MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

How about that Mikey Allen, eh? Short of actually winning the ACIT championship (and oh, by the way, Bishop Walsh nearly did), that’s about as good as it gets.

Allen’s play, his confidence and cool, and, yes, his game-winners at the buzzer on Friday against Bishop McNamara and Saturday against Mount St. Joseph not only electrified the fans at Frostburg State University for the 60th Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament, but the entire area sporting community as well, because he’s a local guy who proved it can be done.

I was unable to attend this year, but watched much of the tournament on my telephone (not only can it be done, it is done quite well) and not only that, wherever I went over the weekend – the market, a walk, church (okay, not church; time change you know) or the neighborhood public house, the Spartans and Mikey Allen were all many of the area sports fans wanted to talk about. And it was great; and it was wonderful.

It was a performance and an ACIT weekend for the ages and it’s something we’ll be talking about for years and years to come. Unless, of course, Allen and BW outdo themselves next year; and based on what we’ve seen already, it wouldn’t appear to be a wise thing to bet against that happening.

As for the 60th ACIT itself, fresh off its two-year (seemed like 20) pandemic hiatus, as on-site correspondent W.J. Feeney (he works for free) corresponded, “Best I remember.” And W.J. has been to most of the them.

All of the games were close, many of them were decided in the final seconds and the 60th ACIT gave us a hometown hero in Bishop Walsh junior guard Mikey Allen, who not only hit the game-winners in the two games that gave the host team Spartans two weekend wins for the first time in school history, but played his way onto first team All-ACIT as well.

There have been years when we believed we had a chance to see something like this happen, but whatever the circumstances came to be that prohibited it from happening to this degree, the time finally came when most ACIT fans walked away from the weekend talking about the play of a Bishop Walsh player, and the performance of the Bishop Walsh team.

It’s just something that is right; it is just something that makes us feel good, and it exemplifies many of the things we love about sports and about our community.

As for the tournament champion, if you had just been rescued from Gilligan’s Island, you would think it’s no surprise that the ACIT champion for the 26th time was DeMatha of Hyattsville. Yet this year, it has come as quite a surprise for many of us.

The Stags, now champions of the last three ACITs, came to the ACIT with an interim head coach, DeMatha alum and former player and assistant coach Pete Strickland since the departure of Mike Jones last spring to Virginia Tech (who won the ACC championship Saturday night, by the way). By all appearances they were the third-best team in the WCAC, behind Paul VI and McNamara, and brought to Allegany County one of the youngest teams of recent DeMatha vintage.

The Stags came in under the radar, which never seems to serve as a good omen for the rest of the field of any tournament they’re in, and they held serve in the tournament they have loved winning the most dating back 50 years, with their closest eye-to-eye with defeat coming in the first round against Cumberland’s Bishop Walsh.

The DeMatha brand is real. It is a brand that is real, and it is a brand that is true and it is one that works. As is and does the brand of the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament, the greatest tournament of its kind for over 60 years.

Well done. So extremely well done, ACIT.

But well … What did we expect? We expected the best and, once more, we received the best.

With all that is going on in this world, and in view of the past two years, how blessed are we to have the melting pot that we have here in our community that brings so many us from all over together the way this tournament and all who come with it do with the fellowship and the love they bring each March?

It’s part of what helps make us our community; and it’s what helps our community grow stronger, more loving and more appreciative each day. We can never take it for granted,

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