Philadelphia High School Basketball
Turning the Neumann/N-G vs. Roman Tide
Arrigale took over at was then St. John Neumann for the 1998-99
season, the school owned 10 Catholic League championships while Roman owned
20. Over the past 22 seasons, what's now Ss. Maria Goretti has claimed 11 titles to
six for Roman and the Pirates/Saints have won 27 of the teams' 46 meetings.
This page offers stories and assorted facts over the series' past 46 games.
Thanks for the help: Gayton Bongiorno.
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This story was written after
John Huggins led Roman past Neumann for the 2000 Catholic League
championship . . .
By Ted Silary
was written in 2009, when N-G frolicked its way to the Catholic
League championship with an 86-53 win over Roman . . .
"Well, so far," he added with a smile. "But this is all I'm really thinking about. "
Duren and Ss. Neumann-Goretti High did not merely win the Catholic League basketball championship last night in front of maybe 7,000 spectators at the Palestra. The Saints stormed to it. Bullied their way to it. Took no prisoners en route to seizing it.
The final was N-G 86, Roman Catholic 53. And the outcome was "final" long before 32 minutes elapsed.
It was the 15th CL title for Neumann-Goretti (and its forerunners), and its fifth this decade (three against Roman).
Primary among the major reasons for the decisive victory was Duren, a junior point guard.
Another junior guard, Tony Chennault, who already has committed to Wake Forest, is the Saints' best-known player and was selected the coaches' MVP of the Blue Division. But at the west end of the floor, as they awaited their chance for TV interviews, Chennault walked over to Duren, put his arm around his shoulder and roared, "That's your MVP right here! "
Let us recount the reasons . . .
Penetrating, and finishing, pretty much at will, Duren scored 26 points, shooting 10-for-16 total with a pair of treys. For most of the night, though Mustafaa Jones and Lamin Fulton provided occasional help, Duren also stalked Roman's leading scorer, junior guard Rakeem "Rahk" Brookins. And there's no other way to put it - stalked.
Though Brookins did finish with 24 points, he needed to launch 31 shots from the floor. Only eight succeeded, he went 2-for-11 on treys and during a period that spanned late first quarter to early fourth, he hit just two of 18 attempts.
"I was ready to play him,'' said Duren, who added six rebounds, five assists and five steals. "I knew defense was going to be much more important than offense.
"I tried to make things as uncomfortable for him as I could. I don't know if I did that great on him, but it didn't seem like he was making too many shots. He's a great player. If you think you're going to win, you can't let great players beat you.
"I drank a lot of water all day. I knew I'd be working hard tonight. "
Muffling Brookins was paramount because he was Roman's only headliner in uniform. The senior franchise guard, Villanova signee Maalik Wayns, was unavailable, as he has been for several weeks since undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
Wayns saw his doctor at 4 p.m. yesterday. Thumbs down.
"He was cleared to run and jump, but not to play," said coach Chris McNesby. "The doctor said he couldn't even suit up. We were prepared for that likelihood. We saw the chances he'd play as maybe 75-25, against. "
During warmups, wearing a Boston Red Sox hat, Wayns stood at the back of the layup line and offered encouragement to his teammates. N-G's fans at one point during the game chanted toward Wayns and Roman's bench, "How's your kneecap? How's your kneecap? ''
Long after the game ended, Wayns and Chennault could be spotted near midcourt, having a lengthy and friendly discussion.
Let's say Wayns had been given the go-ahead. Would Duren have guarded him?
"Don't know,'' Tyreek said. "We never even talked about it. The whole time in practice, we just assumed he wouldn't be playing. Coming off an operation that fast? Would have been tough. "
"If he'd been out there, we would have dealt with it," said coach Carl Arrigale. "But we didn't expect to see him. ''
Duren scored 15 of his points in a 35-23 first half. Then and later, almost every single time he exploded past a defender, he did so to his left. He's righthanded.
"I don't know why people haven't figured that out," he said, laughing. "I guess they think I'll come back to my right hand. But I like going left. I'm comfortable with that. Until people start stopping me, I'll keep doing it. "
Roman missed 31 of its first 43 shots from the floor. Aside from Brookins, only freshman Andre Horne reached double figures in points (15). Koron Reed and Kevin Regan did claim nine rebounds apiece.
After a slow start, Chennault got rolling and finished with 19 points (in addition to seven rebounds and four assists). Danny Stewart (16) and Niagara-bound Andre "Scooter'' Gillette (14) also hit double digits while Gillette added nine boards and four blocks.
Deep subs were on the court as the final buzzer sounded. They scrambled up into the the east stands to celebrate with cheerleaders and buddies (mostly cheerleaders; they grow 'em smart in South Philly) and soon, the net was being cut down. It wound up around Gillette's neck since he's the only senior member of the rotation.
The championship plaque, of course, made the rounds and when it got to Duren, he exclaimed while pressing it against his chest, "I need to hold that tight! "
Then he kissed it.
Arrigale loved soaking in the various scenes.
"The kids really didn't like what happened to us last year,'' he said, referring to a loss in the quarterfinals. "They dedicated themselves to doing this going back to last summer. They worked hard. Stayed together. "
Won together, too. In quite the breeze. *