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Talent fills plate at 24th MAIT

November 24, 2005|By Tim Koelble

koelble@herald-mail.com

St. Maria Goretti's Gael Center once again becomes the focal point of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend when the 24th edition of the Mid-Atlantic Invitational Tournament tips off Friday night.

The first game of the opening-night doubleheader pits Bishop Ireton, of Alexandria, Va., against John Carroll, of Bel Air, Md., at 6:30 p.m, followed by Goretti's opener against William Penn Charter, of Philadelphia. The losers play in the consolation game Saturday at 6:15, with the championship game to follow.

"I think the field is strong," said Goretti coach Cokey Robertson, who will begin his 32nd season as head coach of the Gaels. "We'll miss some of the New York teams because they can no longer play in Maryland because of the MPSSAA sanctioning rules, but we've got outstanding players and coaches coming in here."

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There will be no shortage of talent on the hardwood, including some with NCAA Division I futures.

Goretti, which won the MAIT last year by beating Gonzaga (D.C.), finished 2004-05 with a 20-13 record and has a trio of key players that will lead the way this season.

Gene Johnson (6-foot-7), who averaged 13 points a game last season, Andrew Chambers (6-0) and Kevin Brashears (5-11) will make up the foundation for the Gaels. Two players up from the junior varsity, sophomore Kevin Breslin (6-2) and junior Benny Allencherry (6-1), will be valuable additions.

"We have to shorten the game and develop proven quality off the bench," said Robertson. "We have to be careful with fouls and injuries until we get those answers."

William Penn Charter is coming off a 15-12 season in the rugged Philadelphia area.

Coach Jim Phillips, in his sixth year, already has proven leadership and is excited about his team, led by 6-1 point guard Sam Zeglinski, an all-Philadelphia area player last season who has signed on at the University of Virginia.

"We've got a committed group of young men who have worked hard in the early part of the season," said Phillips. "We're looking forward to the challenge of the Mid-Atlantic tournament."

Bishop Ireton will bring plenty of height and familiarity in the coaching fraternity with first-year head coach Chuck Driesell, son of former Maryland coaching great Lefty Driesell.

"Even with the size we have I want to be a disciplined team and play smart," said Driesell, a 1985 graduate of Maryland. "We'll try to take advantage of our size, but you still have to handle the basketball."

Ireton has 6-6 forward Andy Burns returning as its floor leader. He shot 53 percent from the floor, averaged nine points and six rebounds last year. The size comes up front from a pair of 6-11 towers, Shane Walker and Mike Williams, both juniors who are receiving plenty of Division I attention.

John Carroll has a first-year coach, Tony Martin, but he is no stranger to private-school basketball, having been a head coach at Archbishop Spalding of the Baltimore Catholic League. Martin said John Carroll hopes to become a member of the BCL in two years.

The more immediate item of business at John Carroll is to win a game, having gone through an 0-25 campaign last year.

"We have no one back on the varsity level ... all will be playing their first varsity game," said Martin. "We want to play up-tempo and be aggressive, but we're young."

Martin said he's looking for leadership from juniors Stan Budzynski (6-6) and Ryan Horka (6-5), both forwards.

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