St. Mary Mokena has a new class of champions. The eighth-grade boys basketball red division team recently clinched the South Suburban Catholic Conference (SSCC) Championship after an undefeated regular season.
It all came down to one final game against St. Raymond on Sunday, March 1st, where the St. Mary Titans won 42-27. “For the boys, it was a crowning achievement after four years of hard work,” explained head coach Frank Wajda.
On and off the court, the boys were a class act. “I never had to deal with any attitudes,” said Coach Wajda. “They always treated each other with respect and were a very unselfish team.”
Coach Wajda believes this strong moral backbone, coupled with an aggressive full-court press strategy, is what led to victory after victory. The team practiced about twice a week for 90-minute segments. “They worked hard at every practice to prepare for the games and were relentless on defense,” he said.
In addition to winning all 14 games in the SSCC regular-season conference, the team entered and won multiple tournaments across the region, beating both Catholic and public school teams as far as Naperville and Chicago.
Coach Wajda recalled one game that was particularly memorable. “We were down 17 points in the fourth quarter but still managed to come back and win after getting several points off opponents’ turnovers.” All-in-all, the team scored 592 points in the conference this season and gave up 337 for a points differential of 255.
“I’m so proud of our basketball program at St. Mary,” said Father Dindo Billote, pastor of St. Mary. “The coaches and athletic board are excellent in training our young men and women about sportsmanship, teamwork, and healthy Christian competition!”
Now, the talented young players are being eyed by local high school basketball programs, and five of them plan to play for Providence Catholic.
“Wherever they wind up, this team will go down as one of the best St. Mary ever had,” said Coach Wajda. “This was the perfect ending to a perfect season.”