By: John Knebels
Photos/Videos: Kathy Leister, Patty Morgan, Chip Frenette, Chris Evangelist, Alex Duda (Father Judge Jr. Reporter), Shea Diehl & Liam Turnbach (La Salle Jr. Reporters)
PHILADELPHIA –Nothing quite like a logjam to get the conversation started.
Through precisely one third of the Catholic League boys’ basketball season, there still remain three undefeated teams. Five squads only have one loss.
Talk about the potential for an exciting January and February.
By virtue of Bonner-Prendergast’s pulsating, 59-58 victory over visiting Roman Catholic on Sunday afternoon, the preconceived notion that Roman Catholic would remain unbeatable was squashed.
The Friars won on a short bank shot by senior reigning league Most Valuable Player Isaiah Wong with five seconds remaining in regulation in front of a raucous sold-out venue that reportedly was forced to turn back scads of would-be paying customers.
“We knew we had to come out strong from the jump,” said Bonner senior Tariq Ingraham. “We knew how dominant Roman can be when you give them confidence from the start, so we couldn’t let that happen.
“To keep this winning streak going, we gotta play every game like we’re playing Roman.”
After Wong’s 29 points and Ingraham’s 10 paced the win over the Cahillites despite Roman junior Hakim Hart’s 27, Bonner found itself 10-0 overall and 4-0 in the league. Despite that gaudy record, the Friars are amazingly only “second best” so far in the league.
That would be because La Salle is 12-0, 5-0. Three different players – seniors Allen Powell (15.8), Konrad Kiszka (13.8), and Titus Beard (11.8) – are averaging double figures for the Explorers, with senior Zach Crisler (8.8) not far behind.
“Right now we are very confident in ourselves, and we are very eager to continue our great run against the rest of the league,” said Kiszka. “We have learned to share the ball really well and to help one another out. We all want to succeed and, with all this experience from our senior-heavy team, we know that this is what it takes to win.”
“As a team I think we are at a really good place right now,” said Beard. “We are starting to gel together on the court and we’re also learning each other’s tendencies. We are playing pretty well right now, but there’s still work to be done. One of our main focuses as a team is to stay humble and hungry.”
Neumann-Goretti has only played three league games, but largely behind senior Chris Ings (averaging 18.3 points) and junior Hakim Byrd (12), the Saints won them all.
This evening, the Saints will host Bonner-Prendergast at 7 PM. It is the first time in ages that N-G enters a home game as an underdog, but the Saints relish the opportunity. That said, several players are not pleased with their overall performance.
Junior Jordan Hall described the Saints as being in “a bit of a slump; not as far as losing, but we just aren’t satisfied as a whole with our play lately. We know our potential and how we should play.” Senior teammate Ja’cor Smith said the Saints “just need to go back on how we played at the start of the season.”
Aforementioned Ings is relying on a metaphor when pushing his teammates to remain optimistic.
“I believe we are on the up-climb,” said Ings. “With every practice and game, we are becoming a better, more well-knit group and becoming a better team. We are becoming a unit because of our fist mentality – where in a hand there are five fingers, but when they make a fist, they are all one. We are just beginning and we’re only getting better.”
Bishop McDevitt (10-1, 4-1) started with three wins, lost to La Salle, but bounced back to defeat Cardinal O’Hara, 63-58. Junior Jamil Manigo’s 24 points, junior Robert Smith’s 19, and junior Shamir Mosley’s 10 paced the victors.
“Our team is at this stage right now because of our hard work and dedication,” said Smith. “Over the summer we were working non-stop. We just have to take it one game at time and focus and stay positive.
“Our coaches are doing everything in their power to prep us for upcoming games and get us ready for college – to play in the big atmosphere, to learn how to win big and close games, and to be very good role models and young black African American young men.”
Archbishop Wood has won four straight after losing its opener to Bishop McDevitt. The Vikings have so many offensive weapons, making it a nightmare for opposing coaches.
Whom to stop? Senior Julius Phillips (15.6 points per game) joins sophomores Rahsool Diggins (24), Daeshon Shepherd (13), and Jaylen Stinson (12.8) as double-digit scorers.
“The team is really coming together and really is starting to believe that we are or can be the best team in the PCL,” said Diggins. “Since we've seen that people don't believe we can finish tops in the league and make it to the Palestra, we've been playing with a chip on our shoulder and really competing because we want to win and prove everyone wrong.”
Phillips, the only upperclassman on the roster, said the Vikings have displayed “rapid” maturation despite a roster comprised of one senior, two juniors, seven sophomores, and two freshmen.
“Each game and practice I see the team getting better and better,” said Phillips. “We are definitely one of the best teams in the state and we are working to be the best, even though we are so young. But we’re not where we want to be just yet. We have some minor errors we have to correct first.”
Archbishop Carroll is 4-1 and on a three-game winning streak. Senior Luke House is averaging a team-best 14.8 points and has scored precisely 17 in three of the five league contests. Junior Tairi Ketner has tallied 13, 15, 15, and 13 points in the Patriots’ four wins.
In their last victory, Saturday over Devon Prep, five players (House, 17; Ketner, 13; junior Ny’Mire Little, 13; junior Zaiair Jenkins-Johnson, 12; and junior Amiri Stewart, 11) reached double figures and one other – senior Kiyl Mack– missed by one point.
“I think our best basketball is ahead of us,” said House. “We’re heading into the right direction. Our coach gave us a tough non-league schedule to prepare us. I believe that really helped us. All of our hard work is showing and our chemistry is going up. We’re sharing the ball more and getting the shot we want. I think we can really make some noise as the season continues.”
St. Joseph’s Prep is 3-1, with consecutive victories over Cardinal O’Hara and Lansdale Catholic. Junior Trevor Wall is posting an average of 16.2 points, followed by junior Chris Arizin at 10.25 and senior Gabe Arizin at 10.
In the win over LC, junior Brian Gaetens netted 12 points.
“We are coming along well and winning the games we need to win,” said Wall. “We are getting ready for some tough games later in the season against good teams.”
Father Judge is 0-5 but don’t feel sorry for the Crusaders.
“The attitude of our team is always great,” said senior Shane Dooley, who averages a team-best 16.4 and watched his sophomore teammate, Nahseer Johnson, boast a career-high 24 against Archbishop Wood. “We come to practice every day ready to work no matter what the outcome of the game was the day before.”
SJP junior Trevor Wall is averaging 16.2 PPG - PSD Photo by Chris Evangelist
NOTES: Archbishop Ryan (2-2) sent four players in double figures and came within a composite three points of adding two more in a 62-49 at West Catholic. Sophomore Aaron Lemon-Warren scored 14, sophomore Taleeq Robbins 10, senior Ja’Quill Stone 10, and senior Colin Reed 10 while junior Gediminas Mokseckas (nine) and senior Mekhi Lang (eight) were a basket behind.
For 1-2 Devon Prep, junior Scion Dorsey scored 18 against Archbishop Carroll . . . Along with aforementioned Father Judge, the other 0-5 teams have shown flashes. West Catholic junior Naadhir Wood has scored 46 points over the past three games . . . Lansdale Catholic senior Tim Cunane netted 16 against St. Joseph’s Prep . . . Conwell-Egan senior Sean Stokes stroked (couldn’t resist) 15 versus Archbishop Carroll . . . Cardinal O’Hara sophomore Adrian Irving is averaging 16.8 points.
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