ASSUMING he's like most kids these days, Anthony Bertolino boasts a bookbag that bursts at the seams.
Come Jan. 4, the day classes resume at Cardinal O'Hara High, it might be even heavier.
Sharing space with the books could be a trophy. Bertolino wouldn't be bragging. He'd just be showing it around as if to say to his fellow students, especially those who so enjoyed playfully busting his chops last basketball season, "We're not bad. Cut us some slack."
O'Hara, which stumbled to a 2-19 record in 2008-09, now owns a 4-2 overall mark. OK, the Lions are not exactly ready to appear in anyone's national rankings, and probably not even the local variety, but they're feeling good and, well, they deserve to.
"We have worked so hard," Bertolino said. "Every single player."
Bertolino is a 5-11, 165-pound senior point guard and last night he slapped together an effective overall performance as O'Hara dominated Bishop McDevitt, 61-43, in the championship game of the latter's four-team Albert C. Achuff Holiday Tournament.
Coincidentally, O'Hara long had hosted its own Christmastime affair.
"I didn't mind not having our own tournament again," Bertolino said. "I like traveling around and getting to see different schools. This was fun."
Ah, winning makes everything right in the world.
Bertolino contributed 12 points, six assists and four steals to this win, and he received the trophy for making the all-tournament team. He was at his best in the second quarter, totaling seven points, three assists and all of his steals as the Lions used a 24-6 outburst to claim a 30-24 halftime advantage.
"McDevitt was playing zone most of the game," Bertolino said, "so I knew I wouldn't be getting a whole lot of points. I concentrated on making smart plays and setting up my teammates. And playing good defense.
"Really, I was going to do anything to get a win."
So, Mr. Bertolino, how difficult was the 2008-09 campaign?
"It just seemed so long. Like it lasted forever," he said. "The hard part was not getting a win over the whole second half.
"It's not easy to have a bad basketball team in a school where the football team is so good every year. That's rough. Big-time rough. You get a lot of grief. We're trying to get some bragging rights back."
Bertolino said last year's seniors, though nice enough kids, were not especially skilled in the leadership department. All along, he has been determined to affect change.
"I guess I could see how different things were in the summertime, when we had open gyms," he said. "Before we'd have easy pickup games. But this time everything was intense. There was no fooling around. We didn't want to be a laughingstock again."
In the early going, it appears the Catholic League's Red Division is wide open. Most of the teams are not as strong as in recent seasons and since O'Hara's elevator is going up . . . Who knows?
The Lions bested Father Judge, 51-39, in their division opener.
"That was so important," Bertolino said. "We led the whole game. If we'd let that one slip away, it would have been a confidence killer . . . And since I'm the point guard, I would have felt it the most."
Tim Gillespie (13) and Dan Kearney (10) also scored in double figures in this one. Gillespie, the sixth man, used two treys en route to eight markers in the second quarter. Mark Sharkey had four assists overall while Sean Mayo snagged five rebounds in the third stanza.
McDevitt's brightest light was football standout Drew Siegfried, who has just rejoined the team after a mini-vacation. He sniped 5-for-8 on treys en route to 19 points. Matt Conroy, another football leader, grabbed nine boards. The Lancers, who also received 10 points from Steven Dominello, hit just 11 of 28 free throws.
Bertolino, who figures he's in his 11th year of playing basketball, lives in Glenolden. He's trying to decide between Eastern, Albright and Williamson Trade and envisions a career in personal training.
And, yes, he's looking forward to Jan. 4.
Holding up his trophy, he said with a laugh, "Maybe I'll get back at some of [the hecklers] by showing them this."