It was way back in February of 1982 that Mater Dei High School last lost an Angelus League basketball game. In those days, Ronald Reagan was president of the United States, Sylvester Stallone was big at the movie box office and the Los Angeles Lakers were dominating the National Basketball Assn.
Get the feeling that not a lot has changed in the past five years?
It's understandable if you have coached basketball in the Angelus League.
Mater Dei has made five appearances in the Southern Section 5-A final in the past five years and has won four 5-A championships. Last season, the Monarchs went 31-1, won the 5-A title and added their first state championship for good measure.
Which means that the success of a Mater Dei season has been judged on what the Monarchs do above and beyond the Angelus League. If Mater Dei's season were an aerobic workout, league play would qualify as stretching exercises.
"I always had the feeling that every other team in the league started league with two losses," said Mike Dinneen, St. Paul coach. "Both to Mater Dei."
But this season, the Monarchs don't appear to be as dominating as they have been, and the rest of the league is strong and balanced.
With the exception of Bishop Montgomery, every team has a shot at the league title. St. Paul, Bishop Amat and, of course, Mater Dei appear to have the best shots.
And so--drum roll, please--it appears that Mater Dei, which has won 52 straight league games, will lose an Angelus League game this season.
Asked if the Monarchs are vulnerable this season, Jim McClune, St. Bernard coach, said: "They've been vulnerable every year; they just haven't been defeated. They were vulnerable against us for 30 minutes in two games, and they came out the winners both times. When they lose, I'll believe they can be beat."
But McClune does admit that the time is near.
"Unless someone shows up on one of the campuses that I don't know about, I don't think anyone can win the league undefeated."
Gary McKnight, Mater Dei coach, said: "I think this is going to be a real strong home and home league. You're going to have to win all your games at home and pray when you go on the road."
Following that model, the Monarchs' first league loss may come on Jan. 15, their third league game, when they play at St. Paul. The St. Paul gym is short on space and long on decibels.
Overall, the league is strong. St. Paul is big and fast, as is Bishop Amat. St. Bernard may have the league's next great player in 6-foot 10-inch junior Edward Stokes. Servite returns an all-league center and an all-league guard. And there's Mater Dei.
"It's come to this," said John Walker, Servite co-coach. "I'm sitting in the gym during (the Servite) summer league tournament. And this guy comes up to me and says he has some good news and bad news. He says, "The good news is somebody beat Mater Dei. The bad news is that it was St. Bernard who beat them.' "
Here's a closer look at the league, with last season's record in parentheses:
BISHOP AMAT (17-10, 5-5)
Key personnel--Stephon Pace (6-1, guard), Clarence Lamb (6-0, guard), Terry Lamb (6-0, guard), Jeff Lear (6-8, center), Michael Conness (6-5, forward).
Top newcomers--Pablo Patino (6-6, center), Paul Davis (5-11, guard).
Outlook--The Lancers may have the most athletic team in the league. Pace, who averaged 15 points last season, is an all-league defensive back and will have to decide whether to take a football or basketball scholarship at a Division I college. Lear, who averaged 16 points last season, is a big player who can run. The rest of the team is very fast, which means Bishop Amat will run whenever possible, a theme throughout the league. Add to Lear and Pace the outside shooting of the Lamb brothers and Bishop Amat figures to have a lot of offense. But then, so does every other team in the league, save Bishop Montgomery. The Lancers also have plenty of experience--all five starters are seniors.
BISHOP MONTGOMERY (2-18, 1-9)
Key personnel--Michael Wright (6-0, guard), Tom Aloia (5-11, guard).
Top newcomer--Niu Sale (6-0, guard).
Outlook--Bad, bordering on really bad. Brian Gauthier was let go as coach a week ago and in his place comes Steve Carroll, who admits, "I'm still trying to figure out the kids' names." Carroll is an assistant football coach and last season coached the junior varsity basketball team to a 3-19 record. Eight players from that team have moved up to the varsity. With little size, talent or time, Carroll has decided the Knights' best chance is to run. "We'll be running coming off the bus," he said.
MATER DEI (31-1, 10-0)
Key personnel--Kevin Rembert (6-5, forward), Mike Hopkins (6-4, guard), Char Ruppel (6-6, forward).
Top newcomers--Mark Ramstack (6-1, guard), Troy Roelen (6-1, guard).