John Knebels

Sports Columnist

The current Catholic League basketball standings could imitate Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities.”

The first seven teams have records from 8-0 to 6-2. The other seven? None has a winning record.

“Things can change because there is still a lot of basketball left,” said Neumann-Goretti junior Derrick Stewart. “A lot of it is trying to get yourself in the best position you can, and then staying hot through the playoffs.”

The 6-6 Stewart is averaging 15 points and usually finishes with double figures in rebounding for the Saints, who despite starting four underclassmen remain undefeated (through Feb. 1) in the Catholic League at 8-0. Senior Lamin Fulton leads N-G with a 19-point scoring average; sophomore John Davis adds 14.5 per game.

Anyone who thought that Neumann-Goretti was preparing for a rebuilding year after winning a state championship with a 30-1 record was obviously mistaken.

“We don’t worry about how young anyone is,” Stewart said. “We really don’t. Age is just a number. If you can play, you can play.”

Another team that has displayed no ill effects of relying on youth is St. Joseph’s Prep. An underclassmen-dominated rotation has anchored a 6-2 record, which has the Hawks tied with Father Judge, Roman Catholic and Archbishop Wood in a Catholic League fourth-place logjam.

A pair of sophomores – Steve Vasturia and Miles Overton – has combined with junior Gene Williams to produce 21 games in double-digit offense in 24 opportunities.

Meanwhile, the Prep’s 68-year-old coach just keeps on keepin’ on.

It seems like just yesterday that Speedy Morris took over as head coach of the Hawks. Actually, it was a decade ago.

On Jan. 31, Morris raised his record at the Prep to an astounding 212-63 after the Hawks defeated West Catholic. Even more telling was that Morris had just won his 600th game in 26 years of high school coaching, most of which occurred at Roman Catholic, where Morris amassed a sensational 347-82 mark in 14 seasons.

That no fanfare enveloped the occasion either before or after was precisely how Morris preferred to celebrate the huge milestone.

“The kids were very happy for me,” Morris said. “That was enough.”

After a 1-2 start, the Prep has won five straight, including a victory over 7-2 La Salle, which is tied with Archbishop Carroll for second place.

Gwynedd-Mercy Academy also had a night to remember Jan. 31. Although the Monarchs may not win a Catholic Academies League championship this year, they will never forget what happened on Monday night.

Playing before a larger-than-usual crowd because it was senior night, the Monarchs edged visiting Sacred Heart Academy 56-54 in storybook fashion.

Trailing by a seemingly insurmountable 43-31 heading into the fourth quarter, the Monarchs exploded for 25 points in the final stanza and clinched the triumph when junior Caroline Shimrock grabbed a rebound and knocked it through the hoop as the buzzer sounded.

“That,” an elated Shimrock said, “is something I’ll never forget.”

En route to a game-high 21 points, Shimrock scored 10 in the decisive frame. Teammate Jenna Hopkins added 16 and Morgan Sheridan nine for the winners. For Sacred Heart, Hannah Rush (15 points), Erin Rush (12), Jayni Webster (10) and Nicki Heisinger (nine) paced the offense.

John Knebels can be reached at