By Anthony Bosco
A quick look from just about anyone who knew anything about high school basketball could have probably told you the same thing in a matter of seconds. Still, midway through the season, it feels good knowing that at least we were correct in our prognostications of a few months ago.
No division has offered more surprises to me than the Catholic High School Athletic Association's Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan, of which five of the seven teams call Queens home: Molloy, Christ the King, Holy Cross, St. Francis Prep and McClancy.
As usual, all teams are close to or above the .500 mark in their overall records, giving credence to the widely held belief that the CHSAA is the best high school hoops league in the country. But the division itself is more closely contested this year than I can ever remember it being, with not one or two teams vying for the top spot, but no less than four or even five teams with a legitimate shot at taking the title.
Molloy remains the only unbeaten team in league play, something that wouldn't shock anyone who knew that the team coached by Jack Curran had two legitimate Division I players on its roster in Wendell Gibson and Steve Sikiric. But when Molloy opened its season with a blowout loss to CHSAA Arch Diocese foe All Hallows, there certainly were those who wondered whether or not Molloy would be as good as predicted. Well, with nary a loss on its league slate heading into Friday's match-up with Christ the King, Molloy looks as good as advertised.
But there have been other surprises in the league, too. Christ the King is supposed to be having a down year, yet is 4-1 and Holy Cross, which has no height at all, was 11-0 before it finally lost a game. Xaverian has been looking good for year, but was unable to deliver until this season, opening up with an upset over CK and is now 4-2. St. Francis Prep was a team sporting perhaps the best player in the borough in Rashad Bell, but has won just once in the league, last week beating last place McClancy, a team that went to the city quarterfinals last year.
Even the girls' CHSAA league has had some surprises, but not nearly as dramatic. As expected Christ the King is on its own level, while St. Francis Prep and Bishop Kearney are not far behind. And while Bishop Loughlin and Stella Maris usually fall in line somewhere after these top teams, it is Queens' own The Mary Louis Academy which has stepped into the fourth spot with an eye on third.
The girls' league may never be completely balanced, however, with Christ the King having a firm hold on its dominance, courtesy of its national schedule against some of the nation's top teams, which is more than most other local teams can compete with.
In the Public School Athletic League, things are also much closer than usual. In Queens A-II, usually Cardozo's domain, things have gotten a little tighter. Campus Magnet has beaten the Darryl Hill-led Judges twice this season, marking the first time in more than four years Cardozo has lost two league games in a season.
Head coach Chuck Granby's team, featuring Mark Arrington and Devon Ray, is not alone in challenging Cardozo for the league crown. Perry Dortch's Van Buren VeeBees, a defensive-oriented team led by point guard Josh Puello, has also made strides this season and should make the playoffs.
Queens A-I has also been normally dominated by one team of late, Newtown, but this year the Pioneers are being challenged by the Hillcrest Hawks and head coach Ken Gershon, who, in his 30th and final year at the helm, assembled a team vying for the division title. Pre-season favorite Bryant, led by Deshawn Warren, has been strong as expected.
In the PSAL girls' A league August Martin has been the perennial favorite, but the Angels have struggled and need to win a few key games just to make the playoffs.
The league is currently led by Francis Lewis, coached by Mike Eisenberg, whose team does not have a single player averaging more than 15 points per game. Lewis has just one loss on the season – to Sheepshead Bay – and won the Wingate and Monsignor King tournaments. The team will get another test when it plays defending PSAL champs Murray Bergtraum Sunday.
Cardozo, led by Shavonne Roundtree and January Johnson and coached by Larry Carradine, is just a step behind Lewis.
In the boys' B-I division, Aviation is currently undefeated in league play and 17-3 overall. Right behind Aviation is Adams with two league losses. In B-II, Flushing and Bowne lead the way in another hotly contested division.
In the Queens girls' B division, defending champs John Adams, Grover Cleveland and Newtown lead their respective divisions, with no clear cut favorite among them.
So while blue chip players are at a premium, the standings of just about all the high school leagues are tighter and the games more closely contested. And, regardless of talent, there is nothing wrong with that.