By John Knebels
Special to The CS&T
When he arrived home after the best weekend of his life, Trevor McNulty was greeted with a congratulatory sign awaiting him on the front lawn of his Havertown home. A simple investigation determined neighbor Mark Campetti as the thoughtful culprit.
“It was cool and a really nice thing to do,” he said. “The support is pretty great around here.”
McNulty is a senior at Archbishop Carroll. Campetti is a Carroll alum whose three children are also Carroll products. Go to almost any St. Denis Parish function in Havertown, where both are parishioners, and be prepared to meet numerous adults and teens who bleed Patriot red.
And sometime soon, don’t be surprised to see many of them donning an article of clothing reminding everyone that when it comes to high school basketball, no team in the entire state of Pennsylvania was better than Archbishop Carroll this year.
Last Friday night at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, the Patriots dismantled Greensburg Salem, 75-54, to capture the PIAA Class AAA state title.
“One of our mottos from the beginning has been that this could be a special season,” said McNulty, top sub of a squad that doesn’t have any significant elbow room among the five starters. “After we lost to Roman Catholic (in the Catholic League semifinals), we were pretty deflated the next day in practice. But we got together and said that we might as well try to go out and win states.”
In what has been the history-rich Catholic League’s first-ever jaunt into state tournament competition, Carroll’s boys have thus become an answer to a trivia question that asks what CL team was the first to win a state championship.
Along the way, easily the most impressive win took place in the state quarterfinals when the Patriots stunned perennially favored Neumann-Goretti, the Catholic League champion that had already defeated Carroll twice during the regular season.
“It was nice to go through them because they had pretty much been anointed the state champions from the start,” said Carroll six-year coach Paul Romanczuk, who in 1995 celebrated a Carroll title as a star player. “I have all the respect in the world for that team and what they accomplished this season. To beat them on that stage said a lot about our players.”
In the state championship victory, starters Kasheef Festus (18 points, 6 rebounds), Andre Wilburn (12 points, 7 rebounds), DJ Irving (17 points, 7 steals, 6 rebounds), Ben Mingledough (8 points, 6 rebounds) and Juan’ya Green (16 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) orchestrated a melodic symphony of what is truly meant by the concept of teamwork.
Buoyed by their unselfish nature, those five comprise a talented starting lineup and have continuously produced impressive numbers. Among the reasons for their consistent success has been the diligent effort offered in practice by the non-starters.
Among them has been McNulty, who along with fellow seniors Pat Daly, Romance Turner and Mike Payne have received the most playing time outside the Fabulous Five. In addition to his role as a capable spot-up shooter, McNulty is also co-captain along with the ultra-likeable Wilburn.
“Guys like Trevor make us better because they don’t let up on us; they work us hard,” said Wilburn. “As captains, he and I seriously take our role to make sure everyone keeps their heads up when things aren’t going so well. We’re like a family.”
Romanczuk, this year’s Catholic League Coach of the Year, was quick to point out that intangibles are far from the only contribution McNulty has made this season.
“He’s a great, great kid, and when someone like Trevor steps up as a terrific leader, it isn’t a surprise,” said Romanczuk. “But when Juan’ya (Green) was out with a knee injury during the season, Trevor started most of those games, played like 25 minutes and did great. We didn’t skip a beat.
“Then when (Green) came back to the lineup, Trevor was back to five or 10 minutes a game. I’m sure he was a little bummed out about it, but he didn’t let it show. He kept doing everything that was needed.”
Recognizing that his basketball career – outside of future intramural-type affairs – had come to an end, McNulty acknowledged that what made the state title triumph most meaningful wasn’t so much that he was able to add a fourth-quarter bucket but that his entire family was able to watch it.
And talk about a basketball family. McNulty’s father Kevin, a Bonner grad, has coached boys’ and girls’ basketball at St. Denis for numerous years. His mother Julie played at Marion Catholic High School in Marion, Ohio. His sister Bridget played on the freshman team at Carroll this year and his sixth-grade sister Keara played on the St. Denis CYO “A” team.
Then there is his brother Seamus, a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh who is one of the basketball team’s managers, travelling across the country with one of the top four seeds in this year’s NCAA men’s tournament.
But, with his priority list in firm grasp, Seamus chose to travel to Penn State to watch his little brother experience a once-in-a-lifetime moment and then immediately flew to Dayton, Ohio, to help manage the Panthers to a second-round tournament win.
“Things like that,” said Trevor McNulty, are “the main reason I feel like I am a very lucky person.”