We haven't kept up with Roman Catholic's season as much as we would have liked to here at BSD, but the stage is set for their biggest game of the season. The Philadelphia Catholic league playoffs offer more clout than even the state playoffs since the Catholic leagues schools are split into different PIAA classifications. Arguably the state's two best high schools squads - Roman Catholic and Neumann-Goretti - will square off tonight at the Palestra in front of an electric, soldout crowd.
It has not been an easy road for Roman, or as easy as some folks thought it would be in the preseason. The defending champions did not run through the Catholic league's regular season after a mid-season stretch saw them drop 3 of 5 against a difficult schedule. Neumann-Goretti, who won the Catholic league seven straight years until Carr and Bostick dethroned them last year, proved during the regular season that they are the top contender for the crown. Back on January 6th, the Saints ran away from the Cahillites for a 17-point statement win in their lone regular season matchup.
Roman was missing a key player in that loss to Neumann, however. Their senior center Paul Newman was out with a concussion, which allowed Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, the best big man prospect in Philadelphia, to have his way down low. DCR could still be the x-factor tonight for the Saints, but Newman will get his chance to neutralize him. The Cahillites will also have to find a way to slow down Neumann's explosive backcourt featuring Quade Green and senior Zane Martin, who is committed to Towson.
It took another classic performance for Roman to even reach the championship game. A third contender emerged from the league this season after Archbishop Carroll exceeded expectations despite a myriad of personnel losses from last year's loaded team. Ryan Daly, the son of former PSU assistant Brian Daly, led the way for the Patriots and earned the Catholic League's MVP honors. The Hartford signee was terrific all season long and helped Carroll defeat Roman Catholic during the regular season to earn the No. 2 seed for these playoffs.
In last week's Catholic League semi-finals at the Palestra, it was Roman that served its revenge with a huge 64-63 win. CoBL called it one of those games where someone just had to lose and fortunately for Roman, it was Carroll. While Tony Carr seemed to lose some confidence during Roman's struggles in January, he lived up to his gamer reputation in this one hitting shot-after-shot down the stretch. Lamar Stevens also put down this nasty jam late in the contest:
Now it all comes down to this. The state playoffs await both of these teams after tonight's affair, but that'll be viewed as a consolation prize to the loser of this one. The #1 goal for both teams is winning the Catholic League crown. It promises to be another classic with so many high major prospects and big-time matchups, none bigger than Tony Carr vs. Quade Green. Be sure to check out CoBL's preview, even if they picked Neumann-Goretti to win back the title.
If you've ever wondered why this blog has been so supportive of Pat Chambers over the years, find a way to secure a ticket for this heavyweight fight. Tip-off is set for approximately 8:45pm.