By Mike Longo Jr.
It was once said, "All good things must come to an end." This is true for the widely recognized state record set by the West Philadelphia basketball teams from 1976-78. Set 44 years ago, 68 straight wins on the hardwood stood the test of time. That is until the first game of the 2022-23 high school campaign and the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Chargers took the court.
Dec. 3, 2022 is a date that Chargers players, coaches, fans and alum will remember the rest of their lives. Defeating Albert Gallatin 52-40, OLSH climbed to the top of the state basketball record book mountain with their 69th consecutive victory. They currently maintain the longest active winning streak in the nation as their undefeated ride continues.
It began in the 2020-21 season with a team led by Dante Spadafora and Jake DiMichele en route to winning both WPIAL and PIAA titles with an unblemished record. DiMichele along with Dawson Summers and Kevin Wilson took the reigns at the start of the 2021-22 season aided by other starters Rocco Spadafora and Bryson Kirschner.
Coach Mike Rodriguez forged ahead with the precision and accuracy of a skilled surgeon. His players responded and once again ran the deck as they again claimed both WPIAL and PIAA titles with another perfect record.
They tied the state record for 68 straight wins in March during last year's PIAA Championship game. Talk of a dynasty was ever-present echoing throughout the entire state.
The only other team to win back-to-back state titles while remaining unbeaten, was Darby Colwyn, until the Chargers matched that fete. Last season, OLSH defeated its opponents by an average margin of 32 points.
Three of the major contributors from last season have been lost to graduation as OLSH enters the 2022-23 season. This year's cast of characters continues to keep the winning tradition and unbeaten streak alive. Fear not, as the Chargers have floor general Guard Spadafora at the helm. Kirschner and B.J. Vaughn round out the trio as all three have been a part of this incredible ride over the last three years.
Taking the court for the start of the season at one of many Tip Off Tournaments, OLSH had a date with destiny. Their opponent, Albert Gallatin was looking to knock the king off of the proverbial mountaintop.
The Chargers would have none of that, as Dec. 3 turned out to be a history-making day. Led by seniors Kirschner (15 points) and Vaughn (10 points) the Colonials became victim No. 69 against zero defeats as OLSH prevailed 52-40. A new state record was born.
Continuing their winning ways, OLSH dispatched Beth Center 63-18 the very next day. Brashear (60-51) Beaver Falls (65-41) Ambridge (42-38) and Brentwood (69-48) have all fallen as the unbeaten streak now stands at 74-0 as it continues to climb.
Against Brentwood, the latest victim of the streak, Kirschner poured in a game-high 20 points followed by Vaughn's 13 and Spadafora's 12. Ziggy McIntosh and Rocco Coladonato chipped in 10 points apiece as the winning streak continues. Coach Rodriguez offered one simple philosophy on his team’s past and present, "We take it one game at a time." I'm sure coach would want no part of the dynasty chatter that is circulating, however popular opinion is just that.
Even though not in the same classification as teams of the past, one would be hard-pressed not to mention the Chargers with teams from the past. Two greats that leap to the forefront from the 1960's Ambridge with Dennis Wycik, Dick DeVenzio and Frank Kaufman as well as Midland teams led by Simmy Hill and former NBA star Norm Van Lier.
Next up, the Chargers take on Deer Lakes Dec. 22 and possibly win No. 75 in a row.