By: Rich Flanagan
WYNCOTE- Prior to tipoff of its final home game of the regular season, Bishop McDevitt honored its seniors as it regularly does but this presentation was different than many in recent memory.
The class of 2020 will arguably be remembered as one of the most storied in program history when all is said and done, but for at least a few minutes, the players, alongside their families, were able to focus on all they have learned and built in four seasons.
Take Jamil Manigo and Shamir Mosley, for example. As freshmen, they played on a team that finished 1-12 in the Philadelphia Catholic League under former head coach Sean Ryan. Manigo saw action in several games while Mosley did not see the court in a single league game. Will Chavis, the former standout at Engineering and Science and two-year starter at Texas Tech under Bob Knight, came in prior to their second season and revitalized the program. Robert Smith Jr. transferred in from Roman Catholic and the lefty became an electric scorer. Add in Ahmir Harris, who saw an expanded role as a sophomore, and the Lancers advanced to the Philadelphia Catholic League playoffs for the first time since 2014.
Bishop McDevitt seniors; Kevin Young, Jamil Manigo, Shamir Mosley, Robert Smith Jr., Glenn Smith, Ahmir Harris are honored before game against Neumann- Goretti (photo by Geanine Jamison for PSD)
Last season saw the emergence of Archbishop Ryan transfer Glenn Smith, who took over at point guard, and forward Kevin Young, both of whom have been key pieces to this class’ success:
Manigo recalls what it was like when he first came into the program and where it has catapulted to now.
“My freshman year, we really didn’t win,” Manigo said. “We lost almost every game. The next year, Coach Will came in and changed the whole culture of the program. Practices got harder. Everything got harder. You had to earn your spot and playing time. We’ve accomplished a lot. Every senior on that court plays so hard and that comes from practice. We push each other so hard that games come easy to us.”
This class had some of its most memorable games of its junior season against Neumann-Goretti and in its final home game another one was added to the list. Manigo posted a double-double with 26 points and 13 rebounds and Robert Smith Jr. had 19 points as Bishop McDevitt pulled out a 60-57 victory to hand the Saints their first league loss of the season.
Manigo turned in his best performance of the year in a game the Lancers (14-6, 10-2 Philadelphia Catholic League) needed to stay near the top of the league standings and he did not disappoint. He converted the game-winning and-one past Chris Evans and a late double team by Hysier Miller to put Bishop McDevitt in front 58-57 with 19.6 seconds remaining.
It was only the second basket of the quarter for the big man, who was a First Team All-Catholic last year, but it could not have come at a more crucial point in the contest.
The Saints (16-3, 10-1) had an opportunity to win the game and went to their leader in St. Joe’s commit Jordan Hall (15 points, eight rebounds). They cleared it on the right wing and allowed Hall to go one-on-one with Manigo, but his floater was short and rebounded by Robert Smith Jr., who hit a pair of free throws to push the lead to three with 3.2 seconds left. Neumann-Goretti was unable to get a good shot off on their last possession.
For Manigo, it was a point in the game where his composure and experience in playing these types of games came out all at once and he ended up being the last player to touch the ball as the clock struck zero.
Not to mention that decisive basket also gave him his 1,000th career point.
“We really needed a basket and I was in a mode where I believed nobody could guard me,” Manigo said. “If I can push the defender out of the paint, focus on hitting the backboard and making the layup then that would be game.”
McDevitt's Jamil Manigo (center) pictured with his Dad (l) and head coach Will Chavis (r) after making his 1000th career point: photo by Geanine Jamison for PSD.
Robert Smith Jr. was a Third Team All-Catholic as a sophomore and Second Team a year ago, but he played like a First Team candidate on Sunday. The senior, who shot 6-for-6 from the line in the fourth quarter, has been an integral part of the Lancers rise back to prominence and he’s proud of what he and his fellow seniors have been able to accomplish.
“Just bringing this school back to the top,” Smith Jr. said. “It had been in a drought before we got here. We wanted to show who we really are and that we come to play.”
Sunday’s contest was the fourth game Neumann-Goretti and Bishop McDevitt have played in the last two seasons. The Lancers took the regular season matchup last year, but the Saints enacted revenge in a PIAA District 12 Class 3A seeding game. Bishop McDevitt reached the pinnacle of its season as it not only defeated Neumann-Goretti in the PIAA 3A quarterfinals, but as a result, ended the Saints run at a sixth consecutive state title. While the regular-season schedule pits each Philadelphia Catholic League team against each other only once, these two programs have built a small rivalry in two years and seem poised to potentially meet once again in either the league or state playoffs.
Neumann-Goretti came in having already defeated Bonner-Prendergast, Roman Catholic and Archbishop Wood but missing starting guard Hakim Byrd (15.9 ppg) appeared to throw off the flow of the offense. Hall was more assertive on the offensive end, scoring 10 points in the second half. He hit a free throw to cut the Saints deficit to 56-54 then he found Evans (13 points) for a go-ahead triple with 37.6 seconds to go. Cameron Young (Bowling Green) had 11 points and 11 rebounds while Miller had 14 points including going 10-for-13 from the charity stripe.
The loss puts the Saints in a tie with the Vikings atop the standings heading into the final weekend of the regular season, but they own the tiebreaker.
Manigo and Robert Smith Jr. were masterful in their final game on Royal Avenue and their fellow seniors made their impact as well. Mosley had six points including a rare three-pointer. Harris hit a stepback trey in the third to give Bishop McDevitt its largest lead of the game at 41-33. Glenn Smith had four points including a late basket to give his side a three-point advantage with 1:09 remaining while Young came off the bench to score a basket late and played big minutes down the stretch.
Chavis has changed the culture and direction of the Lancers program from the moment he came in. He’s helped orchestrate much of the success over the last three seasons, but he wants this 2020 class to receive the recognition it deserves after their playing days together are officially over.
“Hopefully, their work will be recognized by the school and they’ll go down as one of the best teams here at McDevitt, but we just try to get better on and off the court,” Chavis said. “We don’t focus on things we can’t control.”