By Melissa Quinn
For the Bishop Ireton boys varsity basketball team, perfection no longer falls into the category of something to strive for — it’s demanded.
Every practice begins with perfection: a series of drills using live-action play where the athletes are allowed only three mistakes before enduring sprints. And come game time, the team gets serious, all in the name of chasing the perfect season.
Because perfection is the Cardinals only shot at a Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship. In a division that boasts three nationally ranked teams, falling short of perfect is not an option.
“We pursue perfection,” said senior guard Louis Khouri. ”And if we can’t be perfect, then we get as close as possible.”
The team holds a 5-1 record so far this season, suffering their first loss — 77-70 — Tuesday against reigning league champ Paul VI. And their schedule only gets more challenging from there. The Cardinals will face Gonzaga and DeMatha — heralded as two of the best teams in the region by the Washington Post — as well as St. John’s and Good Counsel.
“Even if our league is down four notches, we’re still the best league in the country,” said coach Keith Berkman. “We play in such a talented league, and everything for us is geared toward the league.”
Despite the perennial strength of their opponents, the Cardinals are prepared to put up a fight.
Though they graduated five players last year, Berkman shuffles the lineup often, letting his younger athletes gain valuable playing time. With just three seniors on the roster, the squad relies heavily on its fresh faces.
And WCAC teams will have to go up against Ireton’s strong transition defense, the key to success this season, Berkman said.
“We don’t allow easy baskets,” he said.
Though Berkman admits there’s always room for improvement on defense, he’s more concerned about helping his players develop a case of selective amnesia when it comes to losing. They often spend too long lingering on adversity, he said.
“I’d rather be ranked when the year is over, not during the year,” Berkman said. “A lot of people want to see quantitative numbers, but we want to play our best basketball right before the WCAC tournament … it’s going to patiently evolve.”
The Cardinals chase perfection off the court as well. The team boasts a 3.65 grade point average and volunteered at the Christ House earlier this month, moving boxes of food and feeding the homeless.
“It’s important to be humble also,” said Taylor McHugh, a junior guard.
Though Berkman demands flawless performances, he emphasizes the importance of his players being more than athletes — they’re students and scholars too.
“We’re more than just basketball players,” Khouri said.
But as the season progresses, the Cardinals will keep working toward perfection — no matter how daunting the challenge.
“No one is ever perfect,” said junior forward Daniel Noe. “But it’s the pursuit of perfection that matters.”