This weekend in Hershey, five Catholic basketball teams will try to win a state championship. It says here that all five will find a way to win, though because two games are happening tonight, we’ll provide an update next week.
In the class AA state championship Friday afternoon, Neumann-Goretti’s girls literally dominated themselves to a state title. After forcing more than 20 turnovers in the first half alone, the Saints won their second straight title, 65-28, over District 5 champion North Star.
The lone blemish on the Saints’ season was a loss to Archbishop Wood in the Catholic League championship. Other than that, Neumann-Goretti finished with records of 29-1 this year, 59-1 over the past two seasons, and 88-2 over the past three.
The Saints sped to a 43-18 halftime lead and coasted the rest of the way. University of Syracuse-bound Alisha Kebbe scored a game-high 20 points, and Chyna Nixon chipped in with 14 more.
For those Catholic teams remaining in the tournament, victories will occur.
Cardinal O’Hara will take on Cumberland Valley in the AAAA girls final Friday night. The Lions have won 14 of their last 15 and are playing with immense confidence.
This is the second state championship visit for O’Hara, which lost in the 2009 final. Sophomore Kenzie Gardler is one of four terrific guards for the Lions, who support one of the area’s top offenses.
For Cumberland, forward Morgan Baughman and guard Katie Jekot lead the way. Baughman averages 13 points and has hit 33 three-point shots in the last 10 games. Jekot averages 20 points.
This is the fourth year in a row that Cumberland finds itself in the finals, and they won the past two.
Prediction: Too much speed for Cumberland, which will be denied a three-peat. Final score: Cardinal O’Hara 57, Cumberland 55
On Friday night at 8, Neumann-Goretti’s boys will try to win their sixth AAA state title in seven years. The Saints have won the past two.
While their opponent, Mars High School (23-6), boasts significant senior leadership and relies on high-scoring sophomore Rob Carmody, Neumann-Goretti counters with a starting lineup of guards Vaughn Covington, Quade Green, Zane Martin and Rasheed Browne, and center Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree.
Since losing the Catholic League championship to Roman, and then again losing in the district championship, the Saints have renewed their enthusiasm.
Prediction: That should lead them to a comfortable 71-53 win.
On Saturday at 6 p.m., Archbishop Wood will play in the final for the third straight year. The Vikings face a team from District 10, Villa Maria (not the Villa Maria Academy in Immaculata), which is undefeated at 29-0. Point guard Anna Sweny and shooting guard Sarah Agnello will give the Vikings difficulties.
However, Wood has some big performers of its own, namely 1,000-point scorer Bailey Greenberg. Both teams play very stiff defense.
Prediction: Any team that can beat Neumann-Goretti is good enough to beat an undefeated team. Wood beat Neumann-Goretti in the Catholic League championship, and the Vikings will defeat Villa Maria, 47–42.
Saturday night at 8, Roman Catholic faces District 8 champion Allderdice. Roman’s foe revolves around twins James and Tim Jackson. James scored 32 points in the semifinals win while Tim blanketed the opponent’s best player and held him 15 points below his season average.
Why will Roman win? Guard Tony Garr, guard Nazeer Bostick, guard D’Andre Villmar and forwards Lamar Stevens and Paul Newman have been on a mission since the midway point of the season and come in with a winning streak of 16 games.
Prediction: Their season will end with a 17-game winning streak in a 67-66 victory.
John Knebels can be reached at email@example.com.