HERSHEY – The beginning was an unmitigated disaster. The middle was cause for hope. The end was a masterpiece.
Tally it all up, and Roman Catholic became the PIAA Class AAAA state champion Saturday night at Hershey’s magnificent Giant Center. The Cahillites defeated Pittsburgh juggernaut Allderdice High School, 73-62, for their second straight state title. (See a photo gallery here.)
The losing team appeared stunned at the end. The winners? Didn’t seem all that surprised.
“I’m not trying to be arrogant, but I’m not surprised,” said junior Dakquan Davis. “We have been playing great basketball since the Catholic League playoffs. I don’t think any player on this team doubted that we would be in the situation tonight.”
Davis exited the bench to provide the Cahillites (27-4) a boost after Allderdice (28-2), riding a 24-game winning streak, coldcocked the defending state champs with a 10-0 run to open the game.
The Cahillites weren’t quite knocked out, but they were staggering. They regained their balance by lessening their deficit to a somewhat more manageable 17-10 after one quarter.
“We’ve done that a few times this year,” said McNesby. “Sometimes it takes us a little bit to settle in.”
The second and third quarters were a completely different story. The Cahillites outscored the dragons by 23-14 in the second quarter and led, 33-31, at halftime. In the third, a 22-13 explosion allowed Roman some breathing room at 55-44.
Although Allderdice was within the confines of a possible comeback, the game was over. Adding to the drama was a series of high-flying dunks by senior Lamar Stevens, the same Lamar Stevens who had buoyed Roman to a Catholic League championship win over Neumann-Goretti a few weeks earlier.
While playing all 32 minutes, the 6-foot, 7-inch Stevens was spectacular. In addition to delighting the crowd of 5,265 with his highlight-reel slams, Stevens scored 27 points and grabbed seven rebounds. He connected on 11 of 12 shots from the free-throw line.
“I felt it was time for me to step up and carry my teammates,” said Stevens. “Do whatever I can to help get the team the win. I put that on my shoulders game in and game out to always be there when it’s crunch time. I take a lot of pride in that. It’s something I want to keep carrying into college.”
Next year, Stevens will join teammates Tony Carr and Nazeer Bostick at Penn State University. That should bode well for the Nittany Lions. Bostick, the star of the 2014-15 Catholic League championship over Neumann-Goretti, contributed 15 points, five rebounds and three assists in 30 minutes. Carr, arguably the most polished of the trio, added 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
“We can’t wait to get started,” said Carr. “But we’re going to enjoy this first.”
They should. They earned it.
John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.