Amid a setting fueled by both high emotion and hostility, the Christian Brothers Academy boys basketball team began its journey through the 2007-08 season.
And the Brothers stood up quite well to all the challenges, nearly making a ferocious comeback from a double-digit deficit at Henninger before taking a 62-56 loss to the Black Knights in the featured game of the two-day Peppino's Invitational.
By its own high standards, CBA had a so-so 2006-07 season, only going 13-9 and falling to Corcoran in the Section III Class AA quarterfinal despite the presence of two star players in Marcus Sales and Mike Goodman.
Right after the season ended, Goodman had knee surgery, and he's back at 100 percent. Sales, the leading scorer in Class AA a season ago, is also back, and the pair makes CBA a title contender again -- if their teammates can offer their share of contributions, too.
As with both of CBA's soccer teams, the basketball Brothers will play the majority of its schedule against Class A opponents in the OHSL Freedom division, then move up to Class AA for the sectional playoffs.
To that end, head coach Buddy Wleklinski needed to schedule every non-league game against AA teams -- and that included Henninger, who returns Ben Cronin, a 7-1 senior center headed for the University of Michigan next fall.
Just four days before this game, Cronin suffered a devastating personal tragedy when his father, Sean, suffered a heart attack and passed away. He was just 49.
Sean Cronin's funeral took place the morning of the game. The night before, all of the CBA players and coaches attended the wake to pay their respects.
Aside from that emotional backdrop, Henninger added to the atmosphere by honoring its five members of the 1,000-point club -- Andray Blatche, Chris Turner, Latavia Escho, Maurice Brown and Lazarus Sims.