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Roman Catholic and Archbishop Ryan Advance to the Philadelphia Catholic League Championship Game

Roman Catholic and Archbishop Ryan Advance to the Philadelphia Catholic League Championship Game

Written by: Dell Jackson on February 22, 2024


Roman Catholic and Archbishop Ryan Advance to the Philadelphia Catholic League Championship Game
Article by David Kehler

Roman Catholic and Archbishop Ryan won Philadelphia Catholic League playoff semifinals on Wednesday night before a capacity crowd in an electric atmosphere at the Palestra on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. Roman and Ryan will meet for the league title at the same venue on Monday night, to cap the highest quality competition in Pennsylvania high school basketball. It is much more difficult to win the Philadelphia Catholic League championship than to win a PIAA state title.

In the first game on Wednesday night, Roman Catholic defeated Father Judge, 65 to 57. Both are all boys schools located in different sections of Philadelphia. Judge is a team with outstanding guard play, with four guys shooting at over 30% from beyond the arc this season. Judge also thrives at a very fast tempo. In the early going, Judge controlled the tempo (it was fast!) and hit from outside, forging small first quarter leads. In the first frame, three Judge players scored from beyond the arc. However, Roman has a powerful inside force in 6’ 7” junior Shareef Jackson and four good outside shooters of their own. The outcome was determined by Judge’s difficulty in containing Roman’s attack.

Late in the first quarter, Judge took what proved to be their biggest lead of the game on a 3-pointer by 6’ junior Rocco Westfield. Westfield’s shot put his squad up 14 to 8. Roman responded with a 13 to 0 run which began in the first frame and continued well into the second quarter on a 3-pointer by 5’ 8” senior Kabrien Goss, a layup by 6’ 5” sophomore Sammy Jackson, a hoop on a pivot play by Shareef Jackson, a layup on a backdoor cut by 5’ 10” senior Bobby Cottrell from an assist by Sammy Jackson, a flying tipin from the right corner by 6’ 2” senior Travis Reed, and a fast break layup by Cottrell. Roman had slowed the tempo slightly in the second quarter to their great advantage, and Judge’s offense sputtered in the second period. Judge’s only score in the second quarter was a follow by 6’ 9” junior Everett Barnes. Roman led 25 to 16 at halftime.

Roman began to hit from long range in the second half. Early in the third quarter, Nazir Tyler, a 6’ 2” Judge freshman, cut Roman’s lead to 27 to 19 with a 3-pointer. Roman responded with a 7 to 0 run on two free throws by Shareef Jackson, a pivot move by Shareef Jackson while he was being double teamed, and a 3-pointer by Reed on a clever inside-out assist by Goss. That gave Roman a 34 to 19 lead with 5:56 left in the third quarter. Judge called a time out, and, when play resumed, they scored on a drive by 6’ 2” junior Kevair Kennedy. Roman responded with consecutive 3-pointers by Reed and Sammy Jackson to go up 40 to 21. That was an insurmountable lead. To their great credit, Judge didn’t quit, and their offense was outstanding in the fourth quarter. Judge seniors Laquan Byrd and Anthony Lilly both scored six points in the final frame, and their teammate, Westfield, hit three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. However, five Roman players scored in the fourth quarter, and Roman cruised to victory.

For the game, Roman out-rebounded Judge 33 to 26. Thirteen of Roman’s rebounds were collected by Shareef Jackson. Roman had eight turnovers, while Judge had six miscues. Roman was five of eight from the free throw line, and Judge was three of eight. Roman made six 3-pointers, and Judge scored 10 times from beyond the arc. There were no ties and four lead changes.

Roman Catholic scoring: Shareef Jackson 20, Travis Reed 13, Sammy Jackson 9, Bobby Cottrell 8, Hunter Johnson 8, Sebastian Edwards 4, and Kabrien Goss 3.

Father Judge scoring: Laquan Byrd 14, Rocco Westfield 12, Anthony Lilly 8, Derrick Morton-Rivera 8, Kevair Kennedy 6, Nasir Tyler 5, Everett Barnes 2, and Calvin Starks-Walden 2.

Additionally, for Roman, Sammy Jackson had seven assists, and Goss had six assists.

Father Judge           14     2     16     25 – 57
Roman Catholic      11    14    21      19 – 65

Due to this loss, Father Judge, one of the very best teams in Pennsylvania, does not qualify for the PIAA state championship tournament. Judge is in the 6A classification, and not more than two Philadelphia Catholic League Class 6A squads are eligible to participate in the PIAA tournament.

In the second game of the doubleheader, Archbishop Ryan defeated Neumann-Goretti 48 to 43 in a contest between teams with distinctly different styles. Neumann is guard-focused, with much of their attack flowing through several quick, skilled guards. A major focus of Ryan’s attack involves getting the ball inside to 6’ 10” senior Thomas Sorber. Ryan also has long range firepower in the persons of 6’ 3” senior Darren Williams and 6’ 1” senior Ryan Everett.

On Wednesday night, Ryan jumped out to a 9 to 0 lead on two hoops inside by Sorber, a 3-pointer by 6’ 6” senior Jaden Murray, and a putback by Murray. With 3:39 left in the first quarter, Ryan went up 14 to 3 when Everett hit a 3-pointer. Neumann called time out, and, when play resumed, they responded with a drive by 6’ 5” senior Larenzo Jerkins and a 3-pointer by Jerkins. From that point, Neumann got their bearings. Trailing 22 to 20 with 2:45 left in the second quarter following a 3-pointer by Ryan’s Everett, Neumann finished the first half with an 8 to 0 run on two free throws by Jerkins, a drive by sophomore guard Torrey Brooks, a fast break layup by Brooks, and two free throws by sophomore point guard Deshawn Yates. Neumann led 28 to 22 at halftime, and they had all of the momentum. Neumann had held Ryan to six points in the second quarter, with notably outstanding defense by Yates and Jerkins. Neumann’s defensive objective was clear: make it difficult for Ryan’s guards to get the ball inside to Sorber

Ryan opened the second half with a hoop on a drive by Williams, who hadn’t scored in the first 16 minutes of play. Neumann responded with a basket inside by Yates to go up 30 to 24. Then, Ryan’s Williams hit a long 3-pointer, the first of his two scores from beyond the arc in the third frame. That shot seemed to give Ryan a spark. Ryan concluded the third quarter with a 7 to 0 run on a hoop inside by Sorber, a Williams 3-pointer, and a difficult driving floater by Williams. That made it 38 to 37, Ryan, at the end of the third quarter.

Neumann took their final lead of the game, 39 to 38, with 7:30 left in the contest on a turnaround jumper by Yates. With 5:50 left, Ryan captured the lead for good on Everett’s third 3-pointer of the game, starting a 7 to 0 run that concluded with a hoop inside by Williams and a drive by 5’ 11” sophomore Matt Johnson. Neumann’s offense sputtered down the stretch, with some poor shot selection and little offensive flow. Neumann’s defense was very good in this game, but their offense was surprisingly flat during much of the second half.

For the game, Ryan had a 33 to 30 rebounding edge. Ryan’s Sorber had 15 rebounds, and Neumann’s Jerkins and sophomore guard Stephon Ashley-Wright had eight rebounds each. Ryan had 10 turnovers, while Neumann’s superb ball handlers had just four miscues. Ryan was four of 12 from the free throw line, while Neumann was seven of 10 from the stripe. Ryan made six 3-pointers, while Neumann scored twice from beyond the arc. There were three ties and six lead changes.

Archbishop Ryan scoring: Darren Williams 13, Thomas Sorber 11, Jaden Murray 11, Ryan Everett 9, and Matt Johnson 4.

Neumann-Goretti scoring: Larenzo Jerkins 13, Stephon Ashley-Wright 11, Deshawn Yates 10, Amir Williams 5, and Torrey Brooks 4.

Archbishop Ryan     16   6    16   10 – 48
Neumann-Goretti    12  16    9     6  – 43

The Philadelphia Catholic League playoff semifinals, held annually with capacity crowds at the Palestra, is one of the most outstanding sports events of any kind in southeastern Pennsylvania. The Palestra seats over 8700 people for the event, many of them very enthusiastic, and there is no other experience like it in Pennsylvania high school basketball.

On Twitter: @david_kehler

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