Photo by Jeff Vorva
Brother Rice’s Nick Bowes (left) and Marquise Kennedy put the defensive clamps on Bishop McNamara Friday night in Kankakee. Brother Rice won its 27th straight game against the Irish.
There are some changes to the structure of Chicago Catholic League basketball this season and the new format started up on Friday night.
But no matter the format, thrills and wild games seem to never change in the CCL.
St. Laurence and Brother Rice were in the middle of some noteworthy crossover games on Friday night as St. Laurence beat St. Joseph for the first time since 1977 with an 84-81 victory in Burbank while Brother Rice beat Bishop McNamara for the 27th straight time with an 82-51 triumph in Kankakee.
Battling through two brutal cramps that kept him out of the game for two different periods of time, St. Laurence guard Isaiah Harvey scored 34 points, including the game-winning three-pointer with 3.6 seconds left in the game.
“We talked all week how in order to beat this team it would take toughness and making free throws,’’ first-year Vikings coach Jim Sexton said. “To beat a storied program and ranked opponent like that at this stage of our program is unbelievable.”
Harvey, a native of the Virgin Islands, came up huge in the game as the Vikings improved to 6-0 while St. Joseph fell to 5-1.
“He’s the heart and soul of this program,” Sexton said. “He is the engine that makes it go. I told him from the beginning of the year when he has great energy, we are great. When he doesn’t, we struggle. He has lived up to it, bringing great energy every game this year.”
Brother Rice improved to 4-1 with the win over Bishop McNamara as Josh Boulanger led the Crusaders with 16 points.
Bishop McNamara and Wheaton St. Francis are leaving the league next season and the Crusaders enjoyed a 27-game winning streak against McNamara.
“The last two years, I feel like we should have lost to them – they were really good and we were lucky to beat them,’’ Brother Rice coach Bobby Frasor said. “We obviously didn’t want to lose the final time we play them.’’
The league is now broken up into a nine-team Blue Division and a nine-team White division based on success rate. Teams will play eight division games and three crossovers. The postseason tournament was eliminated.
“The kids liked the tournament and as coaches, we should have thought about that,” Frasor said. “There are some logistical things – the Class 1A schools had some trouble with it (due to the start of the state playoffs).
“But I like the alignment of putting the top schools together because I remember playing in the Catholic League and it was a who’s who every night. You can’t point at the schedule and say ‘that’s a win.’ That’s how it’s going to be in the Blue. Fenwick is the top dog, but anyone can win a game on any given night.’’
St. Joseph coach Gene Pingatore, who is in his 49th season and is the only coach to win more than 1,000 games in the Illinois High School Association, has seen his share of changes over the decades.
“I was never in favor of the tournament, I thought it was just too much,’’ he said. “I like this (format) from the standpoint of we play everybody in our division. Crossover has to be this way because some teams will cross over against good teams and weak teams, but this is the best we can do at this point.”
Sexton’s team is in the White Division and his troops are hoping for another change next year.
“We prefer to be in the top division, but I know it gets reorganized every year, and we are hoping to get enough wins this year to be in that top division next year, no matter how they cut it,’’ he said.
Shot of the year (so far)
The boys basketball season is in its infant stages, but it’s going to take a heck of a great shot to upstage what sophomore Sami Osmani did on Saturday.
The Oak Lawn guard buried a 3-point basket from half court at the buzzer to give the Spartans a 53-50 victory over Chicago Christian in a non-conference game in Oak Lawn.
The Spartans won four of their first five games of the season.
Chicago Christian fell to 2-4 and it was the Knights’ third straight heartbreaking loss of the season. They dropped an overtime decision to Andrew in the third-place game of the District 218 Thanksgiving Tournament followed by a 60-57 road loss to Timothy Christian on Friday and the Oak Lawn setback on Saturday.