Byline: Jerry Fitzpatrick
They say bad things happen in threes.
The recent woes of three Tri-Cities basketball teams only add fuel to that theory.
Just when Marmion, Batavia and St. Charles East were mowing through their basketball seasons with great success, the fickle hand of fate tossed each the most dreaded monkey wrench in sports: injury.
These weren't injuries to role players, but to team leaders, players who have made a habit of making their teams better, leaders who often mean the difference between winning and losing in ferocious conference battles.
Marmion stood 4-1 and tied for first place in the Suburban Catholic Conference, due in large part to the leadership provided by senior point guard Gerardo Alvarez.
The Cadets seemed destined to battle St. Francis to the wire for the school's first title since the 1970s.
Cue cruel fate.
In a game against rival Aurora Central Catholic on Jan. 11, the Cadets' floor general hurt his knee. Nevertheless, he returned in the fourth quarter to lead the game-winning charge after donning a knee brace. He looked slightly slower than normal but determined as ever.
Tests the following week revealed Alvarez had suffered a torn meniscus, a result of his knee being hit awkwardly during a loose- ball scramble.
Alvarez' memorable fourth-quarter charge against ACC proved to be his final act as a high school basketball player.
Without him the Cadets struggled. They dropped their next two conference games to fall to third place. Now only losses by the teams ahead of them can salvage Marmion's faint hope of a conference championship.
"We're going to need some help," Marmion coach Pat McNamara said. "Gerardo was like a coach on the floor. He took it upon himself to tell players coming into the game who to cover and where they needed to be on the court. He was our emotional leader."
At Batavia High School last Friday, the Bulldogs faced what would have been a challenging but winnable test against Glenbard South. That is until all-conference center Travis Meeks broke his right hand in practice the previous night.
The Bulldogs played like a different team without Meeks, a three-year starter at center who dominates the paint. Glenbard South beat Batavia by 8 points.
The loss dropped Batavia out of a tie with Plainfield for first place in the Suburban Prairie Red.
With Meeks expected to miss at least four weeks, the Bulldogs will be hard pressed to repeat as conference champions. …