When the Mount Carmel Lakers won the fifth grade CYO B boys basketball championship last month, it capped a remarkable season for Mount Carmel’s fifth grade teams, which dominated their respective divisions, beat up on schools from towns all over Marin and with one exception lost only to each other.
The Lakers beat the Mount Carmel Stealers 27-24 on March 20 to win the title. But it did so under almost comically adverse circumstances. The winter storms of the past few weeks were pounding Marin on that Sunday, knocking out the power at St. Vincent’s School for Boys in San Rafael, where the games were being played.
That meant no lights, no clock and no scoreboard.
“(Stealers coach) Bruce (Cardinal) and I were yelling at the refs every time down the court, ‘How much time is left?’” said Tom Wong, the Lakers’ coach.
The officials used a paper scoreboard, which was the number 9, causing even more confusion.
“It was crazy,” said Wong, whose gandson Nick plays for his team.
Nevertheless, the Lakers and Stealers played a hard fought title game, with Cardinal’s team suffering its first loss of the season. Cardinal said his squad got into foul trouble early, curtailing the team’s defense, which had been its driving force all year.
Wong said the strength of his team was its balance. In their playoff run, the Lakers were paced by co-MVPs Josh Love (center) and Caden McQuillen (point guard). Wong said Love won the team's first playoff game almost single-handedly, making all nine of his free throws. McQuillen took the reins in the title game.
“He was just spectacular,” Wong said of McQuillen.
While the Lakers garnered the trophy, having four Mount Carmel teams comprising the league's Final Four was a the first time that had happened in recent CYO history, according to Mount Carmel athletic director Tom Keane.
Wong said things were quite different when he coached his son’s Mill Valley teams many years ago.
“The Novato and San Rafael kids used to really beat up on the Mill Valley teams,” he said. “This is a resurgence of the Mill Valley kids kicking sand back in the faces of those bigger cities.”