In a week and a
half, the players on the Catholic League basketball
champion for the 1977-78 season will follow a
It will begin as
they count down the final seconds in " the biggest
win of the year," continue as they rush onto the
court for a knifing of the nets, intensify as they
scamper into the locker room for a dunking of the
coach and a barrage of interviews and, undoubtedly,
heighten the next day as they scoop up 15 copies of
all the city dailies.
arguments will commence. Does Team X really rank
among the truly great ones to win the league? Has it
carved a niche? Does it deserve even more attention
than it's already received? Should it be doused in
The answers, of
course, might be yes, yes, yes and yes but the
memory of that team, whichever one it is, will NEVER
be stamped in the minds of league followers in such
an indelible manner as the one of a team that
preceded it 10 years earlier and advanced no further
than the quarter- finals.
ON THE NIGHT of
Feb. 26, 1968, North Catholic High made national
headlines with a 77-60 victory over Bishop
in a Catholic League Northern Division playoff
opener. But not in the normal fashion. It did so
with a squad of junior varsity players, subbing for
the suspended varsity.
The coach, and
man behind the suspensions, was
manager of the Blue Bell Inn in suburban Montgomery
County. His fill- in starters were juniors Iggy
Brodzinski, Joe Evanosich and Mike Kaiser and
sophomores Bill Dever and Jim Boylan.
They took the
floor to the sound of deafening boos from the Falcon
rooting section and chants of " We want the varsity
. . . we want the varsity, " trailed just once, 2-0,
scored the final 11 points of the game after
had sliced the lead to six with 2:45 to go and had
become larger than life - even to some
fans - by the end of the night.
received countless awards and honors for his noble
stand and, to boot, letters of admiration from as
far away as the West Coast. Six days later, with the
varsity reinstated for the semifinal game with
Cardinal O'Hara - which the defending city champs
lost agonizingly on a tap by Lou Ferro that rolled
around the rim for 2 seconds before falling in at
the buzzer - Friel saw fit to dress six of his JVs.
Two played, Kaiser and Dever.
GETTING ahead of the story, which began with a
special Mass and a directive from Friel to the
players that they go out for some breakfast then
return for second period. The first part went fine,
but the players never returned, at least not on
time. Friel then tracked them down and the machinery
was set in motion to prevent them from representing
the school that night.
" The kids were
due back at 9:15, " said Friel. " I happened to be
in the discipline office at the time and I noticed
the attendance slips came back with their names
" By 10:30, they
still weren't back. I made a few stops and met them
as they were coming back to the school. I said, 'On
your way back, think about not playing tonight. ' I
gave them the opportunity for an explanation, but
none seemed to hold water. I then went off to
discuss the matter with the principal, Rev. Edward
Corcoran, and the vice principal, Rev. William
" There was no
hesitation. We had to show the kids in the most
forceful way possible that they were students first,
athletes second. The kids took a liberty. As
athletes, they felt they deserved something extra.
But they always got that through the accolades they
received for playing the games. Another punishment
never entered my mind. It was clear-cut as far as I
was concerned. "
BUT THE NEWS did
NOT spread like wild fire.
" I'll never
forget, fifth period history class, " said
Brodzinski, now the Falcon JV coach. " There were a
couple JV players and a couple varsity players. One
of the varsity guys, Billy O'Hara, whispered to me
that the varsity had been suspended and that the JV
would be playing. He was such a practical joker,
though, I didn't take him seriously. Then, the
teacher mentioned something that he had heard a
rumor to the same effect. I started believing it.
players received notes to " come to the disciplinary
office after school " and waited there until 3:30,
when everything was made official. They then
practiced for a half-hour (they hadn't played in
eight days and some had to borrow sneakers and
socks) went to the Northeast Diner for what was
supposed to be a light meal (Evanosich and Dever, it
is recalled, ordered spaghetti and meatballs,
sundaes, and everything else that would not be found
at a normal pre-game munch) then rode the El to the
" When we came
out and the North fans were booing, it made us feel
more mad than bad, " said Evanosich, best remembered
for his floppy, parted-down-the- middle mop of hair.
" I was so into what was going on, I didn't even
hear it until Dever mentioned it. But we got ticked
off and we wanted to show 'em.
" ALL ALONG, I
thought we could win. On the El, some of the guys
were saying, 'People will read about this in the
comic strips, not the sports section. ' I told 'em,
'They might be a year older than us, but they're
still just kids and they put their sneaks on one at
a time like we do. ' "
" Nobody expected
us to win, " said Dever, who had not started all
year for JV Coach Fran Dougherty (now the AD) but
was employed by Friel. " When Mr. Friel told me I
was starting, I was thinking, 'Don't put ME in
there, don't do this to me. ' At halftime, I figured
we could play with them, but when they cut it to six
I figured, 'Oh, oh, now they're playing like they
should. That's it, the fairy tale's over. ' Then we
scored the last 11.
" That was the
greatest year of my life. In football, our first two
quarterbacks got hurt and I played in the
Thanksgiving win over Frankford. Then, the JV game.
Dever's role in
the game was ballhandling, while Evanosich (13
points) handled the outside sniping. Kaiser (6-2)
totaled 20 points and 23 rebounds, Brodzinski (6-3)
19 and 18 and Boylan (6-4) 14 and 15 as the JVs -
who had split once with
JVs - posted their highest point total of the year
and a 62-36 rebounding advantage.
" THE ONLY
DISTINCTION between us and the varsity, " said
Kaiser, now a commercial lending officer in
Maryland, " was that they played the second game all
year. We had a lot of talented players and we were
all pretty close.
" At first, I
wasn't sure if the school was making the right
decision and if we were making the right decision to
take their place. It was sort of like we weren't
supporting the varsity. I asked the guys what they
thought. They were so psyched up to play, I had to
go along. "
" If I remember
right, " said Brodzinski, " Mike didn't think very
much of the school for putting us on the spot like
that. He was not too enthused. Meanwhile, we thought
it was great. Really, we were the perfect matchup
for that team. It was a little scary when we first
came out, but the booing really helped us. We had a
few lunatics on the team. That was all they needed
to push them over the hump. I know
deserved a lot of credit for what he did, but Fran
Dougherty deserved a lot credit for what we did. The
JVs were his. He had us prepared so well. "
" When the
varsity came back, " said Friel, " it did so with a
super attitude. None of the guys were sullen or
hanging their heads. They had a feeling like 'Hey,
it's done, we're alive, let's go do something about
it. ' They were good kids, they really were. They
just made a bad mistake in judgment. "
FROM THE OTHER
side, the whole chain of events was a nightmare for
players and their coach, Steve Chapman, who recently
bagged a first-ever Keystone Scholastic Athletic
Conference title at Church Farm School.
" I happen to
think it was a psychological freak, " said Chapman.
" Our kids had nothing to win and everything to
lose. For their kids, it was just the opposite. When
we got to the end of the first quarter down (15-10),
that was enough to set off their psyche. Against the
varsity, we would have been right on schedule.
Against the JVs, well, there was nothing I could say
to my kids to shake them out of it. People that talk
about Xs and Os are crazy. It wasn't that at all. "
" You know, it's
funny, " said Friel, on hand for the first-round
doubleheader at the Palestra on Sunday, the
anniversary of the game 10 years to the day. " The
first person I saw when I walked in here today was
Steve Chapman's uncle, a guard. Boy, did that bring
back the memories. "
Memories that are
big enough to overshadow anything that happened last
year, that will happen this year or, as we said
earlier, in any year to come.
was also published in 1978; 10-year anniversary
now a tree surgeon, still plays plenty of basketball
in the independent leagues that saturate the
near-Northeast, but even after 10 years he's yet to
come across a game that stirs up conversation among
his buddies like the one he never played in.
On Feb. 26, 1968,
Pascavitch, a starter along with Hank Siemiontkowski,
Joe DeMuro, the late Mark Williams and Jim Asman,
was one of 12 varsity players from North Catholic
High suspended from that night's first-round
Catholic League playoff tilt against Bishop
at the Palestra for "skipping classes."
Here are his
recollections and present-day thoughts . . . spoken
sincerely, without a trace of bitterness and, maybe,
even with a bit of appreciation:
" WE DIDN'T THINK
we did THAT much wrong. We did not think of
ourselves as prima donnas. It wasn't like we said,
'Hey, let's pull one over on the school and stay
away for a couple of classes. ' We did not plan what
happened. It just happened.
" If I remember
right, we came out of the Northeast Diner and one of
the guys said, 'Let's get a paper. ' What the heck?
It was a big moment in our lives, we wanted to see
what the papers had to say about the game that
night. We went to a newsstand under the El stop, but
they didn't have any yet. We then thought about a
store behind the school. We did take the long way
around - which couldn't have made that much
difference - and when we got back near the school,
Jack was outside waiting for us.
" When we learned
of the suspension, obviously we were very
disappointed, we were probably mad . . . we were
probably a lot of things. Someone felt he was making
the right decision, but we thought it was
overemphasized. It was too drastic, I guess that's
the right word. It made us wonder. We had given
ourselves to the basketball program for almost four
years and, just like that, something very important
to us, a proper defense of the City Title, had been
" THE GUYS ON THE
varsity had no hard feelings towards the JV players.
Someone had to go and the JV was the next logical
choice. I mean, they weren't going to send the
freshman team and they weren't going to forfeit. We
KNEW the JVs would win. We had scrimmaged them many
times. They were very tough. They weren't just weak
little boys. Plus, I bet you they had more height
than we did.
" We were very
disheartened (after semifinal loss to O'Hara). We
were too fired up to do anything. We were so worried
about proving ourselves to everybody, that before we
knew it, the game had slipped away.
" The way I look
at it, it happened and I try to forget about it,
though it is still a great subject in the bars. If
refers to what happened as a mistake in judgment, as
usual, he's summed it up perfectly. Everyone had
respect for Jack and all the people at North. Today
if I saw Jack, I would not cross the street to avoid
" For all the
guys, there are no hard feelings. Maybe we did learn
a lesson, though at the time we didn't know what
they were trying to prove. Who knows? In 20 years,
maybe I'll be confronted with a situation where the
lesson I learned that day will pay off. I know one
thing, I've been a lot more careful how I handle
myself since it happened. And I guess that's good. "
This story was published written in 1993; 25-year
A DECISION WITH DEPTH
NORTH'S JVS BEAT ODDS WITH 1968 PLAYOFF WIN
Fran Dougherty felt there was no chance
he was a coach. Sure, he had tried to
instill in his players the belief that
anything is possible when an effort is
be very honest," Dougherty said, "I felt
there was no way. "
Feb. 26, 1968, when North Catholic took
the Palestra floor for a first- round
Catholic League basketball playoff
McDevitt, the booing from its
rooters was intense.
reason: North was using its junior
morning, varsity coach
had suspended all 12 of his players for
taking the l-o-n-g way back to school
after attending a team Mass, then eating
breakfast at a nearby diner.
JV, coached by Dougherty, had ended its
season eight days earlier. Even against
McDevitt's JV, it had earned
only a split.
on this night, in front of a crowd of
5,495, on only 3 1/2 hours' notice, the
stand-in Falcons accomplished the
impossible. They not only topped
McDevitt. They hammered 'em,
only lead was 2-0, thanks to a basket
1:50 into the game by junior guard Bobby
Haas, who earlier that season had scored
a league-record 51 points against
Archbishop Ryan. North scored the next
seven points and rolled
starting lineup consisted of juniors
Iggy Brodzinski, Mike Kaiser and Joe
Evanosich and sophomores Jim Boylan and
Kaiser collected 20 points and 23
rebounds. Brodzinski, who later would
coach the Falcons, had 19 and 18. Boylan
had 14 and 15. North rang up a 62-36
rebounding advantage over the smaller
Lancers. Evanosich, an outside shooter,
scored 13 points. Dever scored nine
points and handled the offense
was Jack's idea all the way" to suspend
the varsity, Dougherty said. ''I heard
rumors going around the school, but I
couldn't believe it was happening. When
we had a meeting, I remember (athletic
director) Phil Looby telling Jack, 'If
you follow through on this, I'll make
you famous. ' Jack did become famous.
The story went national. Sports
Illustrated ran something on it. "
time was 7 o'clock. (La Salle played
Father Judge in the nightcap. ) The JV
players knew beforehand that something
was in the wind, but they were not told
that they would represent the school
practiced for a half-hour (some had to
borrow socks and sneakers), wolfed down
a quick dinner at the same diner where
the varsity had eaten breakfast, then
rode the El to the Palestra.
was more nervous than the players,"
Dougherty said. "They were laughing and
joking. But when they went out there,
they were serious. They looked like they
expected to win. When we got off to the
good start, I thought, 'Geez, maybe
we've got a shot here. ' All night, we
kept going right through their press.
"Something like that could never happen
today. Back then, there were a number of
quality players at North Catholic (the
enrollment was 2,800). Ten, 15, even 20.
The JV scrimmaged against the varsity
every day. Sometimes we beat them. "
'67, North had won the Catholic League
championship. One starter, Hank
Siemiontkowski, who would star at
Villanova and play in the NBA, returned
in '68. He won the division scoring
title (22.6 points per game). The other
starters were seniors Joe DeMuro, Steve
Pascavitch and Jim Asman and junior Mark
response to Friel's decision from the
players' parents was mostly favorable,
only guy I remember really being hot was
Mr. Siemiontkowski," he said. "We saw
him that night. I thought he was going
to pop us. And he was a big man. "
Sunday, North met Cardinal O'Hara in a
league semifinal. Friel dressed 18
players. Included were six JVs, two of
whom (Kaiser and Dever) saw action.
the magic ended. The Falcons lost,
51-49, on a buzzer-beating tap by Lou
This story was also published in 1993;
(Notice how Steve Pascavitch's feelings had changed
with more time to think about it.)
FLIP SIDE OF A NOVEL WIN
NORTH JV'S '68 PLAYOFF
VICTORY STILL EATS AT HIM
by North Catholic's junior
varsity in a Catholic League
basketball playoff 25 years
ago was not a euphoric
occasion for all concerned.
Pascavitch, for one, endured
the flip side.
senior, was the starting
point guard and a
tri-captain for North's
varsity, which coach (and
Friel suspended on
the morning of a first-round
1968 playoff game against
attending a team Mass, the
players received permission
to eat breakfast at a nearby
diner. They took too long to
report back for classes,
however, and all 12 were
the JV Falcons squashed
McDevitt, 77-60, to
draw national attention.
"I still feel
bad about the whole thing,"
Pascavitch said last week.
"I thought we got the short
end of the stick.
McDevitt did, too.
were considered. North was
in a win- win situation.
McDevitt was in a
lose-lose situation. They
were thrown a psychological
curveball. If they beat a JV
team, big deal. If they
don't . . . They had to come
out on the court figuring,
'Hey, we're in the second
round. ' All of a sudden, a
JV team was beating up on
them. Imagine what that must
have been like for them.
thing for North to do, I've
always felt, would have been
to forfeit the game. That
would have sent the message.
Pascavitch, who lives in
Northwood, the varsity
players were not trying to
take advantage of the
"That was the
biggest moment of our lives.
Getting ready for a playoff
game at the Palestra," he
said. "Why would we
jeopardize that? We weren't
a bad bunch of kids.
happened was that we lost
track of maybe a half-hour's
worth of time. We were high
on the moment. Sitting in
the diner, having fun.
Throwing napkins at each
other. Putting cups on our
heads. We were just a bunch
of goofy kids. Through the
years, a lot of people
seemed to think we were
prima donnas. That wasn't
gotten back to school just a
few minutes earlier, we
would have been back in our
classes and none of it would
thing I want to do is come
off as bitter. But it's
something I continue to
think about to this day. Any
time North makes the
playoffs, I relive it. This
year, being the 25th
anniversary, I thought about
it even more. "