The result was obviously not what Roman Catholic wanted. But with time comes perspective.

After the Cahillites lost an overtime thriller to Reading, 63-56, in the PIAA Class 6A state championship on March 25 at the Giant Center in Hershey, PA, they huddled inside the locker room for much longer than usual and emerged obviously emotional.

A few days after returning home, Roman star senior Xzayvier Brown compared the state loss with the Cahillites’ Catholic League championship, which they captured on February 27.

“I think the season was good and great for the younger players and players who are new to the Catholic League experience,” said Brown, who next year will join senior teammate Anthony Finkley at St. Joseph’s University. “I think the PCL regular season is when we really found out what type of team we were going to be after losing two of our final four games. I think that made us focus and ready to win a championship.”

In states, however, transfer rules denied two senior starters – Jermai Stewart-Herring and Erik Oliver-Bush – an opportunity to compete. The Cahillites were still able to win a District 12 title and then defeat four straight state tournament opponents before losing to Reading.

“States was a new challenge, knowing we didn’t have two starters,” said Brown. “That made it fun and interesting. Playing for something when we weren’t looked as favorites. The state championship was a great game by a good team who played hard.

“I think this game showed we missed our two starters. Overall, I was proud of the way our team handled adversity throughout the whole year.”
In the final, the Cahillites trailed for most of the game but forced a 53-53 tie when, with the crazed Reading crowd doing everything humanly possible to distract him, Brown connected on the second of two free throws with 1.7 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.

“I wasn’t really thinking about the foul shots because I know I put the work in, so I honestly thought I was going to make both,” said Brown, who led all scorers with 23 points while adding four rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block. “I realized the first one went in and out, and I really didn’t get too mad because it went in and out. It wasn’t like I flat out missed it.

“So I honestly was like, I let Reading off the hook, and just stepped to the line confidently the second time. I knew I was going to make it. I didn’t even hear the noise.”

Roman coach Chris McNesby was proud of his team’s ability to overcome early deficits.

“That’s been them all year long,” said McNesby. “You never really feel like they’re down and there’s always a chance. And they’ve done it. It just kinda didn’t happen our way this time.

“We had an opportunity to play tonight as the last two teams to play in the state of Pennsylvania. It’s tough to lose, but we played as far as we could play. That in itself is a great year. You must have done some good things. These kids overcame a lot. What a run.”

Roman Catholic sophomore Shareef Jackson, who contributed 17 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks, and an assist, waxed philosophical after the tough defeat.

“Loss and victory goes hand in hand,” said Jackson. “Nobody ever in their life ever wins, wins, wins, and wins . . . it’s just impossible. It’s not gonna happen. Especially when you come up to a game like this, a championship, play with everything you have, and the other team comes out on top.

“It hurts, but you gotta realize, you played with everything you’ve got . . . You came out here and played as far as you could, and in the end they won, and I can’t really be mad at that.”

Brown offered a bit of philosophy of his own.

“It feels like just yesterday was my first game against Lansdale Catholic,” said Brown. “A little freshman with no experience or expectations.”

That “little freshman” ended up becoming a two-time, first-team All-Catholic, a Catholic League champion as a senior, a state champion as a junior, a state finalist as a senior, and a Division I basketball scholarship recipient.

Not too shabby.


(Contact John Knebels at or on Twitter @johnknebels.)