St. Joseph...

...last night, 55-50, in a thriller in Westchester. Junior Victor Law led the Mustangs with 15 points, 12 rebounds and three dramatic, crowd-pleasing dunks.

While seniors A. J. Patty and Loren Horton starred for the Chargers, a number of underclassmen on both teams deserve mention. For the Mustangs, Charles and Dominique Matthews (brothers?) and Armani Chaney played well, as did Paul Turner, Glynn Watson and Jordan Ash of St. Joe's. (The guy who sat next to me told me to keep my eye on Ash, as he could be considered one of the best players in the state next year.) Suffice it to say, both teams should have several good returning starters next year.

After a quick meatball sandwich at Rocky's Pizza, above, on Cermak (which was excellent, by the way, and -- I know, I know -- it's Lent; sue me), I drove over to the St. Joe's campus for the game. There was only one small problem: there was no game! Did I get the time or location wrong? Had I been punked?

Turns out, St. Joe's merged with next-door neighbor Immaculate Heart of Mary in 2006 but retained the old building in back for its athletic facilities. That must be where all those cars are heading!

I followed the crowd into the ancient vintage gymnasium, which is actually quite charming. While the lighting could only be described as "subtle," the wood-beamed ceiling made me feel like I was in a ski lodge somewhere.

(By the way, speaking of "vintage," how old is Gene Pingatore? The St. Joseph coach has over 900 victories and Hoop Dreams was made back in 1994!)

Since this was the last home game of the season, it was Senior Night at St. Joe's. The place was packed. (I found out later, again from the guy next to me, that it may very well have been the last game ever in that gym. There's talk, apparently, that the archdiocese may buy the property and build a seniors' residence in its place.)

Each senior -- from the team, the cheerleaders and the dance team -- was introduced and walked out to center court with his or her parents. (It's a nice tradition, but it was a little bittersweet for me, as I was reminded of my own two sons, who are both out of high school now.)

All right, let's play the game, darn it! (Pardon my French.)

The Chargers jumped out to an early lead, mostly behind the play of Division I-bound Patty, and were up, 24-21, at the half. Was I to witness an upset? Not so fast. In the second half, St. Rita settled down and Law began to light up the place. Wow, this kid is only a junior!

The Mustangs went on to win, as I mentioned, but don't be surprised if both teams go deep in the playoffs. They are both tall and hustle, hustle, hustle. I'll be looking forward to watching them again.

P. S. Oh, and that guy next to me I kept referring to? It just so happens he was the brother-in-law of St. Joe legend and NBAer, Isiah Thomas.

P. P. S. Tonight it's Benet vs. Whitney Young at House of Hope. Should be one for the ages!

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