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Priory wins tournament, hosts Principia to open Metro League play

Priory_tourneychampionsIt’s a young team but coach Bob McCormack’s Priory Rebels are growing up fast.

The Rebels won the Trinity Invitational by handily winning all three games, including a 65-32 victory over host Trinity in the championship game. It was the first tournament title for Priory in recent memory.

“Priory hasn’t won a tournament in quite a while so it’s nice to get a trophy,” McCormack said. “The kids really deserved it. We played three athletic teams. “Our goal is to win every quarter and in all three games we won every quarter. We take it one quarter at a time.

“We did some nice things. We’ve got a ways to go. This will get us ready for conference play.”

The Rebels begin conference play Friday (Dec. 12) with a home game against undefeated Principia, the winner of three games in the recent Valley Park Invitational. The two teams belong to the Metro League. Tip-off will be after the junior varsity game, which begins at 6 p.m.

“We’ve got a lot on the line. It’s an early conference game and I’m glad we’re playing it at home,” McCormack said. “It’s our junior high school night so a lot of seventh and eighth graders will be staying at school and coming to the game.

“The place will be rocking. We want a big crowd to see us. We want to get the conference play started off on right foot. Hopefully, we’ll play well.”

Last season, Priory went 13-13 and defeated Principia in both meetings.

“They’ve got a few starters back,” McCormack said. “They have a good team and they are well-coached. We’ll need to dictate the tempo, at least that’s what we want to do.

“When we go into games, we look at what our opponents do well and try to negate that. We think our size will come into play and help us,too.”

Senior post man Nate VonderHaar is 6-foot-7. The Rebels also have 6-6 junior Jack Kurz to use against the Panthers.

McCormack likes both players.

“Nate is our go-to guy,” McCormack said. “He was a double -double guy last year as a junior. He’s got some options for college. Jack Kurz is really, really effective. He can score.”

Both played well in the Trinity tourney.

This was Priory’s first year playing in the event.

“We wanted to do something a little different,” McCormack said. “They wanted to change up the field in the Valley Park tournament. Trinity’s athletic director and our AD got together and made it happen.”

It turned out well for the Rebels.

“We got some experience coming back from last year’s team and we brought up four sophomores so it’s been a really good mix,” McCormack said. “We really pleased with where we’re at right now. It’s been a great start to the season. We played well enough where we had three and four guys in double figures in each game. We’re spreading the wealth. The kids are having fun. It’s fun watching how hard the kids play is fun for this year.”

Priory opened with a 60-33 win over Confluence.

“We played real well in the game,” McCormack said. “Anytime you can turn your opponent over like we did is good. We did a lot of things defensively that created easy baskets. Our best offense in the game was our defense.”

The Rebels followed that with a 65-31 win over Metro. It was a personal milestone for McCormack, who picked up his 400th career coaching victory.

That set up the title tilt with Trinity. Priory was at a disadvantage as it played without VonderHaar. He was at Georgetown on a recruiting trip for football.

Priory prevailed and stopped Trinity. The victory provided a measure of satisfaction for the Rebels.

“They beat us in the Valley Park tournament title game last year,” McCormack said. “It was a little bit of a revenge game. Their coach was once my assistant at CBC. It’s one of those deals where it was fun.We played well.

“They were all smiles in the locker room,” McCormack said about his squad. “This was a great accomplishment for them. All the hard work over the summer and in practice paid off. The first thing that Cole Esparrago said was that this was one of our goals this year — to to win tournaments and we did it.

“Winning does become infectious. Goals are attainable now for them.

“We’ve got 11 games before the first of year and two more tournaments to play in.”

That would be Lutheran St. Charles Invitational set for Dec. 18-20 and the Affton Christmas Tournament set for Dec. 26-29.

McCormack noted many Rebels stood out in the first three games.

“Steven Poth was just effective defensively. He had a ton of deflections,” McCormack said. “If your deflecting the ball, you are in a good position defensively. He’s been a real catalyst for us.

“Our young sophomores — Danny Kacmarek, Will Hanley and John Forshaw — opened our eyes. They played on the freshman team last year. To come into a varsity game and played well was a great thing for them. They’ve’ taken a deep breath and played. They were up to the challenge.”


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