The historic Palestra was buzzing on Monday night as Roman Catholic (PA) took down #16 Neumann Goretti (PA) 72-65 in front of a sold out crowd (seating capacity 8,722). The Palestra was overflowing with people as the term “standing room only” stayed true to its form. People were sitting in the aisles and the student sections were huddled together, continually bantering back and forth. The scene was set for the Roman Catholic Cahillites to win their second consecutive Philadelphia Catholic League title (first time going back-to-back since 1999 and 2000). They won behind strong efforts from their Penn State-bound senior trio Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens, and Nazeer Bostick. The Happy Valley bound seniors combined for 55 of their teams 72 points and gobbled up 29 rebounds, completely dominating the paint throughout the battle.
Neumann Goretti couldn’t find their rhythm offensively and didn’t have the size to stop the Roman Catholic attack on defense. The Saints suffered their first Catholic League loss of the season after going 12-0 in the regular season and cruising to the title game in two blowout wins over Bonner-Pendergast 104-65 and Archbishop Ryan 89-53.
Neumann Goretti got behind early as Roman Catholic began the championship tilt on an 11-0 run. Neumann Goretti then began to chip away at the lead and cut the deficit to 21-13 at the end of the first quarter. After a strong second quarter from Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree who had 10 points and 8 rebounds in the first half, the Saints cut the Cahillites lead to just 5 at the half. Although the Saints shot poorly throughout the game and finished just 2-22 from three, they tied things up midway through the third quarter with a Quade Green three (Saints first three of the game) to make things 44-44. After the game was tied up at 44 Roman Catholic took complete control of the game and never relinquished the lead again.
Roman Catholic came into the season ranked #6 in the country preseason but suffered a tough loss to Oldsmar Christian (FL) 58-51 in December, dropping them down in the rankings. After that loss they took home four straight wins before slipping up to three opponents in five games. They were taken down by Neumann Goretti (PA) 85-68, Archbishop Caroll (PA) 64-61, and Montverde Academy (FL) 74-44 in that stretch but have reeled off 11 straight wins since. The Cahillites have finally found their groove and now have avenged both of their Catholic League losses, taking down Archbishop Carroll (PA) 64-63 in the semifinal matchup and Neumann Goretti last night in the championship game.
The Cahillites were led by their senior leaders Lamar Stevens and Tony Carr as Stevens finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds and Carr finished with 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. Workhorse Nazeer Bostick had another big Catholic League final after finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds a year ago he finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds this year, as he was relentless battling on the backboards. Roman Catholic controlled things from the tip thanks to their three-headed monster, starting with Tony Carr and ending with Lamar Stevens. Carr started off the game hot and took over early as he hit a number of floaters in the lane before passing off the torch to Lamar Stevens who carried Roman Catholic to the finish line with 13 second half points.
Neumann Goretti suffered their first loss of the season in Philadelphia Catholic League play and never got into their rhythm offensively. The Saints were much smaller inside going with their typical four guard lineup to go along with 2017 big man Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree. Zane Martin got into foul trouble early as he picked up two first quarter fouls, a third foul in the second quarter, and a fourth foul in the third quarter. Before fouling out, the Towson-bound senior Zane Martin finished with 15 points. Vaughn Covington finished with 16 points and Quade Green finished with 15 points as neither of the Saints key guards could get going on the offensive end. The lone bright spot on the night for Neumann was the play of their steadily developing big man Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree. 2017 6’ 9” PF Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree had a moster effort that solidified himself as a potential top 100 player in his class. He finished with 14 points, 17 rebounds, and 7 blocks keeping the Saints close with block after block and rebound after rebound. The development of Cosby-Roundtree has been incredible over his three years and although he is still raw offensively he is a high-major prospect to watch out for this summer in the AAU circuit.
Overall, what more do you want from a Philadelphia Catholic League championship matchup? The atmosphere was electric for the rematch of last years title game that saw Roman Catholic take down the then six-time defending Catholic League champion Neumann Goretti in front of another sold-out crowd at one of the most historically basketball venues in the country.
Roman Catholic and Neumann Goretti have now combined for the last eight Philadelphia Catholic League titles and are both favorites to win another state crown. Roman Catholic will face some fierce tests in the AAAA state playoffs as potential matchups with Taylor Allerdice (PA), Lonnie Walker led Reading (PA), Plymouth Whitemarsh (PA), and others loom. Neumann Goretti is heavily favorite to win their third consecutive AAA state title as they have potential tests such as Archbishop Carroll (PA), New Castle (PA), and Imhotep Charter (PA). Both teams will be active on Friday as Roman Catholic (PA) faces Martin Luther King (PA) and Neumann Goretti (PA) faces Del Val Charter (PA) for the City titles and seeding for the state tournament.