It was a season the members of the Christ Cathedral Academy A1 boys basketball team won’t soon forget, as the 10-player team earned the school’s first Parochial Athletic League small school division championship last month.
Finishing their season 12-0 in league play and 18-1 overall, the Saints dominated the Coastal Division 2A, remaining undefeated among the nine-team conference.
After three rounds of playoff wins, the championship game saw Christ Cathedral Academy meet up with St. Irenaeus to vie for the title.
The Saints started the game strong, including going on an initial 7-0 run, and leading at one point 17-2. But St. Irenaeus pushed back. The Eagles carried all the momentum as the two teams headed into the final frame and held the Saints to only one point in the fourth quarter.
With two minutes remaining, Christ Cathedral Academy clung to a two-point lead, executed solid defensive play and held on for the win, defeating St. Irenaeus by a final score of 32-29.
“They had gotten a lot better and had a good game plan. It was the first time we were really tested,” says Christ Cathedral Academy head coach, Eli Langson of St. Irenaeus. “We got into foul trouble early, and that was tough to overcome.”
The Saints stellar defense was led by Aleqcio Barragan, who forced several steals, while Rudy Brown helped get the job done offensively with 14 points in the game.
Eighth grader, Sean Nguyen, was forced to watch the championship game from the bench while nursing a knee injury. And while it was difficult to be on the sidelines, Nguyen couldn’t be prouder of his team.
“That game was really tough for us, but I’m proud of our guys and Coach Langson,” says Nguyen. “We all put in the hard work. I’m glad we got to accomplish all of our goals.”
Not only was it the school’s first league championship, but it was also their first conference title with an A-level team. With six out of the ten players in eighth grade, the Saints had strong leadership that proved crucial in guiding the squad through the season.
In addition to league play, the Saints entered two tournaments, one hosted by Mater Dei High School, in which they won, and the other held by St. John’s Episcopal, a large school-level tournament where the Saints incurred their only loss of the season, finishing in third place.
“We had high expectations coming into the season,” says Langson. “Our goals were to win our conference, win the Mater Dei tournament and win league. We played a lot of games, and there were a lot of ups and downs, but we kept our focus and achieved our goals.”
Beyond how the sixth, seventh and eighth graders played on the court, Langson was most impressed with how his players conducted themselves off the court and throughout the season.
“I’m proud of their attitude and for playing the game the right way,” says Langson. “It can be tough to stay grounded, but glorifying God by how we play is the number one thing.”
The team’s championship is a reflection of the increase in success the school’s basketball program has experienced over the past few years. In his third year as head coach of the boys A team, Langson has seen the team’s record steadily climb from 5-10 to 8-9 to this year’s record of 18-1.
The success has led to more interest from the students, as over that same period of time, the number of basketball teams has increased from three to five. The Saints currently field two girls teams and three boys teams each winter.
“The progression as been awesome,” says Langson. “It’s taken a lot of hard work on the kids’ part, and they’ve seen the transition. It gets the kids excited about basketball.”
And that excitement has translated into a record number of students participating in the school’s athletics program, as there have been increases seen in all sports offered, which in addition to basketball, includes flag football, boys and girls volleyball, girls softball and track and field.
“The energy has been up around the school, and the students take pride in their sports teams,” says Christ Cathedral Academy Athletic Director, Brian Garvey. “It’s created a healthy culture of competition and a love for the games.”
Garvey also acknowledges that the school aims to develop the whole student athlete, holding the players to strict academic excellence, incorporating prayer before and after practice and games, and fostering the idea that hard work will pay off in sports and at home.
“We hold the kids to high standards, reminding them that they represent not only themselves, but their school as well,” says Garvey. “It’s a collaborative effort. We have a good group of parents, teachers and coaches who are dedicated to making the program a success.”