The Monsignor Scanlan boys’ basketball team went on a miraculous playoff run in March, culminating with a loss to Blessed Sacrament in the CHSAA Class B title game at Mount St. Michael.
The Crusaders will have no chance at getting back to the ‘B’ title game again this year.
That’s because head coach Frank Iurilli successfully petitioned the league to move up a class, into the ‘A’ league, effective immediately. Also making the jump next season will be St. Agnes, which was the top-seed heading into the playoffs before the Stags were upset in the semifinals.
“I’ve wanted it for about three years now, but the administration didn’t feel it was the right time,” Iurilli said. “But now they did and we were able to move up with St. Agnes and we were granted our wish… I wanted to give my team the best competition I could. Moving up to the ‘A’ was the best way for us to do that for our program.”
Greg Dolan has only been the head coach at St. Agnes for three years, but he said the move also made sense, as well as cents, for his program. Last year St. Agnes, which has no home gym, had to rent buses to commute to games. Now, the Stags will be in the same division as fellow Manhattan schools Xavier, LaSalle Academy and Regis, which will drastically cut down on transportation costs.
“Is it a risk? Maybe,” Dolan said. “Obviously we’ve been successful the last three years. I think we’ll be able to be competitive with the middle group. I can’t see us right now being competitive with Iona Prep. We’re not at that level.”
Dolan said he used his team’s game against Archbishop Stepinac – St. Agnes won this year – as a “litmus test.” The Stags went 17-6 overall, also defeating Regis, St. Edmund and Cardinal Spellman from the ‘A’ division.
“I got support from the athletic director and the administration,” Dolan said. “We sat down and talked about all different angles. We think in the end it will help the kids in the program, both in terms of success from big wins, but also learning how to deal with some failures.”
Iurilli, whose team was 8-16 overall last year, including loses to Archbishop Molloy from the ‘AA’ and Regis, Xavier, Cardinal Hayes and LaSalle, also expects to struggle next season.
“We have to prove we belong,” Iurilli said.
Both coaches indicated the increased number of league games – from 10 to 14 – played a role in their decisions.
With the addition of Monsignor Scanlan and St. Agnes, the ‘A’ league now has 16 teams. After three divisions this past season, it will be switched back to a two-division setup next year with Scanlan in the same division as Mount, Fordham Prep, Iona Prep, Cardinal Hayes, Archbishop Stepinac, Regis and Cardinal Spellman.
St. Agnes will compete against Xavier, LaSalle, Bishop Ford, McClancy, St. John’s Prep, Nazareth and St. Edmund.
The ‘B’ division will now have just four teams – Cathedral Prep, Blessed Sacrament, Sacred Heart and Salesian.
“I’m raising the standard of excellence that we demand from our student-athletes,” Iurilli said. “It’s not going to be easy because we’re facing Stepinac, Ford, Iona, Hayes, Spellman. There’s no gimmies. That’s why we compete.”