2023-24 CYO Early Season Review

2023-24 CYO Early Season Review

Before Christmas break, the halls of Cathedral Prep were filled with the buzz of random half-court shots, blown open layups, and lots of free throws being air-balled. Everyone’s favorite season of CYO basketball is back in full swing. For those unfamiliar with CYO, students who are members of a Catholic parish or graduated from a Catholic middle school revive their basketball careers. Theology teacher Mr. John MacKenzie (’18) gave some thoughtful insight into what CYO fever is all about and his own experience.

“CYO has undeniably become one of those deeply rooted Prep traditions, whether you are playing or a fan,” Mr. MacKenzie said. “The league gives us, as Ramblers, a unique opportunity to compete against your brothers. It seems that during the season, there is always a buzz in the hallways as we recall our old parish and school rivalries from before we were Prep students. Students and teachers alike always enjoy hearing the banter this time of year, of which there is plenty. Recapping the games is always the hot topic the following day at school. I always thought the healthy competition and rivalries were just what we needed to break up the winter months.”

Mr. MacKenzie went on to reflect on his time as a CYO participant.

“My playing career was a fun time, but we never seemed that great when I played,” Mr. MacKenzie said. “I am most proud of my time as a coach for the Bulldogs. I coached Blessed Sacrament for two seasons, and I never officially retired. The first, in the season of 2020, we had a solid playoff run but came up short. After a COVID hiatus, we got the league back together for the 2022 season. Alongside my classmate Pete Frisina (’18), I coached the greatest CYO team ever assembled in the ’22 Bulldogs. I have no doubt that this group of men was the best to ever compete in the league. We were crowned undefeated league champs, but unfortunately, that season did not include a state tournament due to the pandemic. I fully believe we would have had a great shot at bringing a state title back to the Diocese of Erie. That team included The Rambler‘s very own Kwame Anim-Somuah (’24) and many other Bulldog greats in Mason Orlando (’22), Jake Pollock (’22), Vinny Kloecker (’22), Tyson Simon (’22), Reece Johnson (’23), Noah Lauria ’23, and many others. What is the moral of the story? No visiting team should ever be looking forward to a trip to the Dog Dome.”

With only five teams competing this year in the league, there is not a lot of separation between the contenders and pretenders. 

The title contenders:

Saint George is the hottest team on the streets, with a surprising record of 4-0 and a big opening night win against Blessed Sacrament. Led by terrific trio of Daniel Oblich, Issac Sterns, and Jack Louie, the Lancers could shock the entire CYO world by staying undefeated but will face a challenge every game by not having any home games at their surprisingly small court. 

Blessed Sacrament has been a CYO powerhouse in recent years, with back-to-back finals appearances and a championship win in 2021. Losing in heartbreaking fashion to OLP last year, the Bulldogs have the most CYO experience, with more than half of their team returning. Senior star guard Andrew DiSanza will be the key to returning the Bulldogs back to a championship game. He averaged 21 points and 7 assists last season and is already having a hot start to the year, dropping 25 points on Our Lady of Peace Sunday night. New addition Kyren Paskell will add some help in the backcourt for the Bulldogs, making him and DiSanza look like 2016 Lebron and Kyrie with how much the Bulldog offense will lean on them. Bulldogs are currently 3-1 with a big matchup against St. George Thursday.

On The Bubble:

Having sellout crowds in every game they play, the Jude’s Dudes are the most entertaining team in the league. Having back-to-back winless seasons, the Raiders made some massive moves in free agency with the pickup of senior forward Nick Jackson. Having a breakout season last season like Austin Reaves, junior guard Logan Sauers will need to have a stellar season alongside Jackson to give the Crusaders any chance of contending this year. Be on the lookout for three and D specialists Evan Sipple and Cam Sauers with some sneaky points. The Raiders are currently 2-2 after beating St. Luke 56-29.

Fraud Watch

The Our Lady of Peace Crusaders, on paper, should be on the bubble for contending for a championship, but after watching a few of their games, it would take a miracle to make the finals. Junior Guard Nick Kupniewski, who talks more trash than Patrick Beverly, and Max Spence are the dynamic duo that lead the Crusaders. OLP is currently 1-3.

Time to rebuild

Saint Luke had a surprisingly strong season last year, but after losing most of their starting lineup, the Crusaders are having a rough year that looks hopeless. Senior forward Eric Cox is the main man in all aspects of basketball. He will have to turn into 2007 LeBron to even get his squad past the first round.

The Rambler will be providing coverage throughout the remainder of the CYO season on all media platforms (X, Facebook, and Instagram). Make sure to tune in!

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