Cahillite Nation… Da Fck?

I go to a LOT of basketball games… High School, college and occasionally an NBA game. There’s nothing I enjoy more than a highly competitive basketball game where there’s some real sh!t on the line! Quite frankly, that’s why I avoid the NBA…

Let’s keep it real… They actually play more regulars season games (82) than players get named to the Philadelphia All-Public Team (81)… Fckin Amazing…

My interest in the NBA starts to get piqued when the NBA playoffs edge toward the conference finals. Until then, it’s usually non-stop college hoops for me. Philadelphia City 6 basketball has been my sweet spot for more than 30 years. Most years, Drexel, Penn, Villanova, St. Joseph’s, Temple and La Salle provide a hoop head with a wide range of options.

Unfortunately, this season has been highly problematic. Unless you visit the Main line, it’s damn near impossible to find college games where “there’s some real sh!t on the line.”

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Collin Gillespie, Villanova Point Guard

Villanova exists in an entirely different and distinct universe. The gap between the City 6 haves and have nots hasn’t been this cavernous since the boy from Chester was running point and kicking everybody’s ass at 54th and City Ave.

Jameer, Delonte, Barley, Carroll and Jones were clearly head and shoulders above everyone else in the area for an impressive 24-36 month span. Nova’s run, however, is now approaching a decade. Quite frankly, Jay is so good one could convincingly argue he has fcked up the competitive balance of the Big 5. On far too many occasions, it feels like you are watching a 20 year old big brother dominate his 9 year old little brother in a driveway battle for household supremacy.

Moreover and more importantly… There’s no end in sight…

As of today, St. Joseph’s (1-13), La Salle (4-10) and Temple (6-8) have a combined league record of 11-31… They, more or less, stink… Some smell much worse than the others… But they have all been a lil’ pungent this year.

It should be noted that I LOVE these basketball programs! Many of the coaches are my friends and I’ve watched a lot of the players rise through the ranks to reach their D1 goal. I like nothing more than driving to conference tournaments when these teams are in contention and watching them with a chance to play themselves into March Madness…

Again… I LOVE to watch them play with some real shit on the line!

Well this year… There’s a better chance that Mexico will “pay for the wall” than St. Joseph’s, LaSalle or Temple playing themselves in the NCAA tournament by sweeping through their respective conference tournaments…

Real Rap… Stick a fork in ’em… Or, let’s talk about next year…

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Camren Wynter, Drexel Point Guard

 

Drexel has had some spurts… They have, Camren Wynter, one of the best guards in the CAA and James Butler, a double-double machine at power forward. Zack Spiker’s crew had my hopes up for a moment… Maybe… Just maybe I could head out to the CAA tournament. Then they lost 8 of their last 9 games… Da Fuck?

The Penn Quakers, last year’s Big 5 Champion actually DON’T stink… They ahiiiight… Standing 13-10 overall and 5-5 in the league, maybe just maybe they can pull it together and make a run in the Ivy League tournament… But… But… first they have to get in the tournament.

The Ivy Tournament features ONLY the top 4 teams in the league and right now the Quakers are 5th… If they season ended today they would be on the outside looking in… If they sweep their remaining 4 games they would be in good shape… Good Luck… I’ll be paying close attention, because the Quakers are actually playing games with “some real shit on the line.”

Back to Nova… Being from Darby Township, I’m not a Grey Poupon/Main Line kinda guy… While I’m the first to admit that Nova has, by far, the best product on the market, I’m NOT going that far up Lancaster Ave. more than once or twice a year.

Nonetheless, I refuse to give up my quest for games with “some real sh!t on the line.”
So, I have turned my attention to the scholastic ranks… Man, let me tell you… the high school kids didn’t let me down.

I watched a LOT of HS ball this year… Reading vs Wilson West Lawn, Poly (MD) vs St. Frances (MD), Oak Hill (VA) vs St. Frances, IMG vs Poly (MD), West Catholic vs Archbishop Ryan, Roman Catholic vs Roman, SLA Beeber vs West Philadelphia, Lincoln vs MCS, Archbishop Wood vs Neumann-Goretti, Downingtown West vs Coatesville, Academy Park vs Chester and many others.

These kids were BALLING!! These games were intense!! I got my fix…

But yesterday, I damn near overdosed…

I attended what has to be the most special and most significant HS basketball game in America. The Championship game of the Philadelphia Catholic League is played annually in front of capacity crowds in the historic Palestra on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.

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Blaise Vespe and Warren Eaddy, Neumann-Goretti

This years game was special for many reasons…More than anything else, it’s a game with a LOT of real shit on the line.

First of all, it was a rematch of last years semi-final contest between to the two dominant Catholic League HS programs of the past quarter century.  Roman Catholic knocked off Neumann-Goretti 72-66 at the Palestra last year.

That was last year…

That 2019 Roman squad was loaded. Seth Lundy and Hakim Hart are Big 10 players a year later. Louie Wild is drawing low D1/D2 interest while completing a prep year with Olympus. Gabe Perez is on the roster at D2 Chestnut Hill College. Jalen Duren is the consensus #2 player in the Class of 2022. Justice Williams has emerged as a Top 30 National prospect in the 2022 class one of the top 3 guards in the Greater Philadelphia region regardless of class. Lynn Greer, III is a solid mid-major plus/high major prospect.

Shit!

As expected, Roman won the Catholic League Championship.

Neumann-Goretti’s 2019 squad was also very strong. Chris Ings has been a freshman starter for a good Rider University team all year. Hakim Byrd has committed to join Ings in the MAAC with Marist College. Jordan Hall is headed to 54th and City Ave. to play for the Hawks in the A10. Cameron Young is on his way to Bowling Green and the tough MAC conference. Chris Evans has been drawing interest from low D1/D2 programs and may the best 3-point shooter in the region.

As good as Neumann-Goretti was, it wasn’t enough to get past Roman as the Cahillites won their 4th Catholic League Championship in 5 years.

But graduation took Hart, Lundy, Wild and Perez away. That’s a LOT to lose at one time. Fans and supporters of a typical program would urge caution going forward. The logical thing to do would be to tamper down expectations. Especially, in light of Neumann-Goretti acquiring free agent D1 prospects Hysier Miller (Martin L. King) and Blaise Vespe (St. Augustine Prep) in a busy off-season.

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Hakim Byrd and Hysier Miller, Neumann-Goretti Guards

But… Cahillite Nation ain’t built like that… Their DNA is missing the modesty gene… It renders them incapable to spotting shortcomings and acknowledging weaknesses. Even when they are glaring and easy to spot.

Although they are incredibly gifted athletes, Duren and Williams are just basketball babies, they are mere sophomores. While Greer has been around and been a key part of some wonderful Roman Catholic teams, he was never THE guy. Seth Lundy was THE guy… Hakim Hart was the OTHER guy… Louie Wild did all the little intangible stuff that wins games… They were all gone.

Talent alone is not enough to win games against other talented well-coached teams.

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Cameron Young and Chris Evans, Neumann-Goretti

Recognizing the need to reshape and reformulate his team, Roman Catholic Head Coach, Matt Griffin kept them active year round. Matt is a super sharp guy… He gets it…

Cahillite Nation saw the individual rankings… They saw the high major offers… They heard the incredibly optimistic chatter… They thought people would roll over and play dead because Roman showed up with 3 high major prospects.

The problem is… You have to ACTUALLY play basketball games.

In the summer they went up to Rider and played in a team camp. The competition was fierce. Roman got swept.

Cahillite Nation chimed in… “Team Camp games don’t count!”

Huh? The refs were there… They kept score… Rider coaches were watching…

Coach Griffin knew better…  He put the Cahillites in the best HS Live Period Event on the eastern seaboard. Once again, Roman got swept… Spanked… Embarrassed…

Cahillite Nation spoke up immediately… “HS Live Period games don’t count!”

Huh? Fans were there… Over 200 D1 coaches watched the games…

Fall came around, St. Frances (MD) and Trenton Catholic (NJ) squared off against Roman in The Black Cager Fall Classic in late September… Again… Roman went 0-2.

A pattern was becoming obvious… something was awry… something was askew… Shit wasn’t right… Cahillite Nation was not even slightly concerned… They would just turn it on and run through the regular season.

The capacity crowds that watched the Fall Classic didn’t matter… Like #45, Cahillite Nation insisted “what you see and hear is not actually happening.”

But… Then they started playing regular seasons HS games…

Roman, as always, had a STRONG national schedule lined up… They faced McEachern in Florida and lost… They faced Vashon in St. Louis and lost…

To their credit, They traveled across the Ben Franklin bridge and knocked off Nationally ranked and NJ #1 Camden HS… With that victory, Cahillite Nation was convinced the ship was righted… They forcefully told me so in the aftermath of that particular game.

Then they traveled to Utah and lost to Wasatch Academy and Indiana where they fell to La Lumiere

SMH…

By now you would think Cahillite Nation would exhibit a little humility and grace… Nope! Not a chance…

“None of that matters, we gonna roll through the Catholic League… watch!”

The talk was HEAVY, real HEAVY!

Then Catholic League play started and Friars travelled from Drexel Hill to play Roman in the matchbox on the top floor. Bonner-Prendie spanked ‘em at home… Whoaaa…

Ten days later, they would face Neumann-Goretti and Archbishop Wood in back-to-back road contests… Roman lost both games…

Two weeks after that, they would make their way up to Wyncote to face a tough McDevitt club… Yet another loss…

After spending the entire Summer, Fall and a good portion of the winter losing basketball games, Cahillite Nation proudly declared Roman Catholic the favorite to win the prestigious Catholic League Championship.

“We built for the Palestra” they said…

Roman proceeded to eek out a narrow 2-point victory over Bonner-Prendie in the quarterfinals to make it back to the Palestra for the semi-finals. Then they spanked a tough Archbishop Wood squad in the semi-finals by 10 to advance to the finals.

Under the influence of a 6 game winning streak, Cahillite Nation couldn’t resist the temptation to talk shit.

The Championship became a foregone conclusion in their narrative… They would roll over Neumann-Goretti to retain the title that is their birthright.

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Head Coach, Carl Arrigale and Asst. Coach, Pat Sorrento, Neumann-Goretti

Except they had to actually play the basketball game… Cameron Young, Hysier Miller, Hakim Byrd, Jordan Hall, Chris Evans and Blaise Vespe felt very strongly that they were the better team. During the 32 minute contest, they proved they had the better basketball team.

They proceeded to lead the contest for about 29 or 30 of the 32 minutes. Few objective observers would disagree with the assertion that the Saints were the better team.

As the clock wound down, one of my dear friends and one of the leaders of Cahillite Nation started to leave with a few seconds remaining on the clock. I made sure to get his attention and shake his hand before he could exit.

He extended his hand and said “This game doesn’t matter, we’re gonna win the next 2 anyway.”

Cahillite Nation… Da Fuck?

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