Talarico's senior moment leads Lansdale

Posted: January 22, 2012

AND THEN there was one . . . 

One senior member, that is, of Lansdale Catholic High's basketball program.

Yes, Alex Talarico assures us, the school did have a freshman team in the 2008-09 school year. And that squad, if he remembers correctly, even claimed two or three wins.

But along the way, all of Talarico's then-teammates pulled a vanishing act because they wanted to concentrate on other sports, or because they saw they'd never be much of a factor, or because they flat-out lost interest.

Talarico, a 6-foot, 160-pound senior combo guard, stayed around.

Then yesterday, again, there was one . . . 

Win No. 1 of the Catholic League season, that is.

In a battle of winless squads, Talarico shot 3-for-5 and 1-for-2 for seven points and dealt three assists as the visiting Crusaders (1-6 in CL) bested Monsignor Bonner (0-7), 44-38.

No cartwheels were turned. No nets were sliced down. There will be no parade today through Lansdale. But it's likely the smile won't leave Talarico's face for a while.

"This has been a rough season," he acknowledged, "so this feels really good. Every day you walk into practice with the idea, 'Keep working hard. The next game will be our first win.' And then you keep waiting . . . 

"We knew Bonner was in the same situation [plus, also winless overall]. Just as hungry as we were. We wanted to come out and step it up real fast. Take control of the game. That's what happened and we stayed ahead."

Almost. Bonner did create a 34-34 tie with 6 minutes, 55 seconds remaining as Pat Vanderslice canned a layup on a pass from Paul Pfeffinger. LC charged right back into the lead - then stayed there - as Andrew Riviello hit a left-wing jumper.

In his family, Talarico is something of a maverick.

His older brothers, Tony, Michael and Dan, all favored soccer, as did members of the previous generation. Alex played through the eighth grade, at St. Rose of Lima, in North Wales, then ditched the sport because he wanted to give his total effort to hoops.

As his sidekicks kept departing, all he could do was shrug his shoulders.

"There were two juniors on last year's team, and now it's just me as the only senior," he said. "I always liked basketball. I wasn't going to let the fact that everybody else stopped playing make me stop playing. I guess it's pretty cool being the only senior, but it's also kind of tough."

Not enough to break him.

"Knowing what kind of career is ahead of me, I know you just don't walk away from tough things," he said. "This is preparing me."

Context for that comment: Talarico is waiting to hear good news from the folks at the Naval Academy. Academically, he ranks somewhere in the seven-to-10 range among seniors and has designs on becoming an aerospace engineer.

LC's first-year boss is Ed Enoch, who starred at Penn Charter ('72) and Penn and now owns the city leagues' record for longest gap (30 seasons) between head-coaching stints; he was PC's coach for five seasons ending in '82.

Asked about Talarico, he said, "I couldn't ask for a better senior in a program that's got so much building to do."

That comment wasn't repeated to Talarico. If so, he probably would have turned red.

"It was up to me to become the leader," he said. "I've had to develop those skills, especially going back to the summer. When coach Enoch came in, we started doing a lot of offseason workouts. That was new to everybody. I had to coax the guys along. Get them to buy into it."

With soph Brian Rafferty hitting all four of his shots for eight points, the Crusaders built a 17-10 first-quarter lead. By game's end, Rafferty owned 16 points and Riviello, also a soph, had 12. Junior Cole Sagen added five points and two assists.

For Bonner, only Vanderslice and Pfeffinger (12 apiece) scored more than five points. "Slice" added six boards while Dan McLoone held Riviello, LC's scoring leader, to just two field goals over the final three quarters.

Bonner, of course, is slated to close in June (though many are trying to prevent that). Realistically, this was likely the Friars' last chance to avoid an 0-13 CL record, the same mark it posted in season No. 1 (1955-56, as Archbishop Prendergast).

"I feel for Bonner," Talarico said. "I can't imagine what it'd be like to be in their position. We were even hearing some rumors about LC. It would have been so tough on the teachers, and then the underclassmen, having to go someplace else."

A shade before 4 o'clock, Alex Talarico and his basketball team enjoyed going to the CL victory column.

"We really needed this," he said.

Online high school coverage at philly.com/rally.

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