PHILADELPHIA – Today was supposed to be Round Two of the PIAA state tournament, but Mother Nature was in a mood and decided she needed some attention.
All games were thus moved to Thursday.
Of the 13 Catholic League teams that qualified, 10 remain alive by virtue of a first-round victory. While West Catholic’s boys fell to 3A Lancaster Mennonite, 93-72, the other two teams that lost were literally a basket away from moving on. Lansdale Catholic’s girls fell to Berks Catholic, 56-54, in an overtime Class 4A squeaker; Roman Catholic dropped a 57-55 Class 6A decision to Perkiomen Valley.
The loss by Roman ended its defense of last year’s state title. Still, the Cahillites emerged as one of the area’s more impressive programs considering that graduation overhauled its roster.
First-year coach Matt Griffin reminisced about his 20-6 squad.
“This group exceeded expectations to help build a foundation and successfully carry on the Roman tradition,” said Griffin. “We finished third in the extremely competitive Philadelphia Catholic League with a record of 10-3 after being picked in the pre-season to finish 8th. We captured our fifth consecutive District 12 championship with a win over Abraham Lincoln High School. Four members of our team received All-Catholic honors. It was truly a pleasure to coach this group, and I am very proud of them.”
The wonderful news is that three of those All-Catholics are underclassmen. First-team forward Allen Betrand is a junior; second-team center-forward Seth Lundy is a sophomore; and third-team guard Lynn Greer is a freshman.
The lone senior All-Catholic, second-team guard Da’Kquan Davis, raved about his Roman Catholic experience.
“We had a great year,” said Davis. “We proved many of people wrong with how far we came and how good we were. I never thought we got to where we wanted to be as a team or where we could be, and it was scary because we were still winning games.
Roman senior Da'Kquan Davis was a commanding force on the floor for the Cahillites - PSD photo by Zamani Feelings
“We had a group of guys who were willing to go out each and every night and give their all. It’s just that we never really found ourselves as a team, and (losing to Perk Valley) was a tough loss to a team that had a tough couple losses but obviously stuck together and came into the game with a great game plan.
“I wish the best of luck to Perk Valley and the kids here at Roman in the rest of their career here. As for me and the other seven seniors, it’s time to move on in life and get ready for college. No need to dwell on the past.”
As for playing hoops for first-year coach Griffin?
“It was fine,” said Davis. “I loved it. Sometimes change is good and in this case it was. Matt came in with the plan to keep the Roman tradition of winning alive and he did what he could.
“He pushed us hard all pre-season to get to where we got today. It didn’t end the way we wanted, but we came out with a D-12 tournament. Along with basketball, this man is a great leader who teaches life skills. He is a great man.”
The “Final 10” includes five girls’ teams that won in blowout fashion: Cardinal O’Hara (53-25 over 6A Upper Dublin), Archbishop Wood (32-23 over 5A West Chester Henderson), Archbishop Carroll (53-35 over 5A Mount St. Joseph’s Academy), Neumann-Goretti (77-50 over 3A Middletown), and West Catholic (76-41 over 2A Columbia).
Each of the five victorious boys’ teams also won by double digits: Archbishop Ryan over 6A Parkland, 79-55; Archbishop Wood 92-62 over 5A Oxford; Archbishop Carroll 61-48 over 5A Great Valley; Conwell-Egan 81-59 over 4A Saucon Valley; and Neumann-Goretti 71-48 over 3A York Catholic.
With only four victories separating teams from winning a state title, players continue to eagerly embrace a “new season” regardless of what they experienced during the regular season or Catholic League playoffs.
“Just having the chance to be able to repeat what we did last year is so special,” said Wood junior Katie May. “I'm definitely not taking anything for granted.
Wood junior Katie May - PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings
“Losing (in the CL final) was very hard, but we had to get past it and move on. We needed to focus on states, so we had to get over it.”
Senior teammate Cassie Sebold agreed.
“It's a cool thing to be a part of,” said Sebold. “Getting another chance to compete for a state championship is awesome, and I'm so happy I get the opportunity to try and get back to Hershey.
“Coach Mike (McDonald) always says the season is a marathon, and so far we've been pretty successful. I think everyone's ready to keep going.”
Wood senior Shannon May said a state title would definitely help assuage a lingering sour taste from losing to O’Hara.
“Any pain we felt losing in the PCL championship will definitely be gone in that case,” she said. “After losing the PCL, of course we were down, but we know our league is really tough, and we know that we are still one of the best teams in the state.
Wood senior Cassie Sebold drives to the basket against Carroll's Bella Sorrentino - PSD photo by Zamani Feelings
“Getting the district title and the win in the first round of states just gives us that boost of confidence we need and gets us ready for this last run together as a team.”
Neumann-Goretti girls were stunned by eventual league champ Cardinal O’Hara in the semifinals. They, too, have put the disappointing recent past behind them.
“As a coach, it’s our job to regroup and focus on how we bounce back after losses,” said Neumann-Goretti coach Andrea Peterson. “We can only learn from our past and prepare for what’s ahead of us, that being the state title.
“You have to get better. I believe when a loss occurs, it’s all about the bounce back and response. This group is ready for the challenge and we are continuing to get better very day at practice. One game at a time.”
Even teams coming off a Catholic League championship recognize that the past needs to remain in the past.
“States is a brand new season, because if you lose one game, the whole season’s over,” said Cardinal O’Hara junior Maura Hendrixson. “We don't want to fall short like we did last year (in the state final), so we are continuing our mindset of refusing to lose.
Cardinal O'Hara junior Maura Hendrixson drives down the court vs. Neumann-Goretti - PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings
“It helps a lot having experience coming into (single-elimination) games. Also, knowing the feeling of losing in the state championship last year motivates us a lot to never have that feeling again and win every game we go into.”
The second-round schedule is listed below. All games will be played on March 16.
For the boys . . .
Class 6A: Archbishop Ryan vs. Central Dauphin East, 6 PM, at Garden Spot High School
Class 5A: Archbishop Carroll vs. Palmyra, 5 PM, at Reading High School
Class 5A: Archbishop Wood vs. Mechanicsburg, 8 PM, at Pottstown High School
4A: Conwell-Egan vs. Greater Nanticoke, 6:30 PM, at Parkland High School
3A: Neumann-Goretti vs. Holy Redeemer, 6:30 PM, at Liberty High School
For the girls . . .
6A: Cardinal O’Hara vs. Central York, 6:30 PM, at Santander Arena in Reading
5A: Archbishop Wood vs. Bishop Shanahan, 6:30 PM, at Pottstown High School
5A: Archbishop Carroll vs. Harrisburg, 6:30 PM, at Reading High School
3A: Neumann-Goretti vs. New Hope-Solebury, 5 PM at Cheltenham High School
2A: West Catholic vs. Sayre, 6 PM, at Weatherly High School
Tag(s): Home Schools Philadelphia Catholic Girls Basketball Philadelphia Catholic League Arch. Carroll Girls Basketball Arch. Wood Girls Basketball Cardinal O'Hara Girls B-Ball Lansdale Cath Girls Basketball Neumann/Goretti Girls B-Ball West Catholic Girls Basketball Boys Basketball Philadelphia Catholic League Arch. Carroll Boys Basketball Arch. Ryan Boys Basketball Arch. Wood Boys Basketball Conwell-Egan Boys Basketball Roman Catholic Basketball Neumann/Goretti Boys B-Ball West Catholic Boys Basketball