Saints and Cahillites advance to title game

On Wednesday night, The Palestra played host to the Philadelphia Catholic League semifinals. Roman Catholic and Archbishop Carroll squared off in the evening’s opening contest, with Neumann-Goretti and La Salle Prep playing in the nightcap. A detailed write-up, including a half-dozen scouting reports, is inside.

The evening’s first contest saw Derrick Jones and Archbishop Carroll take on Coach Chris McNesby and Roman Catholic. Carroll jumped out to a significant early lead behind the play of UNLV commit Derrick Jones. After a quarter, Carroll led 12-3, and that lead expanded to 16-4 before Roman Catholic made a run. Tied at 22 with just seconds left to play in the opening half, Jones nailed a catch-and-shoot three to give Carroll a 25-22 halftime lead.

After an evenly-played third quarter, Manny Taylor, Nazeer Bostick, and most notably, Tony Carr, made huge plays for Roman Catholic in the game’s final stanza. Tony Carr buried an elbow jumper to give Roman a 59-58 lead with just over a minute to play. 2016 Roman Catholic forward, in for fouled-out Manny Taylor, then calmly sunk two free throws to extend Roman’s lead to 61-58. Carroll junior guard Josh Sharkey saw his three at the buzzer go hard off the backboard and ricochet off harmlessly. The Cahillites escaped and advanced to Monday night’s title game.

Derrick Jones was not only the biggest name in the game, but easily the most well-known name playing at The Palestra all night. Jones, a 6’6 forward headed to UNLV, is one of the most athletic players in all of high school basketball. That athleticism was on display Wednesday night. He is quite simply going to outjump 99% of the players he faces off against. He finished with 23 points on the night, with most of his damage done at or above the rim. During the second half though, Jones was shaky from both the field and the line, at one point going 1-6 with two airballs. An elite athlete, a versatile wing, and a tough competitor, Jones will need to continue to add to his frame and his perimeter skills to reach his potential at UNLV. His upside is still through the roof. He has NBA athleticism and the other tools are there, just need honing..

While Jones was the biggest name on the court in the Roman-Carroll game, and he did score a game-high 23 points, the performance of the nigh went to 2016 Roman guard Tony Carr. Carr, simply put, was sensational. He had a team-high 17 points, to go along with 7 rebounds and 4 assists. He has ideal size at around 6’3 or 6’4 as a point guard. His head is constantly up, he makes plays in transition and in the half court. With the game on the line, he canned a tough pull-up 17 footer. If he can start to hit that shot with regularity, he isn’t just a high-major player, but he is the highest level of high major player. Temple, Penn State, and Maryland are among the biggest players in his recruitment at the moment, but if last night is any indication, his recruitment will start to take off at the elite, national level.

Unfortunately for fans in attendance, and in particular for Archbishop Carroll, 2017 guard David Beatty spent most of the second half in foul trouble. Carroll was a different team with him on the bench. Beatty is one of the better sophomore guards in Philadelphia. He spent the summer playing up on Philly Pride’s 17u squad despite being a 2017. Beatty is a 6’4 combo guard, able to play the point or slide over to the two with Josh Sharkey at the point . Beatty is a terrific athlete, but was most impressive Wednesday knocking down deep perimeter jumpers. He finished with just 9 points due to limited play in the second half. The sky is the limit for Beatty though, and Wednesday was just a glimpse into a bright future.

The unsung hero for Roman Catholic was senior big man Manny Taylor. Taylor, who is headed to Rutgers for football, used his huge frame on the boards and also in the high post down the stretch. Taylor finished with 10 points, including four huge points down the stretch. Those points came off the offensive glass. Taylor also corralled another offensive board late. He also had a sensational pass out of the high post to a streaking Nazeer Bostick, who finished at the rim. It was the best I’ve ever seen Taylor play. He and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree should have quite a battle Monday night.

The night’s second and final game saw the Neumann-Goretti Saints take on La Salle Prep. La Salle reached the semifinals courtesy of a last-second win over St. Joe’s Prep last Friday. The Saints entered with just one loss on the year, to the aforementioned Roman Catholic. Anyone expecting a relatively easy Neumann-Goretti win (I count myself among them), was in for a pleasant surprise.

La Salle opened up playing stall-ball, taking time off the clock, and making it a low-possession game. The Saints, on the flip side, pushed the tempo any chance they could. At the end of one, Neumann held a slim 15-11 lead, and the halftime lead of 32-29 was even tighter. During the second half, the Saints pulled away several times only to have La Salle shoot themselves right back into the game. A Najee Walls corner three actually made it a one-possession game late, but Neumann’s guards hit their free throws and allowed Coach Carl Arrigale and company to advance to yet another Catholic League championship games. The Saints earned a hard-fought 70-65 win over La Salle.

There were so many bright spots in this game to write about. While Neumann’s guards were sensational, the biggest epiphany to me was the play of Colgate-bound David Krmpotich. The lanky 6’7 forward finished with a team-high 22 points for La Salle, and he scored every which way. He is sneaky athletic, as he showed on a huge two-handed put-back jam. He can step away from the basket and make you pay with his jumper. He is so savvy around the rim as well, capable of playing with his back to the basket as well as cutting around the rim. Krmpotich could very well end up being your classic late-bloomer that a school steals. Colgate may have gotten one here. He was one of the best players on the Palestra floor all night.

At any point over the last decade, I could write about how talented, tough, and poised Neumann-Goretti’s guards are. While the names change, the simply fact remains that Carl Arrigale has a stable of guards to throw at you. This year’s team is no different, with senior Lamarr Kimble, juniors Vaughn Covington and Zane Martin, and sophomore Quade Gree. On Wednesday, Green, Kimble, and Martin combined for 61 of Neumann-Goretti’s 70 points. Let that sink in for a minute.

Quade Green, the silky-smooth sophomore combo guard led all scorers with 26 points. Green buried three after three after three after three right in front of Villanova headcoach Jay Wright and two of his assistants. Green was scintillating. The game comes so effortlessly to him; just a quick flick of the wrist and he can knock shots down with range that appears endless. More than just a jump-shooter, Quade had the move of the night when he put it behind his back off the crossover in the lane and then finished with a nifty floating reverse lay-up. Green is a player, and his stock will just continue to elevate over the next two seasons. He put on a show for all in attendance Wednesday night.

As great as Quade Green was Wednesday night, in crunch time, the ball wasn’t in his hands. It was in the hands of St. Joe’s commit, and Neumann senior, Lamarr Kimble. The 6-foot lead guard craftily yo-yoed the ball between his legs in the game’s final seconds before driving to the rim, where he would get fouled, hit both free throws, and seal things. There were quite a few St. Joe’s hoodies in the crowd Wednesday night, and most of those faces had smiles plastered ear-to-ear as they watched their future point guard. Simply put, Kimble is a model of efficiency. He is a leader. And he is a winner. He finished with 23 points on the night, doing all of his damage at the free throw line, where he was 9-10, and mid-range in. Kimble’s seven buckets came on an array of tough finished around the rim or off pull-ups and floaters. A capable three-point shooter, he didn’t attempt any from downtown on the night.

Point guard play has been an issue for the St. Joe’s Hawks this year. It’s tough to watch Kimble and not think that the future is in good hands. He uses both hands around the rim, has tremendous basketball IQ, sees the floor well, and doesn’t turn it over. He is unflappable. ‘Fresh’ was money from the free throw line down the stretch and handled all sorts of ball pressure without the least bit of difficulty. While he doesn’t possess elite athleticism or outstanding size, what he does possess is an understanding of what it takes to win games. He did that last night as he has his entire high school career. He will bring that to Hawk Hill next season, and St. Joe’s fans should be ecstatic about that.

There are few places a Philadelphia hoops fanatic would rather be on a frigid February night than the Palestra for the Catholic League semis. Roman Catholic, La Salle, Archbishop Carroll, and Neumann-Goretti put on a show for what was close to a sold-out crowd. The Palestra is the place to be Monday night for Roman Catholic-Neumann-Goretti. In their lone match-up this year, Roman gave Neumann their only loss of the season. The rematch Monday is for all the marbles

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