By: Rich Flanagan & John Knebels
Photos/Videos: Donna Eckert, Rich Flanagan, Geanine Jamison, John Knebels, Kathy Leister, Vita Marks, JJ Michalski, Patty Morgan, Mike Nance & Angelise Stuhl
PHILADELPHIA - This high school sports year has been unlike any other. The coronavirus, which has spread across the U.S., put a halt on all professional sports and turned March Madness into “March Sadness.” The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) canceled its winter championships and spring sports season on April 9, leaving student-athletes disheartened and coaches and parents wondering what to do next.
While the full winter sports’ season was cut short, there was still plenty that took place in the Philadelphia Catholic League from the end to a historic tenure by a legendary head basketball coach to a budding freshman setting a new PCL record in the 60m hurdles at the indoor track and field championship.
Here’s our Philadelphia Catholic League worth noting piece on the 2019-20 winter sports’ season….Season accomplishments are listed by school in alphabetical order:
Archbishop Carroll girls’ basketball team reached the PIAA Class 5A state quarterfinals before COVID-19 forced a tournament cancellation.
Senior Erin Sweeney was named Class 5A first-team, all-state after averaging 15.4 points and three rebounds and being named first-team All-Catholic for a second straight season.
“I have been so lucky to have been surrounded by great coaches and teammates throughout my years at Carroll that have given me their constant support,” said Sweeney, a Drexel University signee. “The program has given me some of the best experiences of my life, and I am so grateful.”
Archbishop Ryan’s wrestling team lost in the finals for a third straight season. In the final, Dillon Shamanow (decision at 195), senior Junior Orantes (pin at 285), Ricky Horger (major decision at 120), Nick Rehfuss (decision at 138), Matt Weinberg (pin at 145), and Jonathan Swift (pin at 152) supplied individual wins.
In the indoor track and field championship, Archbishop Ryan senior Kelsey Sebwe corralled the high jump (5ft), long jump (17ft, 9in), and triple jump (school-record and also a league-record 38 feet, 7 inches) while placing second in the 60m hurdles. She garnered the field MVP plaque for the second straight season and aided the Ragdolls’ second-place finish overall.
Ryan senior Kelsey Sebwe set a new triple jump school-record and Philadelphia Catholic League-record at 38 feet, 7 inches - PSD Photo by Patty Morgan
Ryan also swept the first three finishes in the pole vault behind the senior trio of Hanna Dunne, Kara Brooks, and Gabriella Brunkel, respectively.
“It was definitely one of my highlights of my career,” said the George Mason University-bound Sebwe, who made special mention of senior teammate Ana Fratanduono’s school record in the 800 run (2:26.88, good for fifth place overall). “I was really proud of my team as a whole.”
Ryan also swept the first three finishes in the pole vault behind the senior trio of Hanna Dunne, Kara Brooks, and Gabriella Brunkel, respectively.
“It was definitely one of my highlights of my career,” said the George Mason University-bound Sebwe, who made special mention of senior teammate Ana Fratanduono’s school record in the 800 run (2:26.88, good for fifth place overall). “I was really proud of my team as a whole.”
Archbishop Ryan girls notched their second straight Catholic League swimming championship and third in four years, the Ragdolls’ 467 points just enough to get past second-place Cardinal O’Hara (464).
Senior Allison Henry won both the 200 and 500 freestyle and led off for the gold-winning 200-yard medley relay. Sophomore Hannah Storm snared the 200 individual medley, placed second in the 100 breaststroke, and anchored the 200 freestyle relay to victory by an implausibly close one-hundredth of a second (1:46.31 to 1:46.32).
“It was very exciting and memorable,” said Henry, who earned a scholarship to swim at Division I University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “I wanted to help make this the nest possible season for the seniors (Winnie Wong,Sarah Vargas, and Henry). Winning those races helped my team score many points so that we could win it all; this made me extremely happy. Winning alongside such amazing teammates that I call family was such an exhilarating moment and one I will never forget.”
The Raiders boys’ basketball team advanced to PCL semifinals without leading scorer Aaron Lemon-Warren, who was leading the Philadelphia Catholic League at 24.4 ppg.
The junior forward broke his right foot and was set to be sidelined for six to eight weeks. Campbell commit Gediminas Mokseckas (19.0 ppg) and 6-6 senior forward Christian Isopi had to rally a young and inexperienced group in junior point guard Dominic Vazquez (9.9 ppg) and three sophomores in Jalen Snead, Luke Boyd and David Wise.
Mokseckas noted how the team banded together and knew they still had more they wanted to accomplish, even without Lemon-Warren to help them along the way.
“We just talked and decided that we had to play harder,” Mokseckas said. “With it being the end of the year, any game could have been our last game and we didn’t want the season to end. We kept working in practice and got ready for games like it was our last.”
Archbishop Ryan (19-9) finished the regular season 2-4 after Lemon-Warren’s injury but turned it on when the postseason began. They won their two Philadelphia Catholic League playoff games over West Catholic and Bishop McDevitt by a total of four points and in the process became the first team in league history to come out of the first round and advance to the semifinals. Vazquez had 14 points against the Burrs in the opening round and Boyd scored 18 points vs. the Lancers. The Raiders advanced to the Philadelphia Catholic League semifinals for the first time since 2017, when Penn State’s Izaiah Brockington and Bowling Green’s Matiss Kulackovskis captained the team, and third time in five years under head coach Joe Zeglinski. Archbishop Ryan’s season ended at the Palestra to eventual champion, Neumann-Goretti, 51-41 but it was a moment to build on.
Mokseckas said the team would not have gotten to the semifinals without Zeglinski leading the way.
“Even when Aaron got injured, he told us it’s not an excuse to play down,” Mokseckas said. “We have to be focused and work hard. That made us work harder for Aaron, Coach Zeglinski and the rest of the season.”
Archbishop Wood girls’ basketball team finished first in the Red Division with an 11-1 record and advanced to the PCL final. Despite big performances by senior Izzy Larsen (20 points, 11 rebounds) and junior Kaitlyn Orihel(23 points), lost to West Catholic in the PCL championship at the Palestra.
Wood reached the PIAA Class 5A state quarterfinals before COVID-19 forced a tournament cancellation.
“No individual stuff on our team,” said Wood senior Lindsay Tretter. “We play for the person next to us and make sure everyone does their job.”
Archbishop Wood junior Kaitlyn Orihel was named Class 5A Player of the Year after averaging 17.5 points, six rebounds, and four assists despite dealing with a nagging knee injury throughout the season.
Among Orihel’s highlights was reaching 1,000 career points (against Archbishop Carroll Feb. 26 at Jefferson University) and nailing a dramatic three-point buzzer beater to defeat stubborn Cardinal O’Hara, helping the Vikings to a regular-season title and ultimately a loss in the Catholic League final.
“Preseason, this was definitely a big goal of mine,” said Orihel. “But once the season started, it wasn’t something I really thought about. My main focus was the team and winning each game one at a time. It definitely means a lot since there are so many good players that we play against.”
And so many good players on her own team.
Wood sophomore Ryanne Allen, a fellow first-team All-Catholic who averaged 16.2 points and 5 rebounds, nabbed a Class 5A second-team, all-state selection. The sharpshooting guard nailed 83 three-pointers on 43-percent accuracy.
“I didn’t necessarily have that specific goal, but I just wanted to trust all the work and preparation I did in the off season and just use it when playing in games,” said Allen. “I think doing that led me to be more confident and step up as a player on the court, and that led to all different honors, including all-state, which is pretty special. I am thankful to be one of many to be honored.”
Archbishop Wood coach Mike McDonald lauded both competitors.
“I am very happy for two of the most coachable, consistent hard workers in Ryanne Allen and Kaitlyn Orihel,” said McDonald. “They put in the work daily and accept challenges.
“This is just the beginning for Ryanne, who in our book is undoubtedly one of the best players in the state. Kaitlyn is deserving of the state player of the year award and any accolades that come her way. She proves herself over and over again against the top competition in the country. Thrilled for her.”
In the boys’ indoor track and field championship, Archbishop Wood senior Levi Mayer out-heaved everyone in the shotput (53ft, 6.25in). The Vikings also took the distance medley with a time of 11:11.42.
Rahsool Diggins played like one of the top point guards in the Philadelphia Catholic League all season and it was not a surprise when he was named 2019-20 boys’ basketball league MVP, the first winner of the award from Archbishop Wood since Villanova’s starting point guard Collin Gillespie led the Vikings to the league and PIAA Class 5A title in 2017.
Diggins avg. 20.2 ppg and scored 20+ points in 12 games. His 35 points against Roman Catholic in the league semifinals were a semifinal record. He heads into his senior season with a PIAA 5A title game appearance as a sophomore and a trip to the Palestra to his name. On a team loaded with talent in juniors Jaylen Stinson (14.4 ppg), Marcus Randolph (14.2) and Daeshon Shepherd (13.0), the 6-3 floor general showcased his prowess time and again such as a 26-point outing vs. Bonner-Prendergast and a 28-point game in a double-overtime victory over the Cahillites in the regular season.
Vikings head coach John Mosco sees a lot of Gillespie’s game in Diggins but also parts that various, skilled players who have come through the program displayed.
“He has a drive like guards that came before him at Wood like Tommy and Andrew Funk, Tyree Pickron and Collin where he wants to get to play at the highest level of Division 1 that he possibly can,” Mosco said. “He really matured this year where it was more about keeping everybody involved and not just about getting his.”
Rahsool Diggins avg. 20.2 ppg and scored 20+ points in 12 games in route to being named the 2019-20 PCL MVP - PSD Photo by Mike Nance
Diggins, who holds offers from Florida, DePaul, UConn, Seton Hall, Rutgers and Virginia Tech, among others, has 1,186 career points to date and looks to be leading the Philadelphia Catholic League’s most talented roster heading into next season.
Mosco feels Diggins’ ability to stymie whatever an opposing defense throws at him is the reason his game has continued to advance and why the star guard is only scratching the surface of his potential.
“It shows that he’s focused and mature,” Mosco said. “To win the award as a junior, not many players have done that in this league. Like I tell all of these kids, each year you go up higher on the scouting report. It might be easy to have success when you’re a freshman and the fifth option on the scouting report but to do it as a junior and you become the number one option, he’s still producing. Each year he’s improving in all aspects of his game.”
Bishop McDevitt’s girls’ indoor track and field team finished third with 97 points in the indoor track and field championship on Feb. 16, 2020 at Lehigh University.
Freshman Taleea Buxton set a new Philadelphia Catholic League record in the 60 hurdles (8.83), won 200 meters (26.20), and placed second in the 60-meter dash (7.88) behind senior teammate Khaliyah Bosman (7.81).
The Lady Lancers 4x200 relay team of Buxton, Bosman, Ananda Grisson and Emaani Young also placed first with a time of 1:47.47. Grisson also placed second in the 200m dash behind Buxton with a time of 26.64 and second in the long jump (16ft., 6.5in). Senior Ashley Richardson placed second in girls’ shot put with a distance of 33 ft., 4in.
For the boys’, junior Kendall White placed second in the 400m dash with a time of 50.06.
Taleea Buxton set a new Philadelphia Catholic League record in the 60 hurdles at the PCL indoor track & field championships at Lehigh University on Feb. 16, 2020 - PSD Photo by Patty Morgan
When looking back on all that Bishop McDevitt’s boys’ basketball 2020 class has accomplished, it’s even more remarkable how the team came together. Two-time First Team All-Catholic forward Jamil Manigo and guard Shamir Mosley played on a Lancers team that finished 1-12 in the Philadelphia Catholic League as freshmen. Things really began to take shape prior to their sophomore year as Will Chavis, a former standout at Engineering and Science and two-year starter at Texas Tech under Bobby Knight, was named head coach.
Robert Smith Jr. and Ahmir Harris played their freshman season in the Roman Catholic program before transferring to Royal Avenue. Together, that group led the Lancers to a 16-11 overall record which included their first trip to the Philadelphia Catholic League playoffs since 2014.
Smith noted how this class was willing to give up individual achievements in order to benefit the team’s success and become a contender in the league.
“Everybody accepted their roles and our chemistry got tighter each year,” Smith said. “We started trusting each other more. Basically, we trusted each other a lot over the last three years and we accepted the consequences of whatever happened. They’re some of the best teammates I’ve ever played with.”
Glenn Smith came over from Archbishop Ryan before the class’ junior season and Kevin Young was added into the rotation. The Lancers took things a step further in Chavis’ second season by advancing to the league semifinals for the first time since 1989. Despite falling to La Salle, Bishop McDevitt kept its foot on the gas pedal and advanced to the 2019 PIAA Class 3A semifinals, defeating Neumann-Goretti in the process and putting an end to the Saints’ run of five straight state titles.
Chavis knew he had talent on his roster but he did not know how it would all come together or how quickly these players would gel. When it was all said and done, the 2020 class became the most accomplished in school history.
“Ahmir, Jamil, Shamir and Robert just started the process off,” Chavis said. “Those four guys started something special. They were there from the beginning. Kevin came late and Glenn came later. Their addition put us in a greater position and that’s why we were able to get to the Palestra. They will be remembered for their hard work and the fact that they were willing to work together to accomplish a goal. They did a good job of carrying themselves well off the court and representing McDevitt in the best way possible.”
The Lancers downed Roman Catholic and Neumann-Goretti in the regular season as a seniors and entered the league playoffs as the No. 2 seed before being upended by Archbishop Ryan. They advanced to the PIAA 3A Tournament again but it was a short lived experience as Camp Hill took home a 63-51 win in the first round, ending the 2020 class’ career.
Bishop McDevitt went 27-14 in Philadelphia Catholic League play over the last three seasons, coupled with three league and state playoff appearances. Robert Smith Jr., a First Team All-Catholic as a senior, finished his career with 1,203 points, second-most in school history and Manigo scored 1,106 career points. The teammates will continue their basketball careers at West Chester University next season.
“We’re definitely one of the best classes to come out of McDevitt, “Robert Smith Jr. said. “We’ve had a lot of success over the last three years. We just came out with a different attitude than most teams. Some of these teams may have had more talent than us but it was all mental for us. A lot of teams couldn’t do what we did.”
While all four, experienced players are moving on, Chavis will still have talent to work with to continue this streak of success at Bishop McDevitt. Terrell Pitts, a 6-4 freshman, will take on a bigger role. He played in every game last season including a 12-point contest vs. South Philadelphia High School. Alassane Amadou, a 6-8 sophomore who transferred in from Quakertown, hit two big three-pointers down the stretch in the win over the Cahillites and will be the top post threat next year. Other pieces included 6-foot sophomore Trent Middleton, who scored in double figures in two games, and Quinn Guilyard, a 6-4 junior who scored 10 points against Conwell-Egan and Devon Prep.
Chavis isn’t expecting this new group to replicate the 2020 class’ results right away but they have the layout for what it takes to win.
“They’ve seen the ups and the downs so I think they have a blueprint for what it takes to be successful,” Chavis said. “Also, I think they can take it a step further by pushing each other to do something special for their group. They benefited from the 2020 class and I hope they can continue to carry on their legacy and make those guys proud of them so they can come back and be a part of a program now.”
Bonner - Prendergast
Bonner-Prendergast girls’ basketball team reached the PIAA state quarterfinals, after defeating Eastern York 52-46 in OT, before COVID-19 forced a tournament cancellation. The Pandas erased a four-point deficit inside the final 43 seconds, with a basket by junior Alexis Eagan tying the game at 45-45 with 12 seconds remaining in regulation.
“It was a very nerve-wracking moment,” said Eagan, who scored the final three points of overtime and finished with nine. “I knew my teammates and I could get the job done if we just stayed together within ourselves down the stretch and into the overtime.”
Eagan marveled about the Pandas’ “never give up attitude; we all have worked very hard this entire year from our number one player to our 12th player.”
B-P junior Kyle Love placed first in the 60m hurdles (8.47s) at the boys’ indoor track and field championship. In the girls’ finals, the Pandas’ distance medley quad did likewise with a time of 13:47.49.
The Friars 2020 boys’ basketball class spearheaded by First Team All-Catholic Tyreese Watson (17.4 ppg) and Second Team All-Catholic Donovan Rodriguez (13.3) did not get to add to its impressive résumé due to the coronavirus epidemic. Fellow seniors in Georgian Court commit Christion Johnson, West Chester football commit Oscar Uduma (7.0 ppg), Connor Eagan and Cabrini commit Cobe Ruley went 34-7 in Philadelphia Catholic League play over the last three seasons, two of which were under Funston, the 2020 PCL Coach of the Year.
They advanced to the league playoffs four straight years including the 2018 title game. Even more monumental was their success in the state tournament where they advanced to two state semifinal appearances and the PIAA Class 4A title game against Imhotep Charter as juniors, with the help of Ajiri Johnson (Rider), Isaiah Wong (Miami (Fl.)) and Tariq Ingraham (Wake Forest).
While the 2020 class will not get to add to its accolades with the state tournament canceled, their run of success has set a precedent at the Lansdowne Avenue school.
Heading over to the alley, the Pandas bowling team seized the Philadelphia Catholic League championship against No. 3 seed Conwell-Egan. Bonner-Prendie, who was the top seed, defeated the Eagles 1684-1674 on Saturday, Feb. 15.
Cardinal O’Hara girls’ basketball sophomore Sydni Scott was named Class 6A third-team all-state. A first-team All-Catholic, Scott averaged 12 points, five rebounds, and three assists. The Lions lost in the PCL semifinals and advanced to the state quarterfinals before the season was halted.
O'Hara sophomore Sydni Scott was named Class 6A third-team All-State and first-team All-Catholic - PSD Photo by Mike Nance
“It was always one of my goals to be named all state,” said Scott. “It gives me motivation to work harder and play smarter in order to achieve my goal.”
The Lions reached the PIAA state quarterfinals before COVID-19 forced a tournament cancellation.
Cardinal O’Hara sophomore Maggie Doogan said that when the Lions set a goal for themselves, “it is hard to stop us from reaching it, and that’s what is so special about this team.”
In girls’ indoor track and field, senior Jesikah Boykin placed second in the 400m (1:00.62) at the PCL indoor championship. She also placed third in the 200m with a time of 27.16s. For the boys’, juniors Elijah Babcock placed third in the 800m run with a time of 2:01.41 and Thomas Smith placed third in shot put (43ft., 6.5in).
O’Hara boys’ basketball coach Ryan Nemetz was one of six new head coaches in the PCL in 2018. Each coach worked to put their stamp on their respective programs and he was implanting his: a four-guard offense that allowed for offensive freedom and created mismatches all over the floor.
Year one did not yield early results as the Lions won three league games, all over teams who finished below them in the standings. Nementz wasn’t about to fret after his first season and knew there was a lot to be excited about at Cardinal O’Hara.
"When I first took the job, I saw a lot of promise and potential in the program with how much the school, alumni and fans in Delaware County wanted to support it,” Nemetz said. “I said, 'Hey, this is a really good opportunity in the PCL.' Historically, it hadn't been too good in a long time and I looked at it as a blank canvas with a lot of strengths.”
Nemetz’s second year brought back all of the players he had begun his career with in seniors Tre Dinkins and Kevin Reeves as well as juniors Ant Purnell, Adrian Irving, Jameel Burton and Solo Bambara. That group led the Lions to an 11-0 record to begin the year and put the rest of the Philadelphia Catholic League on notice. Cardinal O’Hara finished the regular season with a 9-5 league record, its first winning record in the PCL since 2001, and from there a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2018 when Antwuan Butler ran the offense.
Dinkins, who will play at Harcum College next season, led the team with 17.0 ppg and scored under 10 points in only two games. Irving, who came off the bench for much of the season, avg. 14.0 ppg which included a 28-point game vs. the Haverford School. Purnell, the starting point guard, avg. 11.9 ppg and Burton, a standout facilitator and defender, started the majority of games at small forward. Bambara, a 6-6 versatile big man, came into his own, avg. 7.6 ppg and scored 13 points against Neumann-Goretti in the playoffs. The other junior who played key minutes was 6-8 junior Jax Trickey, a transfer from Sanford (Del.) and great facilitator from the high post.
Nemetz pointed to the experience this year’s team gained from his first year at the helm as the driving force behind Cardinal O’Hara’s resurgence.
“In my first year, all of the guys were underclassmen and while I expected us to do a little bit better we had so many young guys and didn't know how to win big games,” Nemetz said. “We would be down by 10 or 12 points then come back and make it a close game. You go into this past year and we took a big jump with those same guys since we didn't really lose anybody. That experience from the first year carried over into this year where those guys learned to take a lead into the fourth quarter."
Dinkins, Reeves and fellow senior Momo Kortue were 0-13 in league play as freshmen and have seen the Lions program develop into one which can compete with the best teams in the league. They claimed victories over Archbishop Ryan, La Salle, St. Joe's Prep and Bishop McDevitt. They lost to Archbishop Wood by four points, despite being down by double digits on two separate occasions. They lost to Bonner-Prendergast by two at home in overtime after battling back from 15 points in the first half (led by six with less than two minutes left in regulation). They nearly took down the Cahillites at home but fell by seven points. The Lions shot 12-for-26 from behind the arc in that game, Dinkins had 11 points in the opening half, Purnell had nine of his 19 points in the second quarter and the team led 38-25 at halftime.
The biggest win of the season came against Neumann-Goretti, a 61-54 triumph in the regular-season finale. It was Cardinal O’Hara’s first win over the Saints since 2008. A week later, Neumann-Goretti got revenge in the Philadelphia Catholic League playoffs on its way to the league title.
The juniors expect to be the projected starters for next season and Jaden Rogers, 6-3 freshman guard who saw action in a few games last season, should be in the rotation. Nemetz sees the success only continuing with this junior class taking the lead from the seniors.
"They've built the foundation as seniors and developed the culture that we envisioned when I took over the program,” Nemetz said. “Now, it's up to this core group of guards and we're solid inside with Solo and Jax. We need to find some of those other pieces on the bench and rotation. The key is to a) maintain the success that we've had and b) take the next step forward such as a top four seed. I think this group can do that if they continue to work hard."
Father Judge’s wrestling dynasty added yet another notch of glory when the Crusaders stunned regular-season champ Archbishop Ryan, 36-28, for their second straight PCL title, fourth in the past five seasons, and fifth in the last seven.
“The wrestlers are constantly challenging themselves,” said Jim Savage, a 1992 North Catholic graduate. “They challenge themselves in the weight room, the wrestling room, and the classroom. I have had an opportunity to work with such dedicated student-athletes and assistant coaches over the years. I feel blessed.”
Senior Eamonn Logue echoed his coach’s reflection.
“We just put in the work every day and don’t stray away from any challenge,” said Logue. “We work hard in the practice room, so it feels good when results translate on the mat. We have a really good community of coaches and alum who give back and help the program.”
With Judge leading the host Raiders by 30-28 and the standing room only crowd at a fever pitch, Crusader senior Brenden Spicer pinned his opponent in three minutes, 43 seconds to clinch the win.
“I just went out knowing I had a job to get done,” said Spicer. “The pressure was definitely high knowing you have to go out and get the win, but I knew what had to be done and I was confident I could do that. It was definitely a memorable experience.”
Father Judge’s ice hockey team had reached the semifinals of the Flyers’ Cup before the coronavirus cancelled the season. The Crusaders’ final game of the year – a 6-2 romp over Malvern Prep in the Cup quarterfinals – was arguably their best performance of the season.
Trailing 1-0, Judge scored three goals in the first period and five straight overall. Senior Tom Scannell (two goals, two assists), senior Rob Werner (goal, two assists), junior Sean Melso (goal, assist), junior Joe Lombardo III (goal, assist), and senior Jonathan Ritter (goal) provided the offense while sophomore goalie Colin McKee made 27 saves in the 48-minute contest.
“This season was very special,” said Werner. “We were closer than just a team and we have a brotherhood that can’t be broken. Many of us have been playing together for many years for club and high school hockey. Our expectations at the beginning of the season were high for ourselves, and that’s why we were successful.”
At the PCL indoor track and field championships, judge senior Dameir Johnson placed third in the triple jump (40ft., 11.75in). The Crusaders also placed third in the 4x800m relay (8:39.65) and in the distance medley (11:25.55).
Lansdale Catholic senior Riley DeVitis was named Catholic League Blue Division Most Valuable Player, helping the girls’ basketball team finish undefeated in the regular season with a 10-0 record, win the District 12 title, and reach the state quarters for the first time in school history before the season was cancelled by the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Sophomore Lauren Edwards was inspired how the Crusaders “really are like family, but I believe it’s more than that . . . We never give up. When we want something, as a team, we get it done.”
Lansdale Catholic junior Timaya Lewis-Eutsey, a first-team All-Catholic after a dazzling average production of24.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, 4.3 steals, 3.6 assists, and 1.9 blocks, was named Class 4A first-team, all-state. She reached 1,000 career points in a win over visiting Bishop McDevitt Feb. 7.
Lansdale Catholic senior Riley DeVitis was named Catholic League Blue Division MVP - PSD Photo by Donna Eckert
“I’m very proud,” said Lewis-Eutsey. “It feels great to have some reassurance that all my hard work is paying off. It was one of my many goals, and to be able to reach it feels great. I was sure that if I kept working hard, using my talent and leadership to help my team win, that good things would happen.”
In the indoor track and field championship, Lansdale Catholic senior Taylor Connelly won the gold medal in the 3000m run with a time of 11:27.59.
La Salle College High School
Despite La Salle’s ice hockey team losing numerous players from last year’s Class AAA Flyers Cup championship squad, the Explorers were two wins away from successfully defending their crown before the coronavirus ended the season in the tournament semifinals. Junior Dave Kimmel, sophomore Keenan Schneider, and sophomore Nolan Woudenberg combined for 19, 18, and 16 points, respectively.
The Explorer’s also won its second Atlantic Prep Athletic Conference (APAC) Championship defeating No. 1 seed Holy Ghost Prep by a final score of 4-1 on Feb, 26.
“We had a great season,” said senior Nathan Benner, the team’s fourth leading scorer. “Although it wasn’t the way we wanted it to end, we still won the APAC and we were playing our best hockey when the Flyers Cup started.
“It was a tough year because we lost about 10 guys last year to prep school and college, so we had many ups and downs this year. But everyone stayed the course, and we turned into a very great hockey team.”
In the Catholic League indoor track and field championships at Lehigh University, La Salle captured its sixth straight title.
Led by junior Tom Christie’s dominance in the field events to the tune of first places in high jump (6ft.,3in.), long jump (22ft., 6.75in.), and pole vault (13ft., 6in.), the Explorers held off second-place St. Joseph’s Prep, 156-129.
In the one-mile run, the Explorers swept places one through six, and eight of the top 10, with senior Ethan Maher taking first (4:25.75). Maher also won the 3,000 meter run (9:02.52). Senior Eric Ford took the 60-meter dash (7.32).
“Every year we go into the indoor championship knowing that we are going to face some good competition in the Prep and some other teams with good runners,” said Ford. “For me, winning a PCL championship is something special and something I know for sure that I will never take for granted.
La Salle junior junior Tom Christie placed first in the high jump, long jump and pole vault at the PCL indoor championships - PSD Photo by Patty Morgan
“It may not be as big as a state championship, but months of hard work and dedication go into preparing for the PCL championship, so we have a lot of fun competing for the championship and never take these big accomplishments for granted.”
La Salle senior Liam Smith sporting the jacket him and his fellow swim teammates were awarded after winning 30 straight PCL titles - Photo courtesy of L. Smith
As a sophomore, La Salle senior Liam Smith earned a jacket honoring the Explorers’ 30th consecutive Catholic League swimming title.
With a dominant performance once again this winter, the dynasty reached an astounding 32. La Salle was also crowned state champ for the first time in four years.
“Every championship is special because of the tradition that we are keeping up,” said Smith, who won both the 100 butterfly and 500 freestyle. “From PCLs to districts to states, we’ve had so much success over our history, so being able to be a part of that is a great honor.
“The championship season was especially fulfilling this year since we won every meet, including states. When it comes to individual success, none of it is possible without the team. At the end of a hard race, you remember that you are racing for more than yourself, and that makes it a little easier. Every individual accolade achieved by anyone on the team is celebrated by all of us, which is one of the reasons this team has had such sustained success.”
Little Flower’s Gina Cantoral snared two gold medals – the 100 butterfly and 100 breaststroke – in the Catholic League swimming championship. Cantoral had won several PCL medals in the past. However, the Marshall University-bound senior found her accomplishment bittersweet.
“The last two were special because it signified my high school career winding down,” said Cantoral. “It was sad because it was also my last swim with my teammates at Little Flower. It is crazy to think that years of hard work comes down to a race that lasts less than a few minutes, but I would do it all over again.”
Neumann-Goretti senior Diamond Johnson exhibited a kind of athleticism on the basketball court that few players in the nation have been able to display on a consistent basis. Driving the lane . . . step-back jumpers . . . expert ball-handling . . . three-point marksmanship . . . tenacious defense.
Not surprisingly, the Rutgers University signee was named Catholic League Red Division Most Valuable Player, the Class 3A Player of the Year, and Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year after averaging a sterling 31 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 3.6 steals.
“It feels great,” said Johnson. “There’s a lot of girl ballers in Pennsylvania, and for me to get it was just an honor. But it wasn’t one of my goals. I was shooting for national Gatorade player of the year, but for the state, it’s still a big accomplishment that I am proud of.”
Neumann-Goretti girls’ seized their third straight PCL indoor track and field title. Senior Acey Pratt won the 400m with a time of 58.91.
University of Maryland-bound senior Kami Joi Hickson took the 800m (2:18.35) and the mile (5:12.80). The Saints’ 4x100m and 4x800m relay teams also grabbed gold. Junior Jayla Bernard placed third in the 60m hurdles, with a time of 9.73 and placed second in the triple jump (36ft., 9.50in.).
Neumann-Goretti girls’ 4x400m relay team of Pratt, Hickson, Kimberly Johnson and Mykala Perry placed first for the third straight season at the with a time of 3:50.09 at the Pennsylvania PTFCA indoor state championship meet at Penn State University on March 1, 2020.
The Saints 4x800 meter relay team of Sherisse Peterson, Hickson, Johnson and Perry also placed first in the state meet with a time of 9:04.76.
On Monday, Feb. 24, Neumann-Goretti’s boys’ basketball team (24-4) took home its first Philadelphia Catholic League title since 2014, but it had greater significance for the Saints fabled head coach.
Carl Arrigale took home his 11th league crown, which surpassed former Cahillites head coach Dennis Seddon (10) for the most in league history.
Behind 20 points and seven rebounds from Bowling Green commit Cameron Young and 12 points and six boards from junior Hysier Miller, the Saints downed Roman Catholic, 66-58 at the Palestra to seal Arrigale’s historic title. He won his first league title in 2001 when the school was still called St. John Neumann. He also won titles in 2002, 2005 and 2006 before going on a dominant run of six consecutive Philadelphia Catholic League championships from 2009-14.
First Team All-Catholic and St. Joseph’s University commit Jordan Hall, who had seven points and nine rebounds in the contest, felt honored to be an integral part of history for his head coach.
"It means a lot because this was my first, big deal championship,” Hall said. “For Coach Arrigale to accomplish that, it’s huge and to be a part of it is major. The Catholic League is one of the best in the country. It was an awesome experience."
Arrigale has also had success in the state tournament, winning seven titles in 12 appearances. He has coached a wealth of players who have gone onto the Division 1 level including Quade Green (Washington), Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree (Villanova), Zane Martin (New Mexico), Scoop Jardine (Syracuse), Tyreek Duren (La Salle), Tony Chennault (Villanova), Ja'Quan Newton (Miami (Fl.)), Lamarr "Fresh" Kimble (St. Joe’s/Louisville) and many more.
Along with Young (13.1 ppg) and Hall (10.9), Hakim Byrd (14.7) will be moving onto the next level at Marist. Che Evans, who did not play for the Saints this season after transferring from Dulaney (Md.) due to an injury, will play at San Diego State.
Neumann-Goretti head coach Carl Arrigale has won his 11th Catholic League basketball championship, the most in league history - PSD Photo by Mike Nance
Neumann-Goretti won the 2019-20 PCL Boys' Basketball Championship - PSD Photo by Mike Nance
Neumann-Goretti will return Miller, 6-foot-5 junior Blaise Vespe (7.8 ppg) and 5-10 sophomore Masud Stewart, who showed flashes including an 11-point game against West Catholic, in hopes of continuing Arrigale’s run of dominance in the PCL.
In the PCL indoor track and field championship, the Cahillites took first in the 4x800 relay (8:30.48). Junior Tyler Boone placed third in the 400m dash with a time of 50.12.
The Cahillites’ basketball team reached the PCL finals, ultimately falling to Neumann-Goretti. This year, sophomore guard Justice Williams scored the second most points across the league, with 521. Fellow sophomore Jalen Duren ranked fourth on the 2019-20 PCL scoring list totaling 478 points.
St. Joseph Prep
St. Joseph Prep’s ice hockey team had reached the Class AAA Flyers Cup semifinals before the coronavirus cancelled the season. Led by senior Jimmy Craig (team-leading 18 points), sophomore Andrew Centrella (17 points), and freshman Jeffrey Hammond (15 points), the Hawks were awaiting an opportunity to play rival La Salle.
“We started the season hot,” said senior Matt Hoover. “We were winning games and the energy was high, and we fell into a bit of losing streak, but when Flyers Cup came around, the energy in practice was up and the team felt confident. We knew LaSalle was going to be a tough game, but ultimately, we believed in the guys we had.”
In St. Joseph Prep’s second-place finish in the PCL indoor track and field final, senior Salim Epps snared first in the 200m (22.35) and 400m (49.36). Senior Denis Gallagher took the 800m (1:59.87) and sophomore Brendan Leneghan placed first in the triple jump (43ft.,4.50in.) and second in the long jump (21ft.,6in.). The Prep’s 4x200m and 4x400m relays established a PCL meet record in times of 1:31.62 and 3:25.25, respectively.
Second place finishes at the PCL championship meet included Marvin Harrison Jr.in the 60m (7.26), Sahmir Hagans in the 200m (22.79) and Ricky Raup in the 800m (2:00.61). Senior Charles Sylvester placed third in the pole vault at a max height of 11ft., 6in.
The Hawks won the team title at the indoor Pennsylvania PTFCA meet at Penn State University on March,1 with 35 points. St. Joseph’s Prep’s 4x400m relay team of Gallagher, Raup, Malik Cooper and Epps placed first in the state meet with a time of 3:22.50. Epps also took gold in the 400m (48.04) and silver in the 200m (21.59).
This past February marked an end to a historic coaching career.William “Speedy” Morris’ reach extended well beyond the basketball court and he leaves behind a legacy that may never be matched when putting into perspective what he meant to Philadelphia basketball.
The longtime St. Joseph’s Prep head coach announced his retirement in early December, effective when the season concluded. Morris’ coaching career spanned 52 years and when the Hawks began Philadelphia Catholic League play, the honorary pregame applause and kind words from opposing coaches began.
“Every team we played honored me,” Morris said. “It was totally unexpected but very nice. I’ll never forget this year. If I had known that was going to happen, I wouldn’t have announced it was going to be my last year. I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Morris began his coaching career at Roman Catholic, his alma mater, in 1967 and won six Philadelphia Catholic League titles at the helm of the Cahillites. His 80.9 winning percentage is the best by a head coach in school history.
From there, he moved on to Penn Charter for two seasons, where he coached Neumann-Goretti head man Carl Arrigale, the 1984 Inter-Ac MVP, and led the Quakers to that league title that season. He moved to the college ranks, beginning with a two-year stint with the La Salle women’s program, where he posted a 43-17 record and an NCAA Tournament berth.
He took the Explorers men’s job in 1987 and remained in that role for 15 seasons. During that time, he led La Salle to four conference tournament titles and NCAA Tournament appearances. The Explorers appearance in the 1988 Big Dance was the program’s first in five years. He coached players such as Lionel Simmons, who won the 1989-90 Naismith Award and ranks 4th in NCAA history with 3,217 career points, Tim Legler and Doug Overton, all of whom spent time in the National Basketball Association. His 238 career wins are the most in school history.
In 2002, he returned to the high school ranks at the helm of the Hawks and it didn’t take him long to make his mark on the league he had had so much success in as St. Joe’s Prep, behind Mark Zoller (Penn), John Griffin (Bucknell) and Chris Clark (Temple), claimed the Philadelphia Catholic League title in his second season on Girard Avenue. Clark and Griffin would lead the Hawks to back-to-back league titles the following year and another appearance in 2005.
A few years went by before the Hawks were back in contention and the core of Steve Vasturia (Notre Dame), Miles Overton (Wake Forest/Drexel) and Chris Clover (St. Joe’s University) led St. Joe’s Prep to consecutive Philadelphia Catholic League title game appearances in 2012 and 2013. In addition to the league title game in 2013, Morris led the Hawks to the 2013 PIAA Class 4A semifinals where they lost to a talented Chester squad led by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Toronto Raptors).
The trio of Darius Kinnel (Jefferson U.), Kyle Thompson (La Salle) and Ed Croswell (Providence) took the Hawks to the 2018 Philadelphia Catholic League semifinals, where they lost to eventual champion, Roman Catholic, and the second round of the PIAA Class 6A Tournament. Morris had a very guard-oriented team in his final season behind Second Team All-Catholic Trevor Wall (17.6 points per game),Mike Keenan (13.6), Chris Arizin (11.2) and Brian Geatens (11.0). The Hawks were 13-12, 6-8 in the Philadelphia Catholic League but advanced to the league playoffs before falling to Archbishop Ryan. Morris also received one more shot in the state tournament but a 57-45 loss to Reading in the opening round ended the illustrious coach’s heralded career.
Wall finished his career with 1,109 points. Keenan, who got hurt and missed the state playoffs, led the Hawks with 72 made three-pointers. Arizin continued in the long line of his family to play basketball in Philadelphia (his grandfather played at Villanova and for the Philadelphia Warriors). Geatens was one of four double-digit scorers on this year’s team.
Morris has had several accomplished teams and he was happy to have this one as his final group to instruct from the sideline.
“I was very fond of this group,” Morris said. “They were great kids and they really played hard. We lost a couple of close games and didn’t make shots at the end. We lost Mike Keenan and that really hurt us. We had a pretty decent season. It was a great group.”
He finishes his career with 1,035 career wins and leaves the coaching ranks as the winningest coach in Philadelphia high school boys basketball history.
He’s a member of the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame and the Big Five Hall of Fame. What’s even more impressive is how his coaching tree extends deep into basketball, particularly the Philadelphia Catholic League.
Griffin is an assistant at St. Joe’s and his brother, Matt, is the head coach at Roman Catholic. Arrigale oversees the Saints and Kevin Funston, who Morris coached with the Hawks, is the head man at Bonner-Prendergast. Morris also coached Germantown Academy head coach Matt Dolan at St. Joe’s Prep.
Morris was honored before the Philadelphia Catholic League title game by Arrrigale and Matt Griffin, two of his former pupils who have had great success as coaches. The raucous and exalted Palestra crowd gave him one more, well deserved sendoff.
He has been privileged to coach so many former players who have gone onto coaching careers of their own and he knows they're the next generation of great coaches to come through Philadelphia.
“I’m very proud of those three guys,” Morris said. “As a matter of fact, Carl is the best coach in the Catholic League with everything he has accomplished. Matt and Kevin have been terrific. They were all great players.”
West Catholic’s girls’ basketball team was sitting at 3-4 and not in many – if any – conversations about being a valid championship contender. Eight straight wins later, the Lady Burrs toppled regular-season champ Archbishop Wood, 65-60, in overtime at the Palestra and corralled the first West Catholic hoops title since 1998.
Aided by shooting 7 for 8 from the foul line, junior Destiney McPhaul finished with 30 points – 11 in a pivotal fourth quarter – and five rebounds. Senior Tamiah Robinson contributed 15 points, five rebounds, and two steals while junior Ciani Montgomery tallied 16 points, three boards, and two steals.
“I wasn’t nervous,” said McPhaul. “I don’t get nervous. In basketball, you can’t get nervous. If you get nervous, it affects how you play. No matter the situation, you have to just play.”
The Burrs reached the PIAA state quarterfinals before COVID-19 forced a tournament cancellation. Senior Kaori Saunders said basketball “was always about family and how we could improve ourselves (team), then to improve our game.”
McPhaul was named to the Class 3A all-state team after averaging 18.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists.
“It feels good,” said McPhaul, who scored her 1,000th career point early in a PIAA tournament win March 6 at neutral site Archbishop Wood. “It was one of my goals. It shows the work that I’ve put in.”
A constant recipient of verbal respect from her peers, West Catholic’s Beulah Osueke was named the Class 3A Coach of the Year. The Houston native inherited the Lady Burrs’ program before the 2013-14 season. This winter, her calm, steady leadership propelled the Lady Burrs to the Catholic League championship for the first time since 1998.
Osueke thus became the first African American coach – male or female – to capture a Catholic League title in the league’s 100 years of existence (75 for girls). The Lady Burrs had already won the District 12 championship, were in the middle of a school-record 11-game winning streak, and had reached the PIAA state quarterfinals before play was cancelled.
“Being named Coach of the Year feels amazing,” said Osueke. “It’s a nod to all of the people who have believed in me for the past seven years This might seem like an individual accomplishment, but it’s a testament to what’s possible when people take real ownership of a shared, collective vision. Thanks to the selection committee for seeing our program’s evolution.”
West Catholic junior Patience Sanders won the girls’ shot put at the PCL indoor track and field final, throwing 38ft.
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