Every once in a while comes an athletic event during which you truly wish there could be no loser.
Never was that more true than Wednesday night, Feb. 17, at the Palestra.
In the second game of a boys’ Catholic League semifinal doubleheader, Roman Catholic edged Archbishop Carroll, 64-63. The victor was not decided until the last millisecond, when league MVP Ryan Daly hoisted up a prayer from the deep left wing that bounced off the rim as the final buzzer sounded.
“I’m proud of our players,” said Roman coach Chris McNesby. “This was a character win.”
Roman Catholic’s immediate reaction befitted relief more than celebration. On their three previous possessions, Roman had missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity from the foul line, keeping the Patriots within one basket of deciding their fate.
“It shouldn’t have come down to that,” said Roman Catholic senior Tony Carr, who willed the Cahillites to triumph by scoring seven of his game-high 24 points in a fourth quarter that began with Carroll leading, 53-49. “If we make our free throws there, we wouldn’t have had to sweat out those last seconds.”
Carr was quick to change gears and focus on the positives. With the game on the line, Roman’s defense stiffened considerably in the pivotal fourth stanza, with Carr being the vanguard. The first-team All-Catholic, who next season will play at Penn State University, also contributed eight rebounds and six assists. His short jumper with 2:18 remaining supplied Roman (20-4 overall) with a 62-61 lead, which swelled to 64-61 with 1:51 left when senior Lamar Stevens (13 points) picked up a loose ball at mid-court, raced toward the hoop, and ignited the Cahillites’ cheering section with a thunderous slam dunk.
After Carroll senior John Rigsby (14 points) scored on a drive to make it 64-63 with 35 seconds left, the Patriots purposely fouled Stevens, who missed his second straight one-and-one (Carr had missed one earlier) with 24.8 seconds showing on the clock.
Carroll (21-3), buoyed throughout the evening by senior Josh Sharkey’s sensational effort (15 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three steals), called timeout with 15.9 seconds left and tried to penetrate Roman’s stingy defense. To his credit, Daly (21 points) wanted the last shot, and he came close to sending his team home with a win.
“They’re a good team,” said Carr. “We had to work very hard for this win. It would have been devastating to lose.”
The Cahillites’ next challenge might prove to be insurmountable. On Monday night at the Palestra, the defending champion Cahillites will meet Neumann-Goretti at 8:45. Neumann-Goretti advanced by overwhelming Archbishop Ryan, 89-45, in the earlier semifinal, as junior Quade Green scored 31 points and senior Zane Martin added 30 – including his 1,000th-career point.
“They’re a great team,” said Roman senior Nazeer Bostick, who scored 14 points. “We’ll have our hands full. For now, we’ll enjoy this win for a little bit and then think about Neumann.”
John Knebels can be reached at email@example.com.