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MAIT draws a strong field

November 25, 2004|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

St. Maria Goretti opens its boys basketball season Friday with an immediate challenge to keep a Philadelphia school from winning the Mid-Atlantic Invitational Tournament.

The Gaels entertain Philadelphia's Northeast Catholic in the nightcap following the lidlifter between Gonzaga (D.C.) and Bishop Loughlin (N.Y.) which will tip off at 6:30 as the 22nd MAIT gets underway at the Gael Center.

St. Joseph's Prep of Philadelphia has won the last two MAITs, but a new champion will be crowned when the event concludes Saturday with the consolation and championship games.

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"This is probably the strongest field coming here that we have ever had for the MAIT," said Goretti coach Cokey Robertson, who will begin his 31st season at Goretti. "Long Island Lutheran was here in the early '90s and came here and won, but this is one of the best overall."

The Gaels, coming off a 16-16 campaign, will face a stiff challenge from Northeast Catholic, similar to those they encounter in the rugged Baltimore Catholic League.

Veteran stringbean senior Joe Spierenburg, at 6-foot-8 and all of "180 pounds soaking wet," says Robertson, returns for his third year as a varsity starter. He averaged 11 points per game last season.

He'll be the focal point of a big man's game when the Gaels operate with a 4-guard system including senior lettermen Trevor Cobb (5-9) and Tim Kellinger (6-0) and junior returnees Tim Alexander (5-8), Kevin Brashears (5-11) and Andy Chambers (6-1).

"Cobb and Alexander shared the 1 spot at guard last year and Brashears and Chambers had quality starts on the wings," Robertson said. "We're going to start the season with a four-guard system."

When the Gaels go to the power game, Spierenburg will be joined by senior transfer Gene Johnson (6-7). Johnson played at Broadfording two years ago and South Hagerstown last year.

"This will be a different syle of play for Johnson," Robertson said. "When he is in the game it will give us a different dimension inside and hopefully create other possibilities out front. Joey and Gene are also perimeter players not uncomfortable facing up from 18 to 20 feet out."

Gonzaga, under coach Steve Turner, was hit hard by the graduation of seven seniors but has several creditable players back in the fold along with a strong group up from the junior varsity.

The Eagles will feature 6-7 senior Kenyon Churchwell and 6-8 Jacob Green in post positions.

Bishop Loughlin, from Brooklyn, N.Y., is hoping to return to prominence in the East under second-year coach Khalid Green, coming off a 17-11 record from a year ago.

The Lions feature all-city senior Herbie Allen (5-9) at guard along with guards Khalil McDonald (6-1), Shumuir Williams (6-3) and Tyri Corbell (6-4).

Bishop Loughlin's basketball history book includes alumnae Mark Jackson - who went on to St. John's University and the New York Knicks - Sheldon Jefferson (West Virginia), Brian Brown (Ohio State) and Curtis Sumpter (Villanova).

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