Pennsylvania school with barely enough boys to fill a roster qualifies for state tournament

Ben Rohrbach
Prep Rally

Not many people have heard of Gospel of Grace Christian (Cheltenham, Pa.) High. Not even Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer Lou Rabito, who detailed the tiny school's improbable berth in the Pennsylvania state boys basketball tournament.

"No one knows us," GGC head coach Mario Berrios told the Inquirer.

The Gospel of Grace Christian boys basketball team features seven of the school's 14 boys and a 23-year-old coach --
The Gospel of Grace Christian boys basketball team features seven of the school's 14 boys and a 23-year-old coach --

That's because the school, which only joined the state's athletic association last season, features only 21 students between ninth and 12th grade, and just 14 of them are boys. And half of them are on the hoops team, according to the story.

Yet, the Saints (14-9) marched their way to the district championship game, earning a berth in the first round of the Class A state tournament against Philly's Math, Civics & Sciences on Friday night. That's downright Hoosiers-esque.

"We're underdogs," Berrios told the paper. "That's how I look at it. I just tell my boys every game, 'One game at a time, and go out there and put the school on the map.'"

Berrios, 23, has served as head boys basketball coach for his 16-year-old alma mater since he was 19. It was he who applied for the school to be instated into the PIAA. After all, the school doesn't compete in any other sports. It's not like they could field a football team.

Remember the scene in Hoosiers when coach Norman Dale measured the hoop in order to illustrate to his players that basketball is no different in the bigger schools? Well, these Saints sound an awful lot like those kids from Hickory High.

"They lace up their sneakers the same as us," Gospel of Grace Christian senior Shaquan Turk told the Inquirer. "We don't look at them as they're better than us."

Turk and three classmates will graduate this spring, leaving Berrios with just three returning players. Still, the coach told the paper that two kids from GGC and two others from other schools have already expressed interest in playing for him. Still, Berrios, who reportedly volunteers as head coach, asserted that he does not recruit players.

"I think it's crazy how we can have 21 students and have as good of a basketball team as we have," Berrios added. "And competing with schools, huge public schools and other schools, we've just been able to compete with everybody."

Let's just hope these Saints don't get caught watching the paint dry.

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