A sprint around the Philadelphia Catholic League during one of its traditionally busiest times . . .
After Conwell-Egan edged LaSalle by two points in last year’s PCL wrestling championship, most of the returning Eagles said that achieving a consecutive title would represent true greatness.
Competing in the league final on their own home mats, the Eagles successfully defended their crown with a 41-30 victory over LaSalle. It marked the first time a PCL team has won two straight since Father Judge in 2019 and 2020.
“It was a pretty great experience,” said Conwell-Egan coach Chuck Connors “LaSalle is an excellent team and it was a great match. Our boys really stepped up and competed. It was a true team effort.”
After pins by junior Kevin Bagnell (114 pounds), junior Steven Harris (127), and junior Charlie Robson (133), decisions by sophomore Jeff Spofford (107) and freshman Luke Grodzki (121), and a technical fall by senior Ricky Horger (139), Conwell-Egan raced to a commanding 29-0 lead.
The Explorers broke through with a pin by senior Matt Wiley at 145 and a forfeit win by junior Cormac Morrissey at 152, but senior Hayden Mann’s pin at 160 increased the Eagles’ edge to 35-12. Pins by LaSalle junior Nick Collucci at 172 and sophomore Dylan Clair at 189 added intrigue, but C-E junior Dante Burns sealed the title with a pin at 215.
“It was fun to wrestle just like any other competition,” said Mann. “It was just a little more cool because of the circumstances.”
With so many returning wrestlers, Conwell-Egan will remain a force to contend with.
“There is a pressure for a three-peat, but I think if we keep wrestling like how we have been, we should be able to get it done,” said Harris. “Last year, we had new freshmen and we really didn’t know each other very well, but this year we had another year together to build chemistry.”
Last night’s PCL girls’ basketball quarterfinals offered no upsets, but plenty of terrific individual performances.
The marquee contest featured four-seed Archbishop Carroll defeating visiting five-seed Neumann-Goretti, 57-41. Ahead 36-34 entering the fourth, the Patriots outscored the Saints by 21-7 in the pivotal fourth.
For the victors, the Wilson sisters were unstoppable. While senior Taylor poured in 33 points to go along with eight rebounds, junior Brooke added 17 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists. In the fourth quarter, Taylor scored 12; Brooke tallied six, all from the foul line.
“It’s win or you’re gone,” said Taylor, referring to Carroll’s poise throughout the final stanza. “Eight minutes in basketball could be 25 minutes. Play our game and we are going to come out on top.”
Added Brooke: “Our defense has been really strong this year. Then we have to carry that onto our offense. We have to wait and get the perfect shot.”
On Feb. 21 at St. Joseph University’s ‘University Campus’ in West Philadelphia, the Patriots will take on top-seed Lansdale Catholic. The Crusaders, with senior Gabby Casey scoring 17 points and junior Olivia Boccella adding 11, advanced with a 53-27 win over eight-seed Archbishop Ryan.
In the other semifinal, two-seed Archbishop Wood will meet three-seed and defending champion Cardinal O’Hara. Behind junior Ava Renninger’s 24 points in only three quarters, and a 10-point, 13-rebound, seven-block effort by senior Deja Evans, Wood upended seven-seed Conwell-Egan, 69-26. About 32 miles away, O’Hara got 23 points from sophomore Molly Rullo and stopped six-seed West Catholic, 54-29.
The stage is set for tonight’s boys’ PCL quarterfinals.
Top-seed Neumann Goretti hosts eight-seed Archbishop Carroll. Two-seed Roman Catholic welcomes seven-seed Cardinal O’Hara. Three-seed Archbishop Ryan faces visiting six-seed West Catholic, and four-seed host Archbishop Wood tangles with five-seed St. Joseph’s Prep.
“There is a lot of parody in the league this year,” said Neumann-Goretti coach Carl Arrigale, whose Saints snared last year’s championship, Arrigale’s league-record 12th. “There are a lot of nice teams to the point of, if you don’t play well, you will get beat. It should make for an interesting playoff.
“I remember there being a number of years where it was kind of wide open as far as who can win it, but not as many teams as this year provides.”
Roman Catholic coach Chris McNesby agrees.
“From top to bottom, this is as good as a league as I’ve seen,” said McNesby, who is trying to pilot the Cahillites to their first title since 2019 for what would be a league-record 33 overall. “The talent and coaching is amazing. There are eight teams that can win it . . . one of the best leagues in the country.”
INDOOR TRACK AND FIELD
In the PCL indoor track and field championship Feb. 13 at Lehigh University, LaSalle captured its eighth consecutive title with 126 points. Father Judge placed second with 100.5 points, followed by Roman Catholic with 80.
For the girls, Archbishop Ryan’s 176 points bettered Bonner-Prendergast’s 130. Ryan senior Shania Williams was named the meet’s field event Most Valuable Performer while freshman teammate Amina Smith garnered gold at 60 meters, 200 meters, and the long jump.
Roman Catholic featured junior MVP runner Julian Ward and senior MVP field standout Jak Kearney.
Archbishop Wood freshman Gwen Hamilton was named the MVP girls’ runner.
Contact John Knebels at email@example.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.
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