By: John Knebels
Photos/Videos: Patty Morgan, Kathy Leister, Rich Flanagan, Chris Evangelist, Liam Turnbach (LCHS) & Alex Duda (Father Judge)
PHILADELPHIA – Of the 15 teams in Catholic League boys’ basketball, three of them are undefeated and 10 have a winning record.
Although their collective performance over the holidays proved impressive, the league contests are what ultimately matter the most. In other words, the non-league schedule, for better or worse, has come to an end.
Although the story lines of several programs are intriguing, the two that stand out are Bishop McDevitt and Devon Prep.
While the former has been garnering headlines on a near-weekly basis, the latter just joined the Catholic League this year and, as did the school’s soccer program in the fall, made the most of their first-ever game.
Devon Prep’s 52-49 over visiting Father Judge December 20 prompted an on-court celebration fit for a championship. But when you win your first-ever game in such a nationally distinguished league, any other response would be disappointing.
“It is very difficult to win any games, let alone a game in the PCL, and for us to win our first game is a testament to the work our team has put in over the last 10 months,” said Tide coach Jason Fisher. “We were very happy to win but realize it is only a step, and there are more challenges ahead.”
Devon Prep will resume PCL play on the road this Friday (Jan. 4) at Bonner-Prendie at 7PM - Photo courtesy @DevonPrepBBall
The historic event necessitated five scorers, four of them underclassmen. Sophomore Eamon Walsh led with 24 points. Juniors Scion Dorsey and Nick Crowe tallied 11 and 10, respectively. Senior Fred Rullo netted five and sophomore Mike Ferry added a pair.
“Many teams thought playing us would be an easy win in their schedule because we are such a small school,” said Crowe. “The win against Judge was a confidence booster for us and proved that we can play in this league.
“The people that doubted us and said that we couldn’t play in this league gave us a source of determination and drive to compete and prove them wrong. All of our hard work in the off-season paid off, and it is great to see our team become stronger as a whole.”
Walsh summarized the entire environment as electric.
“It was truly a big win,” said Walsh. “We executed our game plan and played our hearts out. The gym was packed and energetic, with our student section being as loud as ever. We have worked are butts off in the off-season, and we knew that it was gonna be a challenge. It was truly a great night and a great win not just for us, but the school, too.”
Bishop McDevitt can relate to Devon Prep. Although the Lancers have competed in the Catholic League for 56 seasons, their comparatively small size has made it quite difficult to battle with most squads.
The Lancers have finished with a winning league record 10 times, none since an 8-6 mark in 2000. Over the past four seasons, McDevitt has won six league games. So it’s particularly noteworthy that this year’s group has played nine games and won . . . nine games. They have played three of the league’s consistently strong teams and beaten all of them – predominantly behind the contributions of underclassmen.
In a 62-58 win over visiting Archbishop Wood – ending a 13-game losing streak against the Vikings – juniors Jamil Manigo, Robert Smith, and Ahmir Harris scored 19, 18, and 13, respectively. In a 57-52 victory at Archbishop Carroll that halted a 12-game skid against the Patriots, Manigo bucketed 16 and Smith added 14. In a 53-38 triumph over St. Joseph’s Prep that stopped a five-game losing streak against the Hawks, Manigo led again with 17 and Smith dropped in 11. For good measure, Smith exploded for 35 in a non-league win against Fairmount Heights of Maryland.
Second-year coach Will Chavis, whose Lancers amassed a 16-11 overall record and won four league games last year, complimented his productive offensive marksmen while noting strong contributions by, among others, players such as senior Cameron Gardner (19 combined points), senior Seneca Willoughby (10), and juniors Glenn Smith, Shamir Mosley, and Kevin Young.
“It feels good to have a good start in the PCL especially after going 8-0 last year in non-league before the PCL started, then losing two out of the first four games,” said Chavis. “I think that was a wake-up call and an introduction for the players and staff as to how good the PCL is as a league.
“So we went back to work and put a focus on getting better so we will be able to compete in the league. I think the players responded well. Last year left a bad taste in their mouths because we worked really hard and came up short in a lot of games.”
Chavis said having a raw team last year is starting to pay off.
“It was great experience for a young group, which I think really helped us to understand what it takes to make people believe in their talents and win some games,” said Chavis. “We have a talented group of basketball players as well as good-character kids, something we talk about with the kids a lot.
“They pull for one another to do well and that positive energy has translated to them having some early success. Hey, it’s still a long way to go and we don’t have a choice but to try and stay prepared for the long haul. It’s going to be a long ride.”
Willoughby noted the Lancers’ unselfish style.
“It’s been great,” he said. “Our team has been sharing the ball well and playing for each other, but we still have a lot of work left to be done.”
Harris echoed his teammate.
“So far, it’s been good games and they were won by us because we played like a team,” said Harris. “Everyone is successful when one of us are. We have been through ups and downs, which made us more mentally ready to start off the season. But now it’s time to work on our next games.”
That “next game” could be a doozy.
At 7 PM Friday, the Lancers visit La Salle. The Explorers are among those aforementioned undefeated teams. At 10-0 overall and 3-0 in league with wins over Cardinal O’Hara, Archbishop Ryan, and West Catholic, La Salle appears to be the real deal.
A combined effort by seniors Konrad Kiszka (23 points), Allen Powell (16), and Titus Beard (15) buoyed the win over O’Hara. Powell scored 22 against Ryan. Senior Zach Crisler and junior Jake Timby netted 10 apiece versus West.
“Our start has been really good in the PCL, and we plan to keep playing how we are playing,” said Powell. “We have a lot of seniors on our team and we want to have a good senior year.”
Defending Catholic League and state champion Roman Catholic has continued last year’s momentum. The Cahillites recently returned from a highly successful Chick-fil-A tournament performance in South Carolina. At 7-3 overall and 3-0 in the league, however, the Cahillites recognize that they are now the hunted.
"We know we have a long way to go and we want to be the best team we could possibly be,” said coach Matt Griffin. “Last year was last year and this is a new group with new challenges. It has been fun and I love coaching these guys."
A tremendous balance among veterans and underclassmen has fueled the Cahillites. Consider the scoring in their three league wins over West Catholic, Lansdale Catholic, and Father Judge.
In that trio of games, the scoring line for the five starters went as follows: Senior Hakim Hart 14, 18, and 13; senior Seth Lundy 14, 18, 14; junior Lynn Greer 13, 11, 19; freshman Jalen Duren 11, 12, 11; and freshman Justice Williams 11, 8, 11.
Senior Gabe Perez said the Cahillites are laser focused.
“For us, what works well is when we’re unselfish, playing extremely hard, and following the game play,” said Perez. “When we do those things, it puts us in a great position to win. When we stray away, that’s when we lose games.”
St. Joseph’s Prep is 5-4 overall and 1-1 in the league. In a victory over Archbishop Ryan, juniors Trevor Wall (18) and Chris Arizin combined for 32 points. In a loss to McDevitt, Wall led with 12 points.
“We’re taking a little time to gel together as a team,” said Arizin, “but I think that we will be able to turn a lot of heads this year in the Catholic League when we find ourselves and trust our coaches.”
Neumann-Goretti is not the dominant team of the past, but the Saints (6-2, 2-0) are young, hungry, talented, and definitely a championship threat.
In their victories over Conwell-Egan and Lansdale Catholic, senior Chris Ings scored 18 and 20, respectively, while juniors Jordan Hall(14, 13) and Hakim Boyd (14, 13), and senior Cameron Young (10, 13) followed suit.
“Our team this year is looking pretty good,” said Hall. “When we play together and keep our composure we are hard to beat, but when we don’t play for each other, we are as beatable as any other team in the league.
“The competition in the Catholic League is good. It’s good every year. If you don’t come to play every night, then it’s gonna be a dog fight. That goes for any team in the league.”
Notes: Bonner-Prendergast is 8-0 and 2-0 behind seniors Isaiah Wong (16 and 24 versus Father Judge and Conwell-Egan) and Tariq Ingraham (11 and 16). Wong butchered Patterson of Maryland for 37 points . . . Archbishop Wood’s Rahsool Diggins is a scoring machine. Among the sophomore’s top performances for the 7-2, 2-1 Vikings were 35 points against Philadelphia’s Sankofa Freedom Charter, 32 against Cardinal O’Hara, 25 against Lansdale Catholic, and 24 versus Bishop McDevitt.
Senior Luke House has helped Archbishop Carroll (5-5, 2-1) by reaching double digits (10, 17, and 13) against West, McDevitt, and Conwell-Egan . . .
Archbishop Ryan junior Gediminias Mokseckas scored 18 against La Salle and 20 against O’Hara for the 6-4, 1-2 Raiders . . .
Senior Shane Dooley has scored a combined 52 league points for Father Judge (6-5, 0-3), which captured the Wildwood High tournament title . . . For Lansdale Catholic (2-7, 0-3), seniors Tim Cunane and Nick Romeo scored 15 and 14, respectively, versus Roman Catholic; senior Kyle Kane scored 19 against Archbishop Wood.
For Cardinal O’Hara (6-4, 0-3), sophomore Adrian Irving scored 21,14, and 11 in league play . . . West Catholic (2-7, 0-3) saw junior Naadhir Woods tally 17, freshman Nasir Griffin score 11, and senior Samier Kinsler add 11 against LaSalle . . . For Conwell-Egan (1-9, 0-3), senior Sean Stokes scored 13 against Bonner-Prendergast and 18 against Carroll while junior K.J. Davis helped with 12 and 21, respectively.
(John Knebels can be reached at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)
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