Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Roman Catholic wrapped up an impressive weekend with a statement win that’s got them sitting atop the ultra-competitive Catholic League.
First, there was a win on Friday at La Salle, previously undefeated in conference play–including a win over Neumann-Goretti that snapped a 73-game conference win streak for the Saints. They then ran their record to 9-3 (4-0) on Sunday with another road victory, 62-52 at Archbishop Carroll.
“I was just kind of concerned that could we get up again, on the road,” Roman Catholic coach Chris McNesby told CoBL after the Carroll win. “We’re a young team…sometimes those guys don’t understand how to go back-to-back with the urgency and the intensity. They brought it Friday night–to bring it again, that’s hard.”
It was a fairly convincing victory for Roman Catholic, who only trailed once all game, at 5-2. They would lead by seven after one quarter, and after Carroll tied 90 seconds into the second, Catholic would lead for the remainder of the contest.
Assists on all seven buckets in the second quarter led to a 33-23 halftime lead, which would grow to 13 by the end of the third quarter. The Cahillies made all 10 of their free-throws in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
Though juniors Shep Garner (22 points) and Rashann London (21) dominated the scoring for the Cahilites, sophomore guard Traci Carter had quite a performance despite adding only four points to his team’s tally. Carter–who McNesby said was averaging nearly 5.5 steals per game to go along with his –had six assists, five rebounds and five steals, running the Roman Catholic offensive attack while also tasked with guarding Carroll’s Nick Jones at the other end.
“Traci did a heck of a job,” McNesby said. “I told him ‘You have the hardest job on the court.’ He’s running the team, he’s got the ball in his hands, he was guarding Nick Jones…who’s a jet.”
Jones, a 5-11 sophomore, was starting at point guard in place of senior Yosef Yacob, a Binghamton signee who missed the first game of his four-year career with the flu. The Patriots (9-3, 2-2) certainly missed their starter but Jones did his best to help them overcome Yacob’s absence, dropping in a game-high 23 points, including three 3-pointers.
“This is good for him, this is growth for him, 32 minutes at the point guard position,” Archbishop Carroll coach Paul Romanczuk told CoBL after the game. “That’s something he’s going to have to do going forward or if Yosef gets in foul trouble or something, so it’s good from that aspect.
“I just don’t want to play without Yosef anymore, you know?” he quipped.
Both teams were without one usual starter due to the flu, as Cahillite forward TreVaughn Wilkerson (5.5 ppg) was also absent; 6-foot-5 junior Carnell McGirt got the start in his place. That gave the Patriots a fairly significant size advantage in the frontcourt with 6-6 Derrick Jones and 6-9 Ernest Aflakpui.
“I thought we did the best we could,” McNesby said. “A lot of the game today we played with four guards, and we really played Derrick Jones with some guards, and we just tried to get a lot of help and help him along, so it kind of worked out pretty good.”
Jones, who played power forward last year but is working on a transition out to the wing, is one of the more intriguing prospects in the area. A super-athletic sophomore, Jones had nine rebounds and four blocks on Sunday but was limited to six points on the offensive end, eight below his season average; he also injured his left shoulder with a minute remaining in the first half and had to be helped off though he would return play the entire third and fourth quarters.
“I don’t know how much he got set back by that. He can hurt you on the glass, he can hurt you on the perimeter, and when we had our guards on him, that really helped. He didn’t go inside as much as I thought but we were there to help so it was good,” McNesby said.
Aflakpui, a Ghanan important who’s still very new to the game, had six points and four rebounds; his potential alone has many D-I coaches very interested in his development. Joe Mostardi had 14 points as the only other Patriot besides Nick Jones in double figures.