By Mark Kitchin
Can a mid-season bonding weekend help a basketball team during the regular season? Morris Catholic thought it did.
The Crusaders thought they built some much needed chemistry on an overnight trip during the first weekend of February. They won four of their last six games after their bus ride to Philadelphia and road contest against Archmere Academy in Claymont, Delaware. The Crusaders finished their season at 10-15, a four-game improvement over last season’s result.
It is the second year, the Crusaders embarked on the trip that has become one of the highlights of the varsity season. On Saturday, February 9th the Crusaders took a morning bus ride and a quick practice before playing Archmere. Morris Catholic fell 66-55. Zach Williams scored 13 and Kevin Cannavina had 12 in the loss.
The Morris Catholic players convene at the Wells Fargo Center for a rare Sunday morning practice. (Photo courtesy of Morris Catholic)
That evening the Crusaders attended Saturday Vigil Mass at the Cathedral for Saints Peter and Paul, the mother church the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The out-of-towners reportedly drew some attention from parishioners not used to seeing athletes with Morris Catholic varsity jackets filling their pews. The Crusaders made friends after the services and rode to the Wells Fargo Center to watch the Philadelphia 76ers and Charlotte Hornets in an NBA contest from a private box.
The Morris Catholic players would return to the arena the next morning for a practice session on the NBA court that included Barry Brodzinski, a professional shooting coach and friend of Morris Catholic coach Dave Grande. The organized shooting practice in the empty arena included full-court drills, NBA-range 3-point shooting and a 5-on-5 intra-squad scrimmage. After the hour-and a half on the NBA facility, the team took a tour of St. Joseph’s University with the blessing of men’s coach Phil Martelli and the men’s basketball staff. The team also stayed to watch some of the St. Joseph’s women’s basketball game against Charlotte.
Morris Catholic came home and seemed to gain some benefits from the unique experience. Victories against Oratory Prep, Butler, Pequannock and Hopatcong followed. The Crusaders did quality for state tournament play. They finished their season with a loss to Montclair Kimberley Academy 71-56 in North Non-Public B activity on February 27th.