Photos/Videos: Rachel Macauley, Kathy Leister, David Picariello & Krystal Williams
By: Rich Flanagan
Throughout the Philadelphia Catholic League season, there are so many key victories or notable performances that they rarely get mentioned or might even be grazed over. As the playoff push officially begins to take shape, six teams have seven wins already and the battle for the remaining four spots has changed weekly.
Still, seeing how certain teams got to this point, especially some that have dealt with years of mediocrity, is worth noting and we’re going to look at some here.
The biggest surprise of the season thus far has been the Father Judge Crusaders, who are coming off a 58-53 win over Devon Prep and have pushed their league record to 8-2 on the year.
Father Judge is 14-5 overall and has a team as deep and talented as perhaps any ever to grace the Bill Fox Gym at Solly Ave. Head coach Chris Roantree has known winning during his time on the sideline, with Archbishop Wood under John Mosco and with Team Final on the AAU circuit. Collin Gillespie, Dereck Lively II, Rahsool Diggins, Daeshon Shepherd and Jalen Duren are just a few of the names Roantree has had a hand in developing, and now he’s leading his own program and showing what he can do overseeing a team.
The Crusaders dropped their league opener to Mosco and Archbishop Wood then rattled off wins against Lansdale Catholic, West Catholic, Cardinal O’Hara, and Conwell-Egan to find a nice groove before their matchup with Roman Catholic at home. Junior Kevair Kennedy was dynamic with 18 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists while senior Laquan Byrd went 7-11 from the field with 17 points and six boards in a 76-62 win over the Cahillites, marking their first win over Roman Catholic since 2011. Upstart sophomore Derrick Morton-Rivera, son of former Neumann-Goretti standout D.J. Rivera, drilled four three-pointers on his way to 16 points and Nazir Tyler had a big game with three threes of his own and 16 points, six rebounds and four assists.
It was the Crusaders signature win of the season until four days later when it welcomed St. Joe’s Prep and absolutely routed the Hawks in a 75-57 victory. Morton-Rivera led the way going 7-11 from the floor with six three-pointers and a 21-point performance. Byrd had a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds and Kennedy had another impressive outing with 15 points on 10-12 shooting to go along with five assists and three steals. Tyler was huge again with 13 points, including three treys, five boards and five assists, and 6-6 senior big Anthony Lilley only had four points but controlled the glass with nine rebounds in a game that saw Father Judge score 23 points in a dominant fourth quarter.
Roantree’s group may realistically be the most talented and versatile team to ever play at Father Judge and the way they attack the rim in transition while finding open shooters for in-rhythm jumpers is something to watch.
Roantree runs his offense just as Mosco did, with elite guards pushing the ball and finishing at the rim or absorbing double teams so clutch shooters can do what they do on the wing or in the corner. As the regular season draws to a close, it’s worth noting that Father Judge has not hosted a quarterfinal game since that 2011 season and they hosted Roman Catholic in that matchup. The Crusaders are hoping to do just that and make a long-awaited return to the Palestra.
Billy Cassidy feels last season was a tune-up for what was to come this year. Bonner-Prendergast snuck into the playoffs but fell at Cardinal O’Hara in the first round following an impressive start to the regular season that saw them to 7-0 at one point.
Another year for Cassidy and this group has helped, and the Friars (11-8, 4-6) find themselves with the same number of league wins through 10 games as they had all of last season. The biggest reason for their improvement is Kevin Rucker Jr. and Touri “Deuce” Ketner.
Kevin Rucker Jr. #0 - PSD Photo by Kathy Leister
Touri “Deuce” Ketner #10 - PSD Photo by Kathy Leister
Rucker, the 6-4 senior guard, was averaging 18.5 points per game heading into Friday’s contest with Cardinal O’Hara and had scored 20 or more points in seven games this season, with a season-high 34 against La Salle in the league opener. Ketner, the 6-7 senior wing, was avg. 18.4 ppg prior to the O’Hara game and had scored at least 20 points in five of the previous seven games. The way the two are playing off each other and using their unique skillsets as been a problem for Philadelphia Catholic League foes.
In a 68-56 win over Conwell-Egan, Rucker shot 10-15 from the floor with three three-pointers while finishing with 27 points and Ketner added a double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds. While the Friars dropped a 75-66 loss to St. Joe’s Prep, it wasn’t without Ketner (25 points, 13 rebounds, two blocks) and Rucker (18 points, four rebounds, four steals) putting together solid nights then the two combined for 43 points in a 74-62 victory over Devon Prep with Ketner controlling the game at both ends on his way to 30 points on 11-15 shooting.
The duo combined for 50 points in a 96-74 loss to Archbishop Wood as Ketner led the way once again with 26 points and 14 boards then Rucker followed with 24 points. Bonner-Prendergast will go as far as Rucker and Ketner will take them and that could equate to a potential upset in the Philadelphia Catholic League playoffs along with a state tournament appearance.
Jalil Bethea and Thomas Sorber were teammates on the AAU circuit with Team Final and they both cemented themselves as two of the all-time greats at their respective programs on the same day.
Archbishop Wood senior Jalil Bethea #1 - PSD Photo by Kathy Leister
Bethea poured in 17 points in Archbishop Wood’s 62-51 win at Devon Prep and became the Vikings all-time leading scorer, surpassing former standout and two-time Philadelphia Catholic League MVP Rahsool Diggins (UMass) who had 1,513 during his career. Bethea, the 6-5 senior and Miami (Fla.) commit, currently stands at 1,517 career points, which he only scored in three seasons in Warminster. He played sparingly as a freshman and did not score a single point. He has the opportunity to distance himself from the rest of the pack with a few additional regular season games upcoming followed by the postseason.
The win over Devon Prep also marked John Mosco's 200th career victory as head coach of the Vikings.
Sorber scored 16 points in a 67-26 drubbing of Conwell-Egan and secured the Archbishop Ryan all-time mark, surpassing former standout Izaiah Brockington, who is now playing with the Birmingham Squadron - the NBA G-League affiliate of the New Orleans Pelicans. Brockington scored 1,292 over four seasons and, just like Bethea, Sorber passed the previous record holder in only three seasons with the Raiders. The 6-10 senior and Georgetown commit has scored 1,295 points in an Archbishop Ryan uniform.
Torrey Brooks drilled the game-winning three-pointer with seven seconds remaining to lead Neumann-Goretti to a 60-59 overtime victory over Archbishop Ryan on Jan. 26. Without its two Division I commits in Khaafiq Myers and Amir Williams, the Saints picked up their biggest win over the year as Brooks shot 9-17 from the field on his way to 25 points. He sank four three-pointers, but none were bigger than the last one as it lifted Neumann-Goretti to a major win.
La Salle’s Nick Parisi continues to impress as his junior year performance has been one of the big surprises during this Philadelphia Catholic League season. The 6-3 guard poured in 27 points with nine rebounds as the Explorers downed Conwell-Egan, 74-64 in overtime on Jan. 29. The Explorers outscored the Eagles, 12-2 in the extra period. Prior to that, he hit three three-pointers and finished with 26 points in a loss to Cardinal O’Hara and before that, he had a season-high 33 points against Archbishop Wood.
Aasim Burton scored 26 points in a 64-39 loss to Archbishop Carroll and surpassed 1,000 points for his career. The 6-3 senior guard played his first two seasons at Math, Civics & Sciences before transferring to Cardinal O’Hara last year where he helped the Lions reach the Philadelphia Catholic League quarterfinals and the second round of the PIAA Class 4A Tournament. He hit four three-pointers and corralled four rebounds in that matchup and gives O’Hara one of most electric scorers in the area on a nightly basis.
La Salle's Nick Parisi #4 - PSD Photo by Krystal Williams
Aasim Burton #2, Cardinal O'Hara senior - PSD Photo by Krystal Williams
Roman Catholic (9-1)
Archbishop Wood (9-2)
Father Judge (8-2)
St. Joe’s Prep (8-2)
Archbishop Ryan (8-3)
Archbishop Carroll (5-5)
Devon Prep (3-7)
Cardinal O’Hara (3-7)
West Catholic (3-7)
La Salle (2-8)
Lansdale Catholic (0-10)
Tag(s): Home Schools Philadelphia Catholic Boys Basketball Philadelphia Catholic League Arch. Carroll Boys Basketball Arch. Ryan Boys Basketball Arch. Wood Boys Basketball Bishop McDevitt Boys B-Ball Bonner & Prendie Boys B-Ball Cardinal O'Hara Boys B-Ball Conwell-Egan Boys Basketball Father Judge Basketball La Salle Basketball Lansdale Cath. Boys Basketball Roman Catholic Basketball Saint Joseph's Prep Basketball Neumann/Goretti Boys B-Ball West Catholic Boys Basketball