Inter-Ac Basketball Debate
. . .
Is Episcopal's '06 Squad the Best of All-Time in the League?
In the 2/22 Daily News, Ted wrote a
column, with input from others, about whether this
Episcopal team deserves to be considered the best of all-time in the league. His conclusion:
it does, mostly because it was so senior-heavy and boasted two of the very best players in
city history. The column appears below. ***We welcome your contributions for the comment
section underneath. Thanks!***
Send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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NOW THAT THE games are over, let's bring
everyone to the fierce-debate table.
Even before the season ended, Dan Dougherty expressed the opinion his 2005-06 Episcopal Academy basketball team was the best he'd coached in 27 seasons there (1977-97, 2001-06).
Ah, but where does it rank in Inter-Ac League history? Is it the best of all time? Is it even the crown jewel of this decade?
"I'm predicting we'd win by 10."
Those words came tumbling out of the mouth of Jim Fenerty, the longtime coach at Germantown Academy.
As much as he respects the accomplishments rung up this season by Episcopal (10-0 league, 27-4 overall), Fenerty feels his '01 squad was better.
A case certainly could be made.
First, let's dissect the '06 Churchmen...
The co-franchise players, wing guard Wayne Ellington (North Carolina) and small forward Gerald Henderson (Duke), were ranked among the very best high school players in the country. They formed an amazing tandem not only because of how well they played, but also because of how well they blended, both with each other and their teammates. Had the NBA not changed its draft rules, it's conceivable both would have been forced hard to think about bypassing college.
The next starter, 6-9 Mike Yocum, is bound for Division I Albany. His rebounding and shotblocking perfectly complemented the famous duo, allowing them to perform their miracles mostly stress-free.
Tim Ivory, the football quarterback, was a competent point guard, and not to be left alone from beyond the arc, while Charlie Barks performed the menial tasks with resolve and never once pondered overstepping his bounds.
The bench was admittedly shallow. But junior Pat Kelly, a guard, was a persistent threebie threat and only some illness problems prevented him from being a seasonlong starter.
GA '01... GA '01? Is it coming back to you?
Those Patriots also swept through the Inter-Ac, and went 27-3 overall.
Generally, the most talked-about players were the juniors, wing guard Matt Walsh, forward Lee Melchionni and center Ted Skuchas. They would wind up at Florida, Duke and Vanderbilt, respectively, and Walsh has made an NBA pit stop after declaring for the draft as a junior.
The other starters were point guard Mike Slattery and hustler Troy Holiday. One of the key subs was Rob Kurz, who would later transfer to Penn Charter and be a major component of that school's memory-making squad in '03.
But back to Slattery for a moment. He was hardly an afterthought. In fact, he was a first- team Daily News All-City honoree as a senior and then enjoyed an outstanding career at Delaware.
Fenerty eased through the possible matchups one by one and figured his squad was hangin'. He then halted at point guard.
"This is where we win it," he said. "I used to bang heads with Mike all the time; he had that edge to him. But what a player. I didn't realize how good he was until he was gone. We're still trying to replace him."
When asked to pick a winner, Dougherty laughed and said, "I'd give it a tie. It'd be a great game."
He added, "That GA team did have every component you could ask for. I liked Slattery. He got a Division I scholarship and proved his mettle there."
As an aside, Dougherty said he's still receiving grief from his son, Brian, now his assistant and a starter for the '91 Churchmen (27-2), whom he formerly considered his best team.
"There's no comparison," he cooed.
For the record, Dougherty also loved his '05 squad (10-0, 25-3) and its senior starters, steady point guard Dylan Brown (Ohio Wesleyan, lacrosse) and forward/enforcer Joe Rosati (Villanova, baseball).
Yet this year's must get the nod, he said, because of its much more difficult national-level schedule (23 games were played away or at neutral sites) and the fact The Big Three were seniors and still making tangible improvements. (Ellington, for instance, became a lockdown defender.)
What's a moderator to do? Consult someone else.
Penn Charter coach Jim "Flipper" Phillips was in his first season in '01.
"For me," he said, "it comes down to those third-wheel guys. The guy who really gave us fits was Yocum. We never had that much of a problem with Skuchas.
"And Episcopal's so-called lesser guys could really shoot it. You couldn't leave Ivory open and Kelly could hit treys, too. Know what? I'm not sure we even saw the 'full Episcopal.' Because Kelly had those sickness problems and it took a while for Ivory to get going because he was hurt coming out of football."
Dougherty also spoke highly of Yocum.
"We were pretty good in '04 [22-6 overall] when Gerald and Wayne were sophs, but teams with height really gave us problems," he said. "We just couldn't match up. When Mike came with us, it made a big difference. All the pieces fit."
Just so it doesn't get lost in the shuffle, PC's '03 squad went 10-0 and 26-4. Its headliners were also juniors - point guard Sean Singletary (starring at Virginia; our Player of the Year in '04) and Kurz (Notre Dame).
Zack Zeglinski (playing football at Penn State as a preferred walk-on) was a sophomore and already a sniping guard while the frontcourt included Matt Ryan (now playing QB at Boston College) and bruiser Mike Boles (Albright). The main subs were guys destined to focus on other sports in college: Tony McDevitt (Duke, lacrosse) and Ryan Nanni (Rhode Island, baseball).
"That PC team was very good," Dougherty said. "But I think we're a little bit better."
So there you have it. Most of it... Except the view from here.
I'm going with Episcopal '06. Assuming the referees let everyone play.
When in doubt, and as long as no underlying chemistry problems are sensed, I tend to go with teams that have seniors as their core. This squad was not only senior-laden, it featured two of the very best players in the country, as well as this city's history.
That makes the difference.
Your Comments . . .
I like the GA team when Slattery was
at the point with the big three,
but you make a heckva point about the all seniors and the two
all-world's. I remember three players in PIAA history, first Billy
Owens, then Kobe and then John Allen of Coatesville who in their senior
years just took their teams on their backs and pulled them to state
titles. When I would watch Episcopal about five times on film or live
TV, I would think they can't beat N-G, Roman or Oak Hill. Well those two
made them beat Roman and N-G and gave Oak Hill all they could handle.
-- Jerry Shenk
How can you talk about Penn Charter's '03 squad, and not mention PC's
'71-72 squad, which lost ONLY to Penn's freshman squad, and which beat
Chester High School by 10 points, which went on to win the PIAA State
crown!!!!! Do the names Barnes Hauptfuhrer (Princeton), Eddie Enoch
(Penn), Michael Enoch (William and Mary) mean anything to you? The
other two guys (Tim O'Rourke was one of them) weren't bad either, and 3
starters alone were from one suburban town (Lafayette Hill). That team was
BETTER than the '03 squad, and I ain't lyin'. I was there. Come to think of
it, you, as an OPC, were probably at several games.
Anthony A. Wall, Jr
"Tony" (OPC '75)
(Ted's note: They mean a lot to me -- smile. That probably ranks as the top
Inter-Ac team of the 1900s. The league has taken such giant steps forward in
just the last six-seven years. The other starter was Tim Knettler. That team
might also have lost to Lawrenceville, with some PGs.)
I will go with you....at least to agree
that NO Inter-ac team has had three
like Gerald, Wayne and Yocum. To compare eras is crazy but I still feel the
PC teams in the early sixties (Billy Soens etc ) were very special. Dan
Dougherty coached at Malvern then so I would love to hear his thoughts.
In fact his ' 65 Malvern team was pretty good too (20-3 and 14-0 in the
league) !! Many feel Soens was the best local player in the "50/ "60 era.
-- Ted Rauch
(Ted's note: As already a basketball-crazed sixth grader, I kept the shot
chart the day Soens scored 63 against Gtn. Academy. LOTS of No. 13's
with circles around them, to indicate made FGs -- smile.)
I checked my records and there is no indication that Penn Charter played either Bartram or St. Thomas More in the '71-72 season. The number of games I have for each of those teams agrees with their published W-L records. Can't speak to them playing Chester that year but do know that Chester was not the PIAA champ that year, losing to Farrell 56-55 in the state final. It was the last state championship for the legendary Farrell coach Eddie McCluskey. Four of Chester's starters were between 6'4 and 6'6 while Farrell's tallest starter was 6'.
-- Tom Taylor
(Ted's note: Thanks, Tom. The PC-Bartram thing sounded a little suspicious, especially when
there was an indication that Bartram won, 97-51. Ha, ha. Hard to believe!)
NOTE FROM TED . . .
I checked my files from the '72 season and here's some info on Penn Charter. The Quakers did not NOT play Bartram. Bartram's foe in that one game we were uncertain of was a place called Penn Center Academy.
Here are PC's scores for the 10 Inter-Ac games (no special order):
69, MP 56
64, MP 51
65, GA 39
46, EA 27
85, HS 57
81, GA 53
85, HS 52
59, CH 35
74, EA 53
78, CH 44
average victory margin: 24.3
scoring averages in league play for the five starters:
Ed Enoch, 15.5
Barnes Hauptfuhrer, 15.2
Tim O'Rourke, 14.8
Tim Knettler, 11.8
Mike Enoch, 8.8
Mike was a soph. The others were seniors.
Ed made third team All-City.
About the game with Chester . . .
PC won at home, 66-58, after trailing at halftime, 31-19. O'Rourke and Ed Enoch had 21 points apiece. PC shot 15-for-22 in the second half. PC made 20 free throws (not sure of attempts), including 13 of its last 14. Chester went 6-for-18 at the line and missed eight of its last 11.
This note comes from John Burkhart, a PC teacher (and PA announcer at the games)
and manager of the '72 squad. John says he wrote this in tongue-in-cheek fashion, but
I know he bleeds '72 team blue and yellow (smile) . . .
"Ever" is a very long time.
Especially in the context of the ancient and honorable InterAc League,
with a 120-year tradition of fierce competition and excellent teams in
Therefore, I was dismayed by your designation of - and unconvinced by
your arguments for - Episcopal's current basketball team as the "best
ever" in the InterAc in the 22 February 2006 issue of the Daily News.
I mean to take nothing away from the accomplishments and talent of the
Churchmen this year. They had a great season, and deserve many
accolades. Dan Dougherty is the Dean of Coaches, at least in
Pennsylvania if not beyond, and I respect him as a great strategist,
mentor to his charges, competitor, and teacher-coach. Having coaches
like Doc and Bud Tosti in our league makes everyone in the InterAc
better. So kudos to the Churchmen, but leave the "best ever"
comparisons to the folks with the fantasy leagues.
Your article made some pretty good arguments for the 2001 GA squad as
well as the 2003 PC team as contenders. I am sure the partisans of
each school will want to challenge EA2006 for "team of the century,"
but we all know that long before 2000 our league had some very strong
teams that could give even this year's champs a run for their money.
You know where I intend to start my rebuttal.
PC had a basketball team in the 1971-72 season that also finished on
top of the region's ratings, and went 23-2. The only loss to another
prep school was in OT to Lawrenceville, a team that featured Armand
Hill. We lost to the Penn frosh in the Palestra, but to warm up for
that 5-quarter (40 minute) game we traveled to Easton and beat the
Lafayette freshman team. That PC team averaged 74 ppg. and beat
opponents by an average 15-point margin. As a team we shot 52% from
the field and 68.2% from the foul line, and beat that year's PIAA
runner-up (Chester) by 8 (after trailing by 12 at the half). It was
truly a team, with a bit of bench strength, but consider the starters:
Ed Enoch, 15.9 ppg, 59.2 FGAvg., 13 assists/game
Tim O'Rourke, 15 ppg, 52% FGAvg.
Barnes Hauptfuhrer, 15 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 61%FGAvg., 83% FTAvg.
Tim Knettler, 10 ppg, 9rpg, 75%FTAvg.
Mike Enoch, 9 ppg
All of the above scoring BEFORE the introduction of the 3-point line or
allowing high school kids to dunk. A different era, you say? Apples
vs. Oranges? Ah, there's the rub.
The different eras and evolution of the game overall, not to mention in
the league, makes the use of the descriptor "ever" even more
inappropriate. Our closest competition in the league in '72 was
Malvern, which featured Charles Floyd (and a great point guard whose
names escapes me at the moment), a team that could match some of the
best recent squads on paper. My own memory and resources are too
myopic to recall many other classic IAAA teams, but just at PC alone,
Buff Weigand had great teams in the mid-sixties, and Duke Taylor had
more than his share of talent. I believe Speedy Morris and Bill Michuda
had a lot of talented teams in the almost-recent past. Other InterAc
historians could point to their own schools' past glories. The game
has changed with the 3-point line and dunks and individual showboating,
and back in the day we did not have 30-game schedules with
corporate-sponsored showcase tournaments. But the last time I checked
the 3-second call was still being enforced, the basket is still the
same height, and players are still asked to leave the floor on their
fifth personal foul. Some stats do hold up to comparisons across the
years, some aspects do not. The 3-point line might lower some
shooter's averages, but scoring 74 points per game without the arc is a
rather respectable stat.
I do not have to cite chapter and verse to you, Ted, to invoke teams
worthy of due consideration. No one has the encyclopedic command of
local scholastic sports information that you have amassed, and with
which you are so generous. I will humbly defer to your judgment in an
all-league, all-decade or any other compilation, but I think you
over-shot the mark, caught up in the moment of EA's euphoria. This year
they are truly the class of the league, and a matchup with any IAAA
champion of the past ten years would be great to watch, but it's all
hypothetical. I just do not think that one little word - "ever" - does
justice to the history of the league (especially from PC's perspective)
in this context. Hyperbolic headlines are great for selling
newspapers, but I thought journalism as an art form was inherently
I appreciate your taking the time to plow through this screed, and look
forward to seeing you again in the InterAc press boxes.
-- John Burkhart
(Ted's note: Thanks for this, John! Good stuff!)