By Joe Henricksen
While the oohs and aahs of the holiday season were over the fantastic overtime games at Proviso West (H-F over
Marshall in the semis and Whitney Young over H-F in the final) and the remarkable show Warren's Brandon Paul
and Oak Park's Iman Shumpert put on in their overtime semifinal battle at Pontiac, the Chicago Catholic League
quietly made a statement of its own over the holidays. The Catholic League produced four tournament winners
overall, with its top five teams going a combined 19-1 in five separate tournaments.
The headliner in the Catholic League was the suddendly recharged Hales Franciscan team. Just maybe that brutal
early-season schedule is beginning to pay dividends. Hales was awfully impressive in going 4-0 at the Big Dipper
Tournament at Rich South, which included convincing wins over marquee teams in Chicago Public League threat
Lincoln Park and south suburban power Bloom. Hales beat the two teams by a combined 33 points.
Loyola Academy won the Wheeling Hardwood Classic in convincing fashion, Mount Carmel went down to Pekin
and brought home a tournament title, and St. Ignatius, which knocked out Catholic League foe Brother Rice earlier in
tournament play, handed Lyons Twp. its only loss of the season and rolled past Conant in the final. DeLaSalle had a
solid four days in Bloomington-Normal, losing in the State Farm Classic final to Rockton-Hononegah with freshman
Mike Shaw sitting out the game with a sore ankle.
Overall, no other conference can match the success the Chicago Catholic League had in late December. This
should make for quite an entertaining two months of basketball in the Chicago Catholic League. And no one can
forget talented Fenwick, which went 1-2 at Proviso West but is capable of playing with anyone in the state. While
the league may be missing a Top 10 team, one that is capable of winning a state title or that measures up to past
Brother Rice teams or the recent Loyola Academy teams, this is as deep as the Chicago Catholic League has been
in quite some time.