Expectations are high for the St. Rita Varsity Basketball Team in 2014-15 after winning three consecutive Catholic League Championships and taking state champion and consensus top player in the country Jalil Okafor and Whitney Young to the brink in last year’s sectional championship game at Marist.
Those accomplishments along with the presence of several Division 1 caliber players (Charles Matthews – Kentucky, Armani Chaney – Tennessee State, Kain Harris – Undecided, and Myles Carter – Undecided) earned the Mustangs an invitation to one of the most prestigious shootouts in the country, The Chicago Elite Classic, which matches some of the best teams from around the country versus the top teams in the talent-rich Chicago area.
Unfortunately, St. Rita didn’t play their best at UIC last Saturday night as they were blown out by New York City’s #1 ranked team, Christ the King. That caused the seniors, particularly Charles Matthews, to do some soul-searching along with some extra film study to see where the problems were.
Well, whatever it is that Matthews and the other seniors found out, they sure did fix it as the Mustangs bounced back with three impressive wins last week.
Last Tuesday, they travelled to Catholic League rival Mt. Carmel and, despite a slow start offensively, the Mustangs pulled away in the second half as they opened up a 24-point fourth quarter lead before emptying the bench and settling for a 63-51 victory over the Caravan.
On Friday, the undefeated and #4 ranked Chargers of St. Joseph came to town for an early-season top-10 matchup. Despite some key players missing due to injury (Glynn Watson – St. Joe (Nebraska) and Myles Carter – St. Rita) there was still plenty of talent on the floor as the Mustangs, behind the senior trio of Charles Matthews, Kain Harris, and Armani Chaney ran St. Joe right out of the gym handing the Chargers their first loss of the season, 80-61.
A quick turnaround Saturday afternoon had St. Rita Head Coach Gary DeCesare concerned how his team would respond as St. Rita hosted the inaugural Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Challenge. The young, upstart Spartans of Marian Catholic would be St. Rita’s opponent for the 4:30 p.m. tip Saturday afternoon and by 4:45 p.m. all DeCesare’s fears had dissipated as the hot-shooting Mustangs knocked down five three-point shots in the first quarter while jumping out to a 29-10 lead, and they never looked back as St. Rita improved to 4-1 on the season with an easy 73-52 win over the Spartans.
That sets the stage for this Friday night as the Mustangs (4-1) will play live on ESPN2 at 5:30 versus the top team in the state, the Simeon Wolverines (2-0). This will mark the first time in school history that a St. Rita team in any sport will play on ESPN, the most recognizable sports programming channel in the world.
Following Friday night’s showdown on ESPN, the Mustangs will then compete in the prestigious Proviso West Holiday Tournament where they are the #3 seed and open play on Monday December 22nd at 8:30pm versus #14 Homewood-Flossmoor.
Article Written by John Nee ’93