Bishop McDevitt's starting line up for the 1965-66 season. Bottom row: Fred Parise (left) and Tony Kinn. Top row, from left: Lew Billet, Don Polly and John Travers.
Eric F. Epler | email@example.com
Bishop McDevitt will honor its most successful boys’ basketball team, 50 years after Hall of Fame coach Marino DeFilippo and his dynamic Crusaders nearly claimed the final game of the 1965-66 season.
Point man Fred Parise and five varsity teammates from that memorable 23-4 ride to the Farm Show Arena will be celebrated at halftime of McD’s home game with Red Land on Friday. Senior night will tip off around 7:30 p.m.
Although the Crusaders have relocated to their new home in the suburbs, DeFilippo’s run-and-gun crew that season certainly transformed cozy Tracy Hall and both the Central Penn Catholic League and Pennsylvania Catholic Interscholastic Athletic Association.
Along for the ride was dogged Patriot-News reporter Ronnie Christ, who catalogued nearly every step of the curious Crusaders, from their unfiltered brand of basketball to their rabid fan base and push to the PCIAA Class A final against Johnstown’s Bishop McCort.
At all stages, points were plentiful. Well before the introduction of the 3-point line, the Crusaders averaged 82 points per game, with sharpshooter Tony Kinn averaging a state-best 32 points.
“From the moment our junior season ended, we played playgrounds, the five of us,” said Parise, who joined fellow seniors John Travers, Don Polly, Lew Billet and Kinn in the starting line up.
weekend playing on Saturday and Sunday. Vernon Street was the big court we went to. We just went out and played together because came up as freshmen together.”
Justifying McDevitt’s breakneck style was a starting 5 that barely averaged 5-foot-11. That nugget prompted Christ to hand DeFilippo’s crew with a nickname that stuck.
“He called us Marino’s Mighty Midgets,” said Parise with a chuckle.
The height “disadvantage” would not stop the Crusaders from running off 11 straight wins to open the season before rival Lancaster Catholic intervened with a 58-57 overtime victory. It was McD’s lowest output of the season.
Five games later, the Crusaders edged Chambersburg 102-95, the team’s second 100-point performance of the season. McD’s 107 points against Lower Dauphin earlier in the season remains a program record.
Later came the regular season finale with Delone Catholic. With DeFilippo dealing with the loss of his father, future McD athletic director and longtime history teacher Mike Fry helped coach the Crusaders to a 95-68 decision, one sparked by a record-setting 40-point fourth quarter. Despite Fry’s ask, Parise said the starters refused to come out of the one-sided affair because it was the last run for the seniors.
Every man played to his strengths, said Parise, including co-captain Polly on a ragged right knee. The forward severely injured the knee during McDevitt’s football opener in 1964 and suffered through an infection post-surgery. He would miss his entire junior season on the hardwood but became McD’s top rebounder a year later.
McDevitt would travel some 500 miles to secure victories over Bethlehem Catholic (77-73) in the Eastern Regional and Scranton Prep (92-70), which featured longtime NBA coach P.J. Carlesimo, in the Eastern final.
Despite a floor-record 43 points from Kinn, the run ended with an 88-83 loss to red-hot Steve Smear and Bishop McCort in front of 5,600 screaming spectators at the Farm Show.
Parise keeps the memories of that glorious season in a thick scrapbook and its open for viewing with old friends this weekend.
The 1965-66 Crusaders
Lew Billet 5-10 sr
Jim Hamilton 6-5 sr
Tony Kinn 6-0 sr
Bob Klinger 5-11 sr
Jim McCarthy 5-8 jr
Fred Parise 5-8 sr
Don Polly 6-0 sr
Art Smith 5-11 jr
John Travers 6-1 sr