It is that time of year, as we are getting closer to a highly anticipated CYO season, beginning on Thursday Jan. 2. There is quite the amount of anticipation and hype for the season ahead. A lot of trash talking between players from opposing teams is going to lead to some big matchups throughout the year!
Although it may not be the highlight of Erie sports, CYO is a very popular sports program throughout the halls of Cathedral Prep. CYO consists mostly of students at Prep that do not play organized basketball for the school and are simply looking to play in a competitive yet fun league; that is CYO. What other league will you find plenty of angry screaming parents, ridiculous technical fouls, and plenty of flash from the skilled players on the court? CYO is the place to be, especially when the gyms are packed, and the place is electric all throughout the game.
This upcoming season presents a slue of basketball talent, packed gyms, and games that will have you on the edge of your seat! Each year, highly anticipated matchups draw big crowds of students and fans, and this year is surely not going to disappoint.
With that being said, the preseason rankings are here! Below is a list of the teams, where they rank to start the year, and an evaluation of each team and why they are ranked in their position.
6. Saint James
Saint James is never short of competitive each and every year. A team that brings constant pressure and hustle, they will always give the opposition a close game. The only team in the league that packs in a full court press, Saint James will turn over their opponents with the hustle they bring to the table. Led this year by junior John Campbell, who is arguably a top scorer in the league, Saint James may cause some problems for teams that expect to beat them going in to the game.
Saint James also presents a tough home court advantage. Parents show up in full force for every game, and being the furthest team from every other parish, travel could present issues in these winter months. No one is going to want to face Saint James at their gym with the full court press either, which showed up many times last year.
Saint James, however, faces some height issues. Many teams around the league have dominant big men that will look to feast in the paint against Saint James. Do not count them out to be a big upset team going into the year, as may even shock some fans around the league with their level of play this year.
5. Saint Peter’s
Saint Peters is coming off a “middle of the pack” season last year. Despite losing much of their scoring to graduation, they do return a few key role players to the squad this year. Saint Pete’s is never short of hustle, but shot selection always remains in question. If Saint Pete’s can develop a good level of chemistry, they have the chance to be good this year. Playing in their gym is always a struggle because of its small size, and that could create some problems for the opposition this year. This team is full of a bunch of athletes, just not basketball players. The core of their team is made up of mostly soccer players who have some talent, but they lack the fundamentals to win a lot of games. They’re expected to be a team that’s just “out there to have fun,” and it wouldn’t be shocking to see them fool around mid-game. Will that translate to wins? Probably not.
Led this year by juniors Colin Taraski and Jack Foht, Saint Peter’s is full of speed. With much of the team being quick guards, it’ll be tough to contain them in the fast break. Senior Jack Moylan and junior Johnny Kretzing will be important role players for this squad. Moylan is a streaky shooter and has a beautiful stroke with the left hand. I’d expect him to handle the scoring load this year. A team that lacks in size, they will rely on their speed to get them some upset victories this year.
When playing on a bigger floor, Saint Pete’s will be looking to outrun the competition. Size could be an issue for this team, as almost every other team has a physical presence inside. Hustle will be the key for Saint Pete’s. Look for this team to try and feast on some upsets this year, but don’t expect them to contend in the playoffs.
4. Blessed Sacrament
Blessed Sacrament is coming off an impressive year, finishing 3rd last season led by a talented senior class. Now that all of that talent has exited due to graduation, the question that comes up is who is going to step up and lead the Bulldogs this year. Blessed Sacrament is known to be physical team, and this year doesn’t seem to be anything but that for them. They present a lot of size up front and can dominate anyone in the pain this year.
Led this year by juniors Jack Malec and Ethan King-Vincent, Blessed Sacrament has many different scoring options up front. It is unclear who will be taking over the lead role, as Malec is the only player returning from their starting 5 on last year’s team. Size is the Bulldogs’ strength, and how they use their size to their advantage may determine their success this year. It remains to be seen how well the back court will be able to contain and score on other players throughout the league, and who will maintain the primary ball handling duties. The Bulldogs are a team that is built for a run. Led by first-year head coach John MacKenzie, this team could surprise a few people this year.
Presented with the biggest and nicest gym the diocese has to offer, everyone will be looking forward to playing at Blessed Sacrament this year. Usually drawing large parental crowds, expect a close and physical game when traveling to play the Bulldogs this year.
Senior guard Matt Gaeta had this to say about the season ahead. “I think this season is [going to] hold a lot of good times for everyone, and everyone will make some unforgettable memories.”
3. Our Lady of Peace
The reigning diocesan champions and state runner-ups, OLP is coming off a very impressive season last year. This year, they have the chance to repeat the feat that was accomplished last year, despite losing all five starters and their 6th man to graduation. OLP has one of the toughest gyms to play in, giving them a nice home court advantage throughout the year when opposing teams come to play. OLP presents a wide range of talent, inside and outside the perimeter, making them a team in contention for the title this year.
OLP will be led this year by big man Mitch Ruff and wing player Mike Beneski. Mitch is a 3-year Cathedral Prep basketball player, and standing at 6’4″ tall, he is a problem in the paint. His ability to stretch the floor and shoot the three will create matchup nightmares for most teams in the league. Mike Beneski is said to be a lengthy wing player, who has the ability to get to the hoop inside and shoot an efficient 3-ball. This team will also be led at the guard positions by Mark Dipietro, and Trey Kennedy, whose passing vision and high basketball IQ will provide a spark to this team by bringing up the ball.
OLP has the potential to be a top team in the league this year, but it is unclear how well they will play together. A team not returning any of their scoring from last year, they have the ability to shock many throughout the year and could potentially end up coming out of the league in back-to-back seasons.
Junior Ryan Jubulis had this to say about the upcoming year. “We have a ton of depth, and we can go very far into the playoffs.”
2. Saint Jude
Saint Jude is coming off an impressive season last year in which they took home the regular season title. Falling short in the playoffs to OLP last year, the Dudes are ready for another successful season. Saint Jude, similar to many other teams, lost a lot of their scoring from last year, only returning one starter from last year’s roster in Tyler Darden. Saint Jude has one of the nicer courts in the area and has the ability to draw decent sized crowds. Saint Jude presents a wide range of new talent coming into this year and has the roster to make noise in the league this year.
Led by senior Tyler Darden, the Dudes have filled the roster with many role players this year. Senior Collin Johnson adds more 3-point shooting to the floor and has the ability to catch fire at any moment. Junior Evan Rowane, a newcomer to the CYO scene, will provide an inside outside scoring option for the Dudes as well. Rounding out the front court, senior Charlie Raimondi and Thomas Swanson provide a physical inside presence to compliment the lights out shooting and scoring from Darden. Swanson is the “glue guy” of this team as he will do all of the little things to help this team rack up wins.
Chemistry is the Dudes’ strength this year, as this group has played together in years past. Depth may be a question for Saint Jude this year, but they have some outside scoring options that will compliment the starting five well. No question Saint Jude has the talent to make a deep playoff run this year, but can they live up to the expectations put in place, and use their teamwork to win them games down the stretch?
Senior Thomas Swanson said, “I see the year being exciting with a lot of intense and entertaining games.”
1. Saint George
Saint George is coming off a mediocre season last year, but the jump they are expected to make is huge going into the year. The expectations for this year are quite high, as they present the deepest team in the league, a talented starting five, along with the hardest court to play in around the area. It is always dangerous to play at Saint George, and no team wants to play there when it comes playoff time if this team can secure the number one spot. Saint George will always draw the crowds and present a tough matchup on any given night.
Led this year by junior Justin Corsale and senior Michael Rahner, Saint George brings matchup nightmares across the board. Corsale poses to be one of the bigger scoring threats in the entire league, and Rahner might be the best all-around player with flashy passing skills that are simply unmatched. The inside presence of seniors Jack Oedekoven and Tom Carroll will provide size that is hard to contain. Point guard Luke Misko will provide this team with ball handling along with high basketball IQ. Saint George is also fairly deep with a plethora of scoring options that will be at the ready. Scoring and defending will not be an issue for this team as they get ready for the upcoming season.
This team has the potential to make some noise all year; however, consistent outside shooting remains a question. Dominated by size and athleticism, inside scoring will be a breeze. They may have to turn toward their bench to find that outside consistency, but be careful when playing Saint George this year, as they can beat anyone without consistent outside shooting on any given night.
“I like our team’s chances this year to be around the top of the league,” said senior Luke Misko. “We’re very well-rounded and we’ve got a great group of guys with plenty of depth. We surely have the best bench in the league and that should be quite beneficial for us, especially whenever we may get into any foul trouble. While we don’t excel in every area of the game, I really see no glaring weaknesses on our team as the athleticism that we possess is off the charts.”
The Rambler’s Preseason All-CYO First Team for the upcoming year is as follows:
PG: Tyler Darden (Saint Jude)
SG: Justin Corsale (Saint George)
SF: Mike Beneski (Our Lady of Peace)
PF: Michael Rahner (Saint George)
C: Mitch Ruff (Our Lady of Peace)
This season is for sure not going to be short of some highly anticipated matchups. Saint Jude and Saint George is the game to be at this year. There is the expectation that the gym will be packed full of screaming fans, and a great game is expected on the court as well from the projected top two squads.
Fans in attendance are encouraged all around the league for this year’s season. Each and every game packs excitement and energy, not to mention some great basketball. Games are traditionally on Thursday and Sunday nights and start later on in the evening. Keep an eye out for game times for your team, and get out there to cheer on every team this year in what is shaping up to be a great season.
Tyler Darden is the managing editor of The Rambler. He is a member of the Class of 2020. His interests include playing basketball, golf, and corn hole. He also enjoys spending time with friends and family.