When it came to losses for Sergino Mystil, basketball was preceded by focus.

Isn't that always the way?

Mystil, now a senior and a 6-5, 185-pound power forward, never did make it onto the court as a sophomore at West Catholic High. He did as a junior and then, oops, there went his only sporting love, yet again.

The young man is pleasant and well spoken, so the ability to perform classroom duties was never an issue.

"I didn't stay on my books like I should have," he said. "That's what you have to do: stay on them. I thought I learned that the first time, but instead it happened again. That was really hard, especially since I knew it was all my fault."

Yesterday, Mystil did not deserve all the credit for West Catholic's 64-35 frolic past visiting Cardinal O'Hara in a Catholic South game.

A decent amount, though. He totaled 15 points (7-for-14 from floor) and the same number of rebounds along with five steals, two assists and two blocked shots.

Mystil (miss-still) and hoops go way back.

"For as long as I can remember," he said. "It seems like the first thing I ever did was pick up a basketball. My brother, Guy, played football at Bonner, but I was always a basketball guy. I love the game and how you have to play as a team to get the job done.

"Being away was rough. Really hard. I stayed around the team as much as I could. I came to almost every game and gave my support. I wanted the guys to know I was still with them. It also helped to watch and pay attention to how the games were going because I knew that would benefit me for later."

Eric Brennan added 14 points, 13 rebounds and three apiece of assists and blocks for the Burrs. Rob Holloman scored 13 points.

For O'Hara, which scrambled back within 32-27 only to see West storm to 18 consecutive points, Zach Tansey scored 20 points. The Lions shot 10-for-52 from the floor and received field goals only from Tansey and Jim Kelleher.

"Coach [Bill Ludlow] told us exactly how to get things done," Mystil said. "We had the same goal we always do, to hold our opponent under 10 points each quarter, and we were able to do it."

Mystil, who spent his early years in West Philly, has lived in East Lansdowne for six years. He was 6-foot as a sixth-grader and 6-3 by the time he entered West. His academic profile is fine now; he envisions a career in sports management and schools such as Penn State-Berks and Neumann College are showing interest.

Among the proud are Sergino's mom and dad, Gina and Jean, who are also among the relentless.

"They're always going to be on my back," he said, laughing. "I understand, and I appreciate it." *