MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

So, after two years of rightfully being canceled because of the pandemic, it looks as though we’re finally going to get us that 60th Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament after all, right?

The greatest weekend of the year reconvenes Thursday, March 10 at Frostburg State University, but the entirety of the event far exceeds the mere basketball played, which still remains the finest in the country.

We’re going to be talking a lot of ACIT stuff here in the coming days and weeks, so let’s start here: Through 59 ACITs, three arenas and countless thrills, what’s your favorite memory of the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament?

Being excused from school early … all right, playing hooky … to walk downtown, hang out, and then get up the hill to the Allegany gym on (then) every third Thursday, Friday and Saturday of March?

Appreciating how every third Thursday, Friday and Saturday of March were seemingly the most beautiful days of the year?

Gene Turano’s “ACIT SEZ: WELCOME!” banner overlooking downtown from high atop his Brunswick building?

Picking up a copy of the Cumberland Evening Times at the newsstand at Murphy’s to read what was on Suter Kegg’s mind?

Having newsstands?

Walking up the steps into the Allegany High School gym and buying one of those to-die-for pretzels before taking a left or a right for a smaller set of steps, depending on where you were going to sit?

Walking into the Allegany gym before it lost seating to fire codes, seeing it jammed packed and knowing it is the biggest room you will ever be in in your life?

Hearing Tom O’Rourke’s perfect voice on the public-address system?

Sitting in the balcony of Allegany’s gym with all of your friends and feeling so grown up?

Sitting at the scoreboard end of the Allegany gym in those bleachers right behind the basket, having the time of your life trying to distract free-throw shooters and feeling so young and silly?

Sitting with your mouth dropped wide open in wonder and delight while you watch Sammy Puckett and Hales Franciscan?

Getting Adrian Dantley’s autograph?

Getting Lefty Driesell’s autograph during his unsuccessful recruiting visit for Adrian Dantley?

Having Morgan Wootten sign your personal copy of his book “From Orphans to Champions?”

DeMatha’s cool high-top Chucks before being old enough to understand Carolina blue is part of the force of evil?

Langloh?

Donald “Duck” Williams and Keith Herron vs. Kenny Carr and Hawkeye Whitney in the 1974 final?

Getting another one of those pretzels?

Speedy?

Roman Catholic’s 1975 and 1976 titles?

Stopping by the Fort Cumberland Hotel on the walk to and from the Allegany gym to get a look at all those star players staying there for the weekend? Not to mention all of the girls hanging around them?

Going across the street from the Fort Cumberland and knocking down about six Coney Islands with the works?

Whittenburg and Lowe?

Peter Giftopolous, John Kijonek and Rocco Romano?

The joy on Joe Gallagher’s wonderful Irish face after his St. John’s Cadets, led by Mike Tate, defeat DeMatha, 61-60, for the 1985 ACIT championship?

Seeing the disappointment in Danny Ferry’s face as he punches his fist into the air as the final buzzer ends the ’85 title game, and finding yourself thinking, “That’s a guy I want on my team. He absolutely hates to lose?”

Rodney Monroe vs. John Gwynn in the 1987 semifinals?

Jimmy Soto?

Watching Carroll Holmes, his Archbishop Carroll coaching staff and their wives and girlfriends do the Electric Slide at the Saturday night party after winning the 1989 title?

Philadelphia?

Everybody from Philadelphia?

The Philadelphia hospitality room?

Marchiano’s Bakery?

Stat wizard Tom McKenna?

The Maple Leaf lapel pins?

Cokey?

Bob Schubert?

Bob Schubert’s stick dance?

Talking Orioles baseball with Jerry Savage?

Remembering when Joe Wootten was a runny-nose kid playing on the elevators of the Holiday Inn (now Ramada) as you watch his Bishop O’Connell team win its third straight ACIT title?

Just listening to Jim Yerkovich talk anything basketball, but particularly the “We” approach he incorporated into his program early in his 44-year career, stressing, “basketball is a classroom for values?”

Wishing Anna Margaret Connelley, God love her, a Happy Birthday every St. Patrick’s Day?

Talking to Joe Divico in the empty hotel lobby in the still of Wednesday evening’s late hours and Thursday morning’s early moments?

Watching the ACIT grow stronger and stronger, and better and better thanks to Joe Carter and his devoted and caring gang at Wamba Caravan 89?

Listening to somebody your age say, “I used to go to the ACIT when Dantley and those guys came here,” and taking great delight in saying, “As great as the talent pool was then, it’s even better now?”

By merely buying a ticket, helping the developmentally disabled?

The fellowship?

Making new friends?

Catching up with old friends?

You know what? They, and thousands more, are all your favorite memory of the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament.

To be continued …

Finally!

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT