CYO tournament regaining its recently lost luster

By Ron Brocato, Clarion Herald Sports

The city’s longest running boys’ basketball tournament appears to be heading for a new renaissance.

It was evident by the large crowd in the Jesuit gym on Dec. 1 that watched the Allstate Sugar Bowl CYO Basketball Classic’s championship game that there is renewed interest in the early-season games.

Two reasons I am confident that the tournament, begun in 1950 to declare a Catholic school basketball champion in a prep league that included public and Catholic school teams, is regaining its stature as a premier tournament are (1) the Allstate Sugar Bowl’s involvement, and (2) the CYO is allowing coaches to decide the format and set the schedule of games.

Not every coach was happy about the pairings for the 12-team, pool-play design, but until the CYO can get back to fielding 16 teams, the participants should extend kudos to  Jesuit coaches Chris Jennings and Jonathan Hernandez, who designed the model.

Jesuit won the tournament for the 12th time in 65 years. The schedule may have favored the Blue Jays, but moreso, the quality of the teams had much to do with it.

The fact that Jesuit and Holy Cross, the two oldest rivals in the Catholic League, played for the CYO championship was the prime reason the tournament drew well at the gate. They are two of four District 9-5A teams that have the largest and most faithful followers.

The others? St. Augustine and Brother Martin, of course. But both opted out of the tournament, leaving a void the CYO had to scramble to fill.

The stars came out

Led by the tournament’s Outstanding Player, senior guard Elijah Morgan, Jesuit defeated Holy Cross, 64-54, to remain undefeated through eight games.

Morgan, a member of the 2017-18 Clarion Herald Elite Boys’ Basketball team, scored 16 points in the championship game and averaged 17.5 points per game through victories over St. Stanislaus, 82-38; Fontainebleau, 75-42, and Slidell, 59-49.

The players chosen for the All-Tournament team will undoubtedly receive their share of individual awards throughout the course of the season.

  • Abiram Frye, the spark of the tournament’s third-best team, De La Salle, showed why he was also selected to the 2017-18 Elite team. The Cavaliers defeated Archbishop Rummel, 60-43, and St. Thomas Aquinas, 66-34, before losing in the semifinal round to Holy Cross.
  • Although Newman did not win a game, its 6-4 sophomore wonder, Javon Ruffin, stole the show in the Greenies’ 58-38 loss to Holy Cross by scoring 29 points. He followed that with a 21-point performance in a 43-38 loss to St. Paul’s.
  • Holy Cross’ Kalil Thomas and Kolby Warren of Slidell were also named to the All-Tournament team by CYO Youth and Young Adult Ministry director Timmy McCaffery.

Jesuit, Holy Cross, De La Salle and Slidell won the three-team pools A through D. 

Tournament month continues Dec. 13-15 at Country Day and St. Paul’s. St. Augustine hosts its tournament, beginning on Dec. 26, and Archbishop Hannan’s will tip off on Dec. 27.

Brother Martin ends the month in Memphis, Tennessee, where it will compete in the Dec. 29-30 Christian Brothers Tournament.

First-round play in the Catholic League will begin on Jan. 2.

Ron Brocato can be reached at rbrocato@clarionherald.org.

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