- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Twenty-four minutes away from a Sunday Youth Basketball League championship.
Twenty-four minutes away from an undefeated season in the league.
That’s what awaited Archbishop Neale School’s boys basketball team when it stepped on the floor Wednesday evening for the championship game against St. Michael’s School inside St. Mary’s Ryken High School in Leonardtown.
While it took four six-minute quarters to be played out before any celebration could begin, Archbishop Neale put any thoughts of those statements being untrue to bed in the first 2 minutes 12 seconds as it scored the first 10 points of the contest en route to a 62-32 victory.
“We get to hang a banner now in the school,” Archbishop Neale head coach Cal Weirich said, “so we’ve got a tradition that were building and it means the world [to win the championship].”
Archbishop Neale knocked down three three-pointers in the first quarter to lead 19-2 after six minutes and the lead reached as high as 34 points late in the fourth.
“Our motto is, ‘Any five at any time,’” Weirich said. “We carry 15 kids on this team and they practice against each other and what you saw in the beginning of the game is what we do; defense, defense, defense, and defense makes offense.”
Archbishop Neale, the North division champions, finished its SYBL campaign at 16-0.
“We try to push the ball and try to come out hard because I know they don’t have the athleticism like ours,” said Jalen Gibbs, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, “so our coaches told us to push the ball.”
Four players finished in double figures for Archbishop Neale, as Gibbs and Jonathon Preston each led with 14 points, while Hakeem Everett and Ryan Oglesby each had 11.
“It’s a fun experience, it means a lot to me to get a lot of coaches to watch us play,” Preston said of winning the championship.
St. Michael’s fought hard the entire way, tying Archbishop Neale 9-9 in the second quarter and only being outscored 16-15 in the fourth.
“We didn’t quit today and we haven’t quit all season,” St. Michael’s head coach Jeff Barickman said. “When you only have five kids on your roster that are upperclassmen competing in this league and to get to the championship, we had six come-from-behind wins this season, so to me that says a lot.” Tyler Young led St. Michael’s with 12 points and received the Coaches’ Hustle Award, while Noah Young had eight.
“I think ANS played a really hard game and we did, too,” Noah Young said. “We practiced really hard, but they practiced even harder than us, but we still love to play this game.”
Tyler Young added, “We did a good job, they just played better than us. They outhustled us, they got back on defense, we were lacking off on defense.”
“I’d like to thank Tyler and Noah for their five years playing at St. Michael’s and they’ve been a part of the varsity program since fifth-grade,” Barickman said. “They’ve really carried themselves well and I look forward to seeing them play in high school next year.
St. Michael’s, the South division champions, finished the season at 10-4.
“Lots of people thought we weren’t going to get here, but we kept working hard,” Tyler Young said.
Gibbs and Everett each knocked down three-pointers in the 10-0 Archbishop Neale run to start the game. Jaleen Sauls got St. Michael’s on the board for the first time with 3:35 left in the opening quarter with a turnaround jumper.
Archbishop Neale then closed out the period with a 9-0 run, with Oglesby capping it on a basket inside with 30 seconds remaining.
Everett’s second three-pointer of the first half, coming with 4:22 left until halftime, gave Archbishop Neale a 26-6 lead. Cameron Smith answered for St. Michael’s with a three of his own, then a Gibbs putback made it 28-9.
St. Michael’s held Archbishop Neale scoreless for the rest of the half after Gibbs basket, spanning 3:17, but trailed 28-11 at halftime.
Archbishop Neale came out firing again to start the second half, outscoring St. Michael’s 18-6 in the third quarter to lead 46-17 heading to the fourth.
A layup from Bryce Travers gave Archbishop Neale its biggest lead of the night at 58-24 with 2:02 left in the game.
Noah Young provided an offensive show for the fans and St. Michael’s by scoring six of his eight points in the final moments of a game that saw Archbishop Neale win the championship and complete an undefeated SYBL campaign.