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The Baltimore Catholic League's high level of play will speak for itself when the 39th edition of the boys basketball tournament takes place this weekend at Loyola University's Reitz Arena.

As for its rich tradition, it was oozing at the league's annual awards luncheon Tuesday afternoon at Snyder's Willow Grove Restaurant in Linthicum Heights.

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Every corner of the banquet room had a wealth of basketball knowledge and talent. Legendary former coaches Jerry Savage (Loyola), Mark Amatucci (Calvert Hall), Cokey Robertson (St. Maria Goretti) and William Wells (St. Frances) were on hand along with the current players and coaches for all seven teams.

Host Keith Mills provided a reminder of the large number of talented players who have come through the BCL — the likes of Carmelo Anthony (Towson Catholic), Juan Dixon (Calvert Hall), Rudy Gay (Archbishop Spalding), Quintin Dailey (Cardinal Gibbons), Mark Karcher (St. Frances) — and on and on. Guest speaker Jimmy Patsos, Loyola University's head coach, urged the current players to take pride in the fact they have the opportunity to play in the league and take full advantage both on and off the court. Earlier in the season, there was preliminary talk that the league might fold largely because school administrators felt there was no need to have a second tournament with the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association playoffs completed over the weekend. While modifications will be made for the coming seasons, BCL commissioner Jack Degele said the league isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

"The BCL has a great tradition of history and excellence in high school basketball, both what it represents on the court and off the court. I've always been very proud and feel fortunate to be a part of the Baltimore Catholic League," said 18-year Mount St. Joseph coach Pat Clatchey, who was named the BCL's Coach of the Year for the eighth time.

The opening round of this weekend's tournament is set for Saturday with games at 5 p.m., 6:45 and 8:30. The semifinals are set for Sunday at 6:45 p.m. and 8:30 with the championship game slated for 7 p.m. Monday. The tournament seedings will be announced after Thursday night's completion of the regular season. Mount St. Joseph, already declared regular-season champion, has earned a bye for Saturday's opening round.

Mount St. Joseph and defending BCL tournament champ St. Frances, which captured last weekend's MIAA championship, already have received invitations to the prestigious Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament, which will celebrate its 50th year. Degele said Calvert Hall also has a chance to receive an invitation. The tournament is set for March 18-20 at Frostburg University.

— Glenn Graham

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