Paul Edwards isn't sure which game during Calvert Hall's historic national championship run 25 years ago triggered the next day's killer practice, only that the television series The White Shadow was responsible.
Like just about every high school basketball player of that time, Edwards and the rest of the Cardinals were hooked on the fictional Carver High team and its weekly antics, so much so that the real players decided one night to try a few behind-the-back passes and trickery during a game.
As Edwards recalled yesterday, Calvert Hall coach Mark Amatucci didn't quite see the humor in the team's on-court antics, and made that fact abundantly clear at the next day's practice.
"We won, but it wasn't worth the running we had to do when we got back," Edwards said with a chuckle. "So The White Shadow style of play was out after that."
No doubt, that incident and many others will be recalled as many of the members of that 1981-82 squad, which finished the season 34-0, capturing a mythical national title, return to the school this weekend for reunion ceremonies, including a Mass, reception and dinner tomorrow and recognition before the current Cardinals host Loyola on Sunday afternoon.
For Amatucci, who returned to Calvert Hall in 1993, this weekend marks an opportunity for the team to bask in the glow of one of the area's most remarkable achievements.
"It's nice for the community to remember," Amatucci said. "It was good for the city and the state. It was just one of those teams that you had to root for because on paper, they weren't supposed to get it done and they did."
That Cardinals team - widely considered the third-best area boys high school basketball squad - was a gritty bunch that not only handled the Baltimore Catholic League, but also won tournaments in Las Vegas and Philadelphia, as well as the prestigious Alhambra tournament, which matches some of the country's best Catholic schools.
Calvert Hall was led that season by sophomore center Duane Ferrell, who went on to star at Georgia Tech and play 11 years in the NBA for the Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers and Golden State Warriors, as well as guard Marc Wilson, who scored 1,386 points in his four years at Minnesota, good for 10th on that school's all-time list.
Wilson and Ferrell were flanked by point guard Pop Tubman, who played for Amatucci when he left Calvert Hall for Loyola College, as well as Vernon Hill and Edwards, who starred at Mount St. Mary's. Amatucci assembled the roster mostly from players who played recreation ball at Madison Square and were savvy and athletic, if not very tall.
"What's most important for people in the community to realize is how difficult it is to achieve a national championship," Amatucci said. "There were so many great teams in town that we had to beat. Then, if you look at the people we had to beat in Las Vegas, Philadelphia and the rest of the nation, it's an incredible accomplishment considering that we didn't have anybody over 6-foot-5."
Even if they weren't the tallest team in the area, what made the Cardinals so good, in Edwards' mind, was their willingness to plunge their individual egos below the surface so that the squad could win together.
"What Amatucci was able to do was put the team before anyone," said Edwards, who works for the Baltimore County recreation department. "We prided ourselves in just going out and playing team basketball. We didn't have a team full of names, but we had a team full of players."
The one team that wasn't on Calvert Hall's schedule was Dunbar, which also went unbeaten that season. The Poets would win a national championship in 1982-83, though the Cardinals beat Dunbar in a classic triple-overtime game in 1980-81, with many of the players who would play key roles in their schools' future titles on the floor that night at the sold-out Towson Center.
The 1981-82 Calvert Hall title was the culmination of a remarkable three-year run that, given the current landscape in high school basketball, Amatucci doesn't believe will soon be duplicated.
"The lay of the land has changed because of the AAUs and the recs and the parents and too many voices in kids' heads and kids getting things for just walking on the court, not really earning it," Amatucci said. "There's a tremendous amount of distraction that potentially takes your kids away from what you want to accomplish as a team."
At least, they'll always have something in common with the Carver team from The White Shadow - namely a mythical championship.