John (R) with family.
John Knebels, aka "Knebs", enjoyed a 30-year run as a sports columnist for the Catholic Standard and Times archdiocesan newspaper that closed in June of 2012. He is a proud graduate of Cardinal Dougherty High School, Temple University, and Cabrini College. An adjunct college instructor and high school teacher, Knebs still contributes to various local newspapers. He recently began writing a book about his high school alma mater and hopes to be done by the summer of 2014. In the meantime, he plans to moonlight here as an occasional reporter on what he labeled "the most prolific high school website in the nation." John can be reached at email@example.com.
St. Joseph’s Prep 46, Archbishop Wood 30
Archbishop Carroll 51, St. Joseph’s Prep 36
Sometimes it’s what a player doesn’t do that stands out more than what he does.
With less than a minute remaining and a convincing victory already clinched, Carroll coach Paul Romanczuk replaced a slew of starters who had methodically defeated a Prep team thanks to balanced scoring (Ernest Aflakpui 19 points, Derrick Jones 10, and Austin Tilghman 10) and a literally in-your-face and hand-all-over-chest defense that caused an unsightly amount of Prep turnovers.
So in came senior Brian Mulligan.
Although he has been part of the varsity squad for three seasons, Mulligan is not considered a main cog among Carroll’s burgeoning arsenal of talent. Not even a minor cog. In fact, he has yet to score a single point this season.
But an athlete’s importance is often not measured in points, rebounds, assists, and blocked shots. That’s where a guy like Mulligan comes in.
“Not only doesn’t he take a day off in practice,” Romanczuk said, “he doesn’t even take a play off.”
So with the last few seconds ticking away, Mulligan had the ball with a wide-open trey attempt just begging to be launched. The boisterous throng of Patriot zealots implored the eminently likeable guard – and diocesan scholar – to take full advantage of his only playing time.
A former starter for St. Anastasia’s grade school team, Mulligan heard the noise, and he recognized the potential.
“It’s definitely nice to get your name in the paper,” Mulligan said. “But that wasn’t the time to score any points.”
Precisely right. Indeed it was not the time to score any more points. Which is why his name is in the paper. Well, at least on the Internet. These days, that’s basically the same thing.
Because when he smartly elected to ignore his competitive instinct and let the game end in a classy manner, Mulligan, in that small but often-unrecognized gesture, wonderfully represented a program that has established itself as a thoroughly legitimate threat to ultimately overtake five-time defending champion Neumann-Goretti for Catholic League supremacy.
“If he had shot it, I would have understood,” Romanczuk said. “But I am not surprised in the least that he didn’t. You won’t find any player who is more unselfish than Brian Mulligan. When you watch him at practice, he goes all out. When we have a game, he knows he might not get minutes because it all depends on the situation. Never a complaint. Always about ‘team.’”
When Mulligan was approached for a post-game interview, he thought there must be some mistake. Why would anyone want to talk to him? He had nothing to do with his team’s 15-point triumph.
“Let me think for a second,” he said with a laugh. “I’m not used to this.”
Mulligan went on to explain that he “knows the program really well” and has “adapted to his role” and accepts it without hesitation.
“I’m really excited to be on this team,” Mulligan said. “It’s fun to be part of something like this.”
Mulligan said he plans to major in business and/or finance in college and hopes to one day snare a job on Wall Street. He’s likely to attend either Penn State, Boston College, or Villanova.
Might there be some hoops in his future? The words “future coach” cries out when this young man speaks.
“That’s not out of the question,” Mulligan said. “It’s something I’m sure I’ll consider at some point. I’ve been around the game most of my life and have enjoyed it.”
So, Mulligan was asked for the third or fourth time, how tempting was it to acquiesce to the crowd’s verbal pleas with the ball in your hands and no defender within three feet?
“Our job was to let the clock run out,” he said. “We’re up 15 points. There’s no sense in winning by more. But did I want to shoot?
“You kidding? Absolutely.”
Too bad a boxscore can’t include three points for brutal honesty.
And total class.
SJ Prep 55, Lansdale Catholic 42
Michael Jordan – and no doubt many others – once said that the ultimate compliment to an athlete is when a fan base plans ahead of time to heckle an opponent.
Consider Ryan Wall complimented, because on Wednesday night at Lansdale Catholic’s jam-packed and overheated gymnasium, the St. Joseph’s Prep senior was certainly heckled; playfully heckled with loud boos every time he touched the ball, but heckled nonetheless.
Calm and cool, Wall got the last laugh when he scored a career-high 14 points to help the Prep defeat the stubborn Crusaders, 55-42.
“I obviously heard them, but it didn’t bother me,” Wall said with an impish smile. “It was done in fun. Well, most of it was, at least.”
Turns out that Wall lives just a half-court heave from LC. He attended Mary Mother of the Redeemer grade school and participated in CYO and summer ball with many of his peers who now play for Lansdale Catholic.
So the boisterous audience consisted of many teenagers who have known Wall since he was very young. Donned in a crimson and gray uniform instead of LC’s beloved green and gold, Wall was considered an enemy for about two hours.
But what a two hours they were.
Wall's first bucket was a swished three with 5:10 left in the second quarter, part of a 7-0 Prep surge that increased its edge to 21-10. Wall scored two more baskets before the end of the half, the last coming off a perfect feed from senior Chris Hoffner.
After an insomnia-inducing third quarter that included a grand total of 16 points – eight for both teams – the Prep carried a 34-24 lead into the fourth quarter. The final stanza was precisely the opposite – a spirited track meet that featured both squads sparring with hard drives through the lane and several pretty assists. When LC clawed to within 47-37 with two minutes left, Wall annoyed the crowd by scoring four key points to put the game away.
Meanwhile, on defense, Wall consistently harassed LC’s front court and blocked two shots to increase his season total to 20; the remainder of the Prep’s roster has swatted away a composite 21 attempts.
Afterward, while Wall talked about his finest varsity performance, several LC pals (not to mention an adult or two) innocently tried to interrupt him. Wall maintained his focus throughout a rare interview, but one that was well deserved.
“He played great,” said Prep coach Speedy Morris. “Ryan came through big time. This is his neighborhood and I’m sure it’s been something that’s been talked about, and he did a great job for us.”
Wall admitted that this game had been circled on his – and his friends’ – personal calendar since the schedule came out.
“They’ve been saying things all year,” Wall said. “I figured I would just play hard and see what happens. It turned out pretty well.”
Much to the chagrin of LC’s determined, albeit affable, hecklers.
As Michael Jordan might say, Ryan Wall appreciated the compliment.
NOTES – Prep star-in-the-making Chris Clover was blanked in the first quarter but still managed a game-high 19 points (nine in the fourth quarter). The junior added six rebounds and three assists . . . Senior Tom Fox contributed 12 points while classmate Kyle Thompson pulled down eight boards . . . Senior Alex Stewart drilled two threes and finished with seven points. After a forgettable outing against Neumann-Goretti a few days earlier, Stewart and aforementioned fellow point guard Chris Hoffner did a nice job of controlling the flow, combining for only one turnover in a combined 32 minutes. “We definitely wanted to put that last game behind us and move forward,” Stewart said. “It’s important to learn from your mistakes and do better next time. I thought we played a strong game overall. We seemed more relaxed and confident.” . . . Lansdale Catholic received 16 points from senior Andrew Riviello, who scored 10 of LC’s first 14 points. Seniors Brendan Schneider and Brian Rafferty netted eight and six points, respectively . . . A shout-out to the officiating crew of Joe Anhalt, Jack Loughran, and Ken Connors. On three different occasions, a close encounter necessitated a quick double-check conference. Twice, a call was reversed. Kudos to the trio for recognizing that refereeing is never about the people making the decisions; it is only about getting those decisions right. More refs should do the same, as it cuts down on the inevitable catcalls from the crowd throughout the game because the fans recognize that the refs are doing their best, and for 95 percent of sports zealots, that’s all they really want.