By Jack Coll
It’s early Christmas morning, not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse, bla, bla, bla. I headed up to my office-library, just to clean-up a little, put some files away, and following a busy Christmas season it’s nice to sit and do nothing for five minutes. On top of the pile of files to be filed is the file “Kennedy Basketball” Ah man, I had some good years covering AK Basketball, and of course I sit and open the file just to page through it and catch all the names that brought us a lot of excitement over the years.
John Catania, Jimmy Borusiewicz, Dave Coupe, Don Butler, Kevin Duda, Don Staudenmayer, Tommy Blomstrom, Marty McCarthy, Tom Bean, and so many more. The headlines bring back memories, just reading the headline I can almost recall the game. In March of 1990 the headline read: “Kennedy boys Win PIAA District Title,” the Saints knocked off number two seeded Harriton High School 70-67. Without reading the article the thing I remember about that game was Jamie Hildebrand and Kevin Duda throwing up these three point bombs to blow the game open, although I think Harriton made it close. “Kaufmann Breaks Kennedy’s Scoring Record” was the headline in January 1989, as I recall it Kaufmann broke a lot more than Kennedy’s scoring record. Next headline, no date, “Kennedy’s Kaufmann Area Scoring Record,” that sounds about right.
“Lawler Reaches 1,000 Points” was a 1991 headline, the things I remember about Sam was he was a very, very serious basketball player. Basketball is becoming a lot more popular for people wanting to play it and actually watch it. If you are a fan of basketball then you might be interested in taking a look at something like this nba jersey page. I’ve always loved basketball though, I remember laughing at defenders because every point Lawler ever scored he would be under the basket with the ball, and pump fake to the basket, and for four years I would watch the defender leave his feet as though he was going to block the shot, as the defender would be on his way back down to the floor Lawler would pass him on the way up for an easy basket. And for 1,000 points I remember thinking if the photographer knows he’s going to pump fake the shot, why wouldn’t the defender know this. (If only I were playing I could have snuffed about 998 of Lawler’s points because I wouldn’t have fallen for the fake pump). But players for four years just kept jumping on the fake. “Kennedy Boys Win Twice,” I had to read a little bit of this headline from 1990 because I couldn’t remember the games. OK, now I remember, they played a minor league team in Akiba Academy however Jenkintown brought their “A” game and only lost by a few points. Lawler, Duda, Hildebrand, Coupe, Dellaporta, Hendrzak, Messmer, Tom Wolfinger, Mike Borzelleca, John Stanziani, Shawn Hollingsworth, and Kevin McCann were a few of the names I remember playing for that team. I remember Head Coach Jim Shaffer considering asking Ray Bowman to suite up to play against Akiba.
“Hildebrand Named MVP of Kennedy Boys Team,” was a May 1990 headline. That 1990 team was a pretty good team as I remember it, Jamie Hildebrand was one of those little pain in the ass players, and defenders had trouble keeping up with him on the court when Jamie had the ball. Often Jamie would be dribbling away from the basket, or just around the top of the key with no intentions of going near the basket but this poor defender had to run with him, just as the defender seemed to say “screw this” Jamie would push a shot past him and bang, nothing but net, then it would start all over again.
From a 1991 headline, “Saints down Warriors to Win League Title.” I remembered this game immediately, they beat Bristol High School in a close game, although the score was 84-71, it was a three point game with less than a minute remaining. The reason I remember this game and a few others with Bristol was because they had these two players named Jerry Divine and Ed Brophy. That Jerry Divine was a real pain in the ass, (Outstanding player) Divine was a great offensive player, but twice as good on defense, Bristol would put Divine on Kennedy’s hottest player, normally Duda, and Divine wouldn’t let Duda breathe even when he didn’t have the ball, Divine would just stay chest to chest with Duda throughout the game. I think Kennedy had won 13 or 14 straight games at that time, man watching Bristol and Jerry Divine was a lot of fun.
A year earlier in 1990 the headline was the same, “Kennedy Boys Beat Bristol” the game was the same, and Divine was at the front of the line. The Saints won the game 63-62, with five foul shots in the final minute. Duda struts to the foul line and hit two shots with 60 seconds remaining putting the Saints up 60-54. The problem with playing Bristol when Divine was on the team was if you didn’t have a 25 point lead with a minute to go, Bristol was still in the game. Well Divine gets fouled with 54 seconds and hits two making it 60-56. Bristol steals the ball on the next possession and hits making it 60-58 with 40 seconds remaining. Within two points Bristol fouls Coupe, and in Coupe fashion he bounces the ball off the rim and the whole thing goes back to slow motion, the ball rolls around the rim as I remember it for about 15 or 20 minutes before falling through, he gives a little laugh and nails the second shot. (Looking back I think Coupe was just screwing with us) Now it was 62-60 with 25 seconds remaining, Hildebrand hits the front end of a one and one giving Kennedy a three point lead, but Bristol hits a bucket making it 63-62 with something like 10 seconds left in the game, I think they gave the ball to Hildebrand and told him to run around and stay away from the Bristol players until the clock ran out. Lawler was the big dog in that game scoring 23 points. In all the games I covered over the years, boys or girls, never was it more exciting than in 1990-91 when Kennedy faced Bristol with Divine playing for the Warriors.
“Kennedy Boys Win Thriller on Coupe’s Clutch Foul Shots,” was another headline from 1991. Dave Coupe scored something like 32 points that game, this was truly one of those games you dream about as a kid, you know, bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, in game seven of the World Series! Well Dave Coupe walks to the foul line after being fouled by Garry Maddox, two seconds remaining on the clock in the PIAA District One Playoff game with Harriton High, with his team down by one, 56-55. The thing is it was a one and one, Coupe’s first shot hits the front of the rim, bounces up and off the backboard before falling through the net, it was in slow motion, even to this day it’s in slow motion. When the ball left his hands I thought “Oh No” as the ball hit the rim the Saints crashed the boards looking for a rebound. Coupe’s second shot was a little less dramatic, nothing but net, the crowd goes wild, Coupe scored the final eight points of the game for the victory. What great memories!
As I flashed through the pages of the Kennedy Basketball file I came across the headline “Saints Bank on Unsung Hero to Win Double Overtime Thriller.” The date was January 21, 1993, and I’m thinking man, I don’t remember the game or the hero. But I bet the hero remembers the game. Jenkintown traveled to Tracy Hall at Kennedy on a cold winter night, as I wrote it 20 years ago, “When the smoking scoreboard cleared 147 points later it was Kennedy’s Jay Carpenter standing on the foul line, attempting to sink both ends of a one-and-one with one second remaining on the clock in the second overtime and his team down by a single point.” (Man I could write back then) As I remember Carpenter, he was a low key type of guy, no flash, soft smile, never fast or quick but very smooth. He fired up a shot, it was another “Oh-no moment” but the ball smacks off the backboard and drops. My editor tells me I can’t use the “S” word when writing but I do remember the entire crowd in unison breathing “Oh-S#*!.” Carpenter told me after the game he wasn’t worried about his second shot cause after making the first shot, “ I knew we had at least tied again.” (He wasn’t worried about it but I wanted to shake the “S#*! out of him for the sake of everyone in the stands) His second shot by the way wasn’t much better, it rolled around for about 10 minutes on the rim before dropping for the winning point.
It turned out to be a 75-74 victory, Carpenter is about 38 or 39 years old now, perhaps he and his wife have a few children, and maybe come January, he can sit down with his kids on a cold winter night, and tell them how when he played basketball for Archbishop Kennedy, on a cold January night when Jenkintown came to town, he took control of the game, the whole season rested on his shoulders, every resident who lived within a 50 mile radius was in the stands, and with ice in his veins he tossed up a couple of foul shots with no time on the clock, and hit nothing but net for the victory and the team carried him off the court on their shoulders, and they partied until the sun rose two days later. Just maybe Jay will tell that story, and then make sure his kids never, ever read the real version of that cold January night.
And finally I came across the headline that really hurt, it hurt for two reasons, one because Kennedy lost the game, the other reason is, well the headline says it all from March 25, 1993, “Basketball Era Ends with Final Game of Kennedy Boys.” Kennedy’s final basketball game was played against Wylalusing Valley High School in the State PIAA Championship Tournament in Mansfield Pa. Mansfield was a five and a half hour drive and as I reported it back then, only 26 Kennedy fans made the drive to watch the Saints lose a game they led most of the way 47-40. Players on that final team 20 years ago included Josh Dugas, Rick McGovern, Rick Morrison, Jim Maziarz, Jay Carpenter, Mike Tarlowski, Mike Quinn, T. J. McNally, Kenny Young, A. J. Russo, Bobby Caucci, Greg Brown, Garrett Renshaw and Mark Kozlowski.
And that’s the way it was all those years ago, sitting here and flipping thru the headlines the games seem like yesterday, that’s the funny thing about time, ain’t it funny how time slips away.
Before closing the file, and storing it in a box where it might not be opened for another 20 years, it’s worth a minute to flip through a few of the girls basketball headlines to see what memories I can stoke.
From January 25, 1990 the headline read: “Lady Saints Improve to 11-2,” the article talked of beating Bristol 58-47 and points out Darlene and Arlene Hildebrand, I loved Arlene, the quiet one, (I’m sure her husband Keith doesn’t call her the quiet one, but believe it or not Keith Arlene was very quiet at one time, many years ago, many many years ago) It just seemed to me that Arlene had to play second fiddle to her sister on the basketball court, very few defenders paid much attention to her and just when the defender would relax Arlene would put a bucket past them and you could just see the defender saying “Dam it! She’s not supposed to do that,” yea, that’s what I remember about Arlene playing basketball, back when she was the quiet one.
I remember Karen Lawrence and Megan Gebhardt being pretty good players on that team, Karen was kind of quiet herself but made a lot of noise when she had the ball, I don’t have the stats in front of me but I know she went over a thousand points in her Kennedy career. Karen was what you called a very fundamental player, she did all the right things with the ball. I remember Megan as a pretty good ball handler, her eyes never stopped moving looking for the open player and easy basketball, both Megan and Arlene had this little two handed set shot thing going for them, it looked a little funny but it won them a lot of games.
Looking through the article I see I mentioned Monica McNally, or Mike-ie as many of us called her, but few of us would refer to her as Veronica. Monica played this bull style of basketball, I guess it goes back to her CYO days. When she got the ball she would start this dribble out in front of her from about half court, no moving left or right, no side dribble, no fakes, she would just dribble out in front of her, get a full head of steam on her by the time she hit the top of the key and every player seemed to just get out of her way as she rode the train into the station. At some point just inside the foul line she would let it fly, maybe it would go in, maybe not, but if she hit the basket she had this smile on her face, I think she was more shocked every time it went in than the fans in stands. Angelique Shevick was another player on that team, she was another one who had a little bit of a scared look in her eye when she took the court but I don’t remember her making many mistakes with the ball.
“Darlene Hildebrand Reaches 1,000 Point Milestone,” was the headline on February 8, 1990. What was interesting about that was Darlene hit the milestone mid-way through her junior season. She hit the mark in a victory over Jenkintown with a little help from Tracy Sibley, Megan Scally, Karen Lawrence, and Katie Clark. “Lady Saints Hold Off Gwynedd Mercy, Are Alive In Playoffs,” was the headline in March of 1990. I loved watching the girls play Gwynedd, they were tough games and always close, it was like watching the boys play Bristol. In 1991 same headline, “Lady Saints Defeat Gwynedd Mercy”, I never got tired of writing that headline. Also from 1991 came this simple headline, “Kennedy Girls Keep Winning.” With a victory over New Hope Solebury and Morrisville High the girls moved their season record to 13-1 at that time.
A lousy headline from an un-dated article, “Two Losses Ends Season Of Kennedy High Girls.” A 1992 headline read “Lady Saints Crush Bulldogs,” that’s more like it. From December 1988, “Kennedy Girls Undefeated,” Darlene and Mary Dugan were the big dogs in the game, I always liked the way Mary played, she wasn’t afraid to hit the floor for a loose ball. I anxiously read the undefeated article thinking this must have been a great season being undefeated so I quickly read through the article to find that the team was undefeated, they were 2-0 on the season, then I thought what the hell do I care it was nearly 25 years ago.
It’s time to close the file, ah the memories, funny thing is that every player, parent, spectator and coach had different views and different takes on the games they watched and were part of. I viewed many of these game both boys and girls through the lens of a camera, so often I was isolating one or two players recognizing how hard they worked to get open or get a shot off. Players wanted to do well, their parents wanted their children to do well, coaches and spectators wanted the team to do well, and I just wanted to get the shot, get that great action figure, get the winning shot. There is no more Conshohocken Recorder, no more Archbishop Kennedy, and no more wining shots, there are just memories.
These were good years for all of us, certainly we were all much younger back then, it’s been two decades since Archbishop Kennedy closed, still a sore spot for many of us. To the kids who attended Kennedy back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, well, many of them are parents now, and for those of you who thought about it back then I’m sure you had visions of your children attending Archbishop Kennedy High School. When I think about it from time to time, I’m sure we all do, I think about that dopey little saying, “You can take the boy out of the woods but you can’t take the woods out of the boy.” I know what they’re saying I’m just not sure it makes sense to me. But along those lines, to the kids who attended Kennedy, no one can ever take the Kennedy out of them, their kids can’t attend the school, but the parents can always instill “Saints Pride” into their kids. I know, it doesn’t make sense, but you know what I’m saying.
To every student who ever left their heart out on the playing field, “Saints Pride.”
Thanks for the Memories!