Boy’s Championship – #2 Holy Trinity Egg Harbor Boys vs. …
Before I get into my if-then scenarios, I first want to take a moment to talk about the team that no one is talking about going into Sunday’s matchups, and that is the boys from Egg Harbor. For those of you who follow Cosmos Philly and those of you familiar with this team, you know that last year Holy Trinity’s boys graduated two of their top players in the “Big Bulgarian” Vassil Stoimenov and elite guard Roman Papademetriou. More importantly than that you know that, a month before the season started they suffered a far more severe loss, in the death of beloved parishioner and team supporter Dr. Spiros Malaspina, father to senior point guard Alex Malaspina. The team elected to dedicate their season to the memory of Dr. Malaspina, and what a season it has been, as their inspired play and commitment to an attacking team defense, has fueled an improbable 5-2 regular season finish, a first-round bye, and a thrilling victory over (in my opinion) the most skilled team in the league in Evangelismos Philadelphia two weeks ago. They now find themselves in familiar territory, appearing in their third consecutive championship game, in search of their church’s first boy’s championship in their history (Quick Fact: Holy Trinity of Egg Harbor and Holy Trinity of Wilmington are the only two active league members to have never won a league title in the boy’s division, based on the league website). Led by Malaspina, along with attacking forwards Athanasios Mertis and Yanni Dendrinos, the boys in blue have ridden an aggressive defensive style that is certainly their calling card, along with their rotational depth at nearly every position, to this point. Arguably the most complete team in the league, they will be a joy to watch in either scenario. The question will be how do they match up against either opponent they will face on Sunday, and will the team they face having played a game prior be a benefit or a detriment to their chances? Let’s get to it:
Scenario 1 – #1 St. Thomas Cherry Hill (7-1) vs. #2 Holy Trinity Egg Harbor (6-2)
Well we would have taken a long and winding road to get to this point, but ultimately we could be faced with the finals that the records indicated would happen with a 1 versus 2 matchup on Sunday night between these two teams. While I was not able to catch the game between these two teams way back on October 21st, it was a tale of two halves, with St. Thomas’s pressure in the first half carrying them to a 15-11 halftime lead, before the Holy Trinity defense clamped down and held Cherry Hill to 4 second-half points on their way to a 33-19 victory in St. Thomas.
For the top-seeded boys, who were short-handed without big man Nutaitis in the game, it would prove to be their only loss of the season, as they would rattle off five straight victories to secure the top spot in the playoffs. The question will be, how does the presence of Nutaitis impact the Holy Trinity attack on both sides of the ball? The guard matchup of Alex Malaspina and Andrew Karolidis will be fun to watch for sure, as will the interior battles between Holy Trinity and St. Thomas’s respective “Big-3” on both the offensive and defensive ends, with Karadonis needing to play a big defensive role for St. Thomas, and John Liacopulos, fresh off a big defensive stand in the semis, needing to do what he can for Holy Trinity.
If the boys in blue can play an up-tempo game and generate the turnovers that they have fed off of all year they just may be able to knock off the giants, but I see the interior presence of Nutaitis having a dramatic impact in halting their ability to get to the rim on Sunday. Fatigue may also come into play, but ultimately if this is the matchup I see St. Thomas emerging victorious in a hard-fought one for the ages.
Mr. GOYA’s Prediction – St. Thomas Cherry Hill – 34, Holy Trinity Egg Harbor – 31.
Scenario 2 – #2 Holy Trinity Egg Harbor (6-2) vs. #6 St. Luke Broomall (4-5)
If St. Luke is able to pull off the matinee upset on Sunday, let’s first just talk about what a historic game this would be. First, obviously it would be the first time a 6-seed has advanced to the finals, as the boys from Broomall have already made history by getting to the semis. It would also be the first time in league history that a team with a losing record (4-5) will have advanced to the championship game. Win or lose, we can all applaud the run made by this team, which one person compared to me on the same level as Villanova winning the NCAA championships in 1985, which I’m sure no one playing in this game will remember.
When these teams faced off in November, St. Luke travelled down to Egg Harbor and nearly pulled off the shorthanded upset, as they had a 2-point lead with just over a minute to go, before Holy Trinity ended the game on a 7-0 run to cap off a 31-26 victory. What made this result even more intriguing was that the St. Luke’s boys were without Greg Vlassopoulos for this game, proving just how evenly matched these two teams are.
The big question in this game will be can the Holy Trinity defense neutralize the offensive firepower of the young Vlassopoulos, and can the St. Luke interior defense (which if this matchup happens will have already most likely pulled off one great performance on the day) slow down the attacking style of Mertis and Dendrinos? Also more at play in this one will be overall perimeter play, as I heard both teams shot well from beyond the arc in their regular season matchup. Sleeper impact players to watch in this one would be Harry Polychronopoulos from St. Luke’s and George Arsenis from Holy Trinity, who have both shot lights out for their respective teams when called upon this year.
Can St. Luke’s make even more history on Sunday? Mr. GOYA thinks that if they get to this point they will come close, but ultimately this matchup would result in Holy Trinity coming away with their first ever league title.
Mr. GOYA’s Prediction – Holy Trinity Egg Harbor 44, St. Luke Broomall – 42.
Before I sign off I want to thank all of you for logging on and reading my articles this season. It is a great joy and honor to be able to cover the league that so many of us have grown up with over the years. I want to thank the few of you that know who I am for keeping my anonymity in tact (especially when I know it has been hard to). Finally, I want to thank Cosmos Philly for allowing me the opportunity. Regardless of what team you cheer for, who your son or daughter plays for, or what church you attend on Sundays, I think we all can agree that the Del Val GOYA Basketball League as a whole represents one of the great traditions found within our Greek Orthodox community. We root, we cheer, we encourage our youngsters in victory and defeat for their efforts and sportsmanship, but most importantly, we gather as one community in support of our youth, fostering an environment of community and fellowship that we hope will rub off on the coming generations. For that fact alone, I think we can all agree when the final horn sounds on Sunday, regardless of who takes home the final trophies, that all of our children, win or lose, can be regarded as champions.
Best of luck to all teams this Sunday, and congratulations to all of you on fantastic seasons.