Friday, Feb. 13 marks a special opportunity for eight boys’ Catholic League basketball teams. The playoffs are underway, and a victory in today’s quarterfinals will assure playing in the league semifinals at the Palestra on Feb. 18 and, perhaps, the title match five days later.
The first six teams did not have to participate in a preliminary round and that has proven to be huge, because no preliminary round team has ever ultimately captured the Catholic League championship.
In this year’s prelims, seventh-seed Archbishop Wood defeated 10th-seed Archbishop Ryan, 66-56, behind a herculean effort by senior Luke Connaghan. In addition to scoring 25 points, Connaghan snared 13 rebounds. Teammate Tom Funk’s 19 points and six assists aided the Vikings, who a week earlier had stunned host Roman Catholic in a regular-season tilt.
That win cost Roman the regular-season championship, with Neumann-Goretti taking the honors instead. Ironically, Wood will again meet Roman Catholic tonight (7 p.m. at Philadelphia University), with the stakes being obviously much higher.
The final playoff spot went to eighth-seed Father Judge by virtue of the Crusaders’ 64-49 win over ninth-seed Bonner-Prendergast. Sophomore Marc Rodriguez netted a career-best 25 points while junior teammate Quincy Reed added 13 more. The Crusaders will visit defending champion Neumann-Goretti tonight at 7 p.m.
The other two games pit sixth-seed Conwell-Egan at third-seed Archbishop Carroll tonight at 7 while fifth-seed La Salle takes on fourth-seed St. Joseph’s Prep at 3:45.
That latter contest comes five days after an absolute classic, with the Prep surviving a 79-74 win over visiting La Salle in three riveting overtime periods, leading legendary Prep coach Speedy Morris to label it one of his all-time most memorable moments.
Senior Chris Clover, this year’s Catholic League Most Valuable Player, poured in a career-high 37 points while a bevy of teammates (senior James McGovern 18 points, senior Jack Henkels 10 points, senior Mark Scarlett two huge three-pointers for a career-high six points) chipped in huge contributions to thwart the sharp-shooting Explorers, who were led by seniors Najee Walls’ (29 points) and Dave Krmpotich (20).