By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS)—It has already been a historical year for the boys and girls’ basketball programs at Neumann-Goretti. The school became the first to capture boys and girls Philadelphia Catholic League basketball titles in the same year since Cardinal O’Hara did it in 1968.
With the PIAA state championship tournament underway, both girls and boys Neumann-Goretti teams could possibly make even more history.
Neumann-Goretti could become the first school in the Philadelphia area to pull off a very rare trifecta: Winning the Catholic League, District 12 and PIAA state championships.
Both teams are two-thirds of the way there, taking the Catholic League and District 12 (or city championship) titles.
Archbishop Carroll was the last team to win girls and boys state basketball championships in the same year.
In 2009, the first year the Philadelphia Catholic League competed in the PIAA, the state’s high school governing body, Carroll’s boys and girls’ teams won PIAA state championships, joining an exclusive group, with the Aliquippa boys and girls in 1989 and York Catholic boys and girls in 1979 to accomplish the feat.
Here’s where Neumann-Goretti can set a new standard: Carroll’s boys did not win the Catholic League that year. Neumann-Goretti did.
And here’s the twist: Guess what team could possibly stand in the way of the Neumann-Goretti boys (24-4) from winning the PIAA Class AAA state crown?? Carroll—in the state semifinals.
So far, the Pats (23-4) haven’t achieved what they planned this season. They have an excellent coach, Paul Romanczuk, arguably the best player in the area in Derrick Jones (rivaling Neumann-Goretti’s Miami-bound Ja’Quan Newton) and revenge on their minds. Carroll has lost to the Saints twice this year, 64-58 during the regular season and 67-62 in the Catholic League semifinals. If presented the chance, Jones himself will probably be seeking a little redemption after scoring 11 points on 3-for-13 shooting in the semifinal loss to the Saints.
It is an eerily similar scenario to what occurred in ’09, when Neumann-Goretti beat out Carroll during the regular season and in the playoffs, only to lose to the Pats, 70-65, in the PIAA Class AAA state quarterfinals.
Can Carroll do it again?
First, Neumann-Goretti will have to get by Allentown Central Catholic Friday night in the state quarterfinals and Carroll has an even tougher task in District 12 runner-up Philadelphia Electrical (18-11), which is also on Friday night.
As for the Neumann-Goretti girls, no team in the PIAA Class AA seems able to stop them. The nationally ranked Saints (No. 9 by CBS/MaxPreps) are 27-0 and have beaten their first two state playoff opponents by an average of 28 points. What’s more, no team has come within 10 points of the Saints in over a month, other than Archbishop Wood in the Catholic League championship, 55-46. The last team to really push the Saints was Bonner-Prendergast, 58-56, back on January 28.
Neumann-Goretti girls won their first Catholic League title since the 1978, when the school was St. Maria Goretti.
More history awaits these programs.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.