By Jeff Nations
Members of the St. John the Baptist varsity boys basketball team weren't exactly pampered guests for their trip to Lynchburg last week.
The Saints' rather austere accommodations, provided by Lynchburg's Holy Cross Catholic Church, included basement lodging, do-your-own meals and air-mattress sleeping arrangements. Maybe not five-star treatment, but Saints coach Kevin McMahon describes his team's stay last week as "a wonderful time."
It helps on any trip to have activities planned, and the Saints certainly had that covered as they competed in the annual Homeschool East Coast Basketball Championships held on the campus of Liberty University. St. John the Baptist played five games in three games, scoring a third-place finish in their bracket for a best-ever finish in four tries at the annual tournament.
"Absolutely, it was great," McMahon said. "I only have the parish to draw from, so our talent pool we have to pull from is very limited. All but one of our players are home schooled, and we had nine guys come down with us."
The Saints had plenty of company at the massive tournament that featured 86 boys and girls basketball teams representing 10 different states. The Saints' girls varsity basketball team also scored a third-place finish in their bracket.
The Saints' familiar rivals, the Front Royal Flames, also participated in the annual tournament and grabbed a bit of hardware for themselves.
The Flames' middle school girls squad took second overall in their age bracket, and both the boys (4A division) and girls (2A division) junior varsity programs were third overall.
Individually for the Flames, Nicole Rittgers won the girls middle school 3-point shooting contest and teammate Hope Diermyer was third. Also for the Flames' girls middle schoolers, Carrie Hotek, Kayleigh Vaca and Diermyer earned all-tournament honors. Also for the Flames, Mark Steigerwald earned all-tournament honors in the boys junior varsity division.
McMahon has two players -- Mike McMahon and John Paul Heisler -- considering nearby Christendom as a choice for college and basketball next year. The Saints finished 23rd overall in the tournament, and secured that third-place finish in the 3A finals by knocking off Upstate Eagles by 27 points, after earlier losing to that same team by a point in the tournament.
"It was very taxing for the players," Kevin McMahon said. "We were pretty banged up, but everyone else had to deal with the same thing."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>