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Opening tip: St. Mary's

St. Mary's Charles McCann looks inside. (March 2,

St. Mary's Charles McCann looks inside. (March 2, 2010) Credit: Photo by Patrick E. McCarthy

The weather's getting colder, Starbucks is trotting out increasingly ridiculous winter-themed drinks and no one has complained about a high school football game in a full minute. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: Basketball season.

Let's kick things off nice and proper, shall we?

I'm Laura (::waves::) and I'll be one of three bloggers taking you through the season this year. See something interesting? Know of a good story? Stumble across something awesomely bizarre and basketball-related? Email me. Seriously. Please? 

Ok, enough barely-dignified petitioning. Let's talk basketball.

There's a reason the first call of the season was to St. Mary's. Ok, there's two: 1. I'm doing the CHSAA preview. 2. They are legit and are, indeed, making like Kanye and getting stronger. (Warning: I will become increasingly lame as the season wears on.)

How they fared: St. Mary's (20-8) rode its two seed through the CHSAA championships and hop-scotched over then-undefeated St. John the Baptist, which fell to Holy Trinity in the semis. The Gaels eventually lost to Nichols (Buffalo), 67-49 in the first round of the state tournament.

Player to watch: Chauvaugh Lewis, Sr., G, 6-6. Lewis, a 2-guard with a sweet stroke, is also one of the team's best rebounders behind Charles McCann. As a guard, he plays facing the basket and, between his rebounding, his speed and his ability to score, he's been a certifiable pain in the butt for opposing teams. At 6-6, he's also one of the biggest guys on the squad (more on that below) and that's something St. Mary's can't afford to discount.

Team strengths: Maturity, perimeter shooting, transition game, defense. St. Mary's has four returning starters from last year's championship team. "They're working harder this year than ever," coach Bill Harkins said. Behind Lewis, you've got Justin Bailey, described as pure knockdown shooter and Khalif Chaplin, a first-year starter expected to be very solid behind the arc. The team is quick and accurate, with four guards and a swingman in McCann, who, at 6-4, can be a strong presence in the post. The Gaels have had some issues rebounding, but when they do, the entire team possesses the ability and speed to get up and down the court with relative ease. Dante Agnew averages about six assists per game as St. Mary's past-first point guard. St. Mary's employs a man-to-man full court press that emphasizes their athleticism over their lack of size.

Team weaknesses: At 6-6, Lewis is the team's biggest starter and sees most of his minutes at shooting guard. While St. Mary's emphasizes physical, nose-to-the-grindstone defense, the smaller, guard-heavy rotation may mean a little more wiggle room under the basket for opposing teams.   

Outlook: Very, very good. St. Mary's could easily be as dominant as it was last year, but with maturity on its side and a CHSAA championship under its belt, it's likely the Gaels will be even better.

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