Garner leads Cahillites to District 12 crown

On Friday night at Saint Joseph's University, Roman Catholic and Martin Luther King squared off in the Pennsylvania District 12 Final. Behind Shep Garner's 22 points, Roman Catholic downed MLK 69-53.

With the score tied up at 33 each at the half, Roman Catholic used a strong third quarter, on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball to take control of the game. Up 43-40, Roman went on an 11-4 run to take a 54-44 lead, and they never looked back.

A handful of college coaches were in the house for Friday night's action. Saint Joseph's had head coach Phil Martelli and assistant Geoff Arnold were in attendance. Drexel head coach Bruiser Flint was flanked by two assistant coaches. New Xavier assistant, and Philadelphia native, Ashley Howard, was also at Hagan for the District 12 final.

2014 combo guard Shep Garner was the star on Friday night, and likely the reason for many of the college coaches in the gym. The 6'2 scorer did exactly that on Friday, pumping in 15 of his game-high 22 points in the first half. Roman Catholic head coach Chris McNesby told Hawk Hill Hardwood in December that Saint Joseph's, Penn State, and Rutgers were the three schools standing out for Garner, with St. Joe's at "the forefront" of his recruitment.

In the first half, Garner got going early. He opened up his scoring with a triple and followed it up with an and-one layin. Garner hit another three and also scored off the steal. Roman had 33 first-half points, and Garner accounted for 15 of them.

While Garner did his damage scoring the ball in the first half, he played the role of distributor in the second. He opened up the half by splitting two defenders and finding sophomore forward Manny Taylor in the post, where he was fouled and sent to the line. He followed that up with a steal that he took coast-to-coast for the layin. During the third quarter run that put Roman up double digits, Shep found senior Matt Rodden and sophomore Traci Carter for back-to-back threes. Shep shot 5-6 from the free throw line in the second half, ultimately finishing the game with 22 points.

Garner does not have blazing speed, nor is he explosively athletic. However, he is shifty with the ball, and owns a nasty crossover which enables him to blow by defenders. On Friday night, he was able to get into the lane at will, where he either finished at the rim, got to the line, or kicked to an open three-point shooter.

Another Roman player who currently holds a Hawk offer is 6-foot sophomore point guard Traci Carter. Carter was quiet in the first half, but came to life in the second. Traci was Philadelphia Catholic League 1st Team All-Defense this season, and he showed why against Martin Luther King. A tremendous defender, Carter does not lack for confidence. He also has a sweet stroke from three, and knocked down two on Friday night. Only a sophomore, Carter is seeing serious interest from the likes of St. Joe's, Penn State, Rutgers, and Xavier.

St. Joe's hosted Friday night's District 12 championship. With the head Hawk in attendance, Roman junior Shep Garner put on a show. Roman Catholic will now move on to the PIAA state playoffs, where they will face Norristown.

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