Unstoppable Saints hungry for another
Neumann-Goretti senior Billy Shank is hoping to take one more snip of the Catholic League championship net before he graduates. The guard enjoyed a fantastic season that earned him an All-Catholic selection.
To help to bring a fourth straight Catholic League boys’ basketball championship to Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School, 1736 S. 10th St., senior guard Billy Shank knew he had to become a lethal leader and an even surer shooter.
The Fishtown resident showed his progression Friday, helping the Saints to a 77-51 home quarterfinal victory over Springfield’s Cardinal O’Hara by hitting five three-pointers on his way to 22 points. The East Passyunk Crossing ballers’ record-expanding 68th consecutive conquest of parochial opposition sent coach Carl Arrigale’s squad to last night’s Palestra semifinal against Center City’s Roman Catholic, which began after press time.
“We have so much young talent, but [senior forward] Derrick [Stewart] and I consider this our team,” Shank said.
The unit’s combined skills had resulted in a 21-3 mark before the meeting with Roman.
“Carl told me I would need to do more, like setting up more plays,” the second-year starter said of the resident of the 2900 block of South 15th Street, who in December claimed his 300th career win.
Improved defense helped Shank to amass more steal and start fast breaks. His comfort level when handling the ball should assist his transition to the college ranks, where he intends to play point guard.
“I knew I had to evolve into something other than a shooter,” he said.
Shank loved his customary role Friday, though, as he scored 13 first-quarter points. Stewart, a Rider University signee, deposited seven points and skied for 11 rebounds. Sophomore guard Ja’Quan Newton and junior forward John Davis each scored 15 in the rout.
The competitors had figured to have a more difficult time last night against Roman, which gave the Saints their closest league battle Jan. 22. The locals left Philadelphia University with a 63-57 triumph, and Shank promised the rematch would likely be similarly tight.
“Playoff games come down to handling pressure,” he said. “We are hoping our experience gives us an edge.”
He and his mates have needed to be cheerleaders for the girls’ outfit, as coach Stephen Skedzielewski’s troops compiled a 17-5 regular season record to snare the league’s third seed. Georgetown University-bound senior center Omowumi “Ki-ke” Rafiu and senior guard Maureen Fiocca paced the ladies against often daunting challengers to score 10 wins from 12 divisional contests. The success bred Feb. 16’s home quarterfinal tilt against Lansdale Catholic.
An impressive first half gave the athletes a 35-15 edge, and they would march to a 61-44 win to earn a trip to Philadelphia University to face Archbishop Caroll, last year’s Catholic League and State AAA Championship runner-up. The Tuesday game ended 55-41 in favor of the Radnor school.
The girls’ team at Prep Charter High School, 1928 Point Breeze Ave., features Kahleah Copper, a senior forward who will soon aim to wow Rutgers University’s fans. The North Philadelphian will participate in the McDonald’s All-America Game March 28 in Chicago, but she wants to end winter by defending her West Passyunk school’s Public League title before beginning to enjoy the spring.
Coach Paul Rieser’s group had registered a 22-3 record before last night’s Public League semifinal against Engineering & Science at South Philadelphia High School, 2101 S. Broad St. Regularly destroying foes, the Huskies settled for a 62-52 Class AAA championship defeat of Freire Charter Feb. 16, in which Copper led the ladies with 14 points and 11 rebounds. She and her mates outplayed their adversaries in the second half at Benjamin Franklin High School to add another accolade to a season that saw them capture December’s KSA Tournament in Florida. The Lady Huskies also clinched a spot in the District 12 Class AAA City Title game against Neumann-Goretti 6 p.m. March 2, with location to be determined.
The boys’ team at Prep Charter moved from Division C to Division A this year and could not muster enough might against top competition. The squad won four of 11 divisional games but earned a spot in the preliminary playoffs. Sophomore forward and leading scorer Raheem Liggins tallied five points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots in Feb. 7’s 45-36 home denial of Hope Charter. The Huskies fell in their Class AA playoff opener two days later against host Delaware Valley Charter. Senior guard Laquan Stephens scored 18 points in the 61-58 setback, which left his team 6-16.
Division A’s Southern captured only two wins from 11 league games yet likewise picked up a preliminary playoff win Feb. 7. The Rams relied on senior guard and leading scorer Malakiah Hunter, who finished with 28 points, to secure a 54-41 home win over Northeast. He scored 14 two days later in a Class AAAA first-round road meeting against Fels, which won 43-42 to drop the Lower Moyamensing school to a 4-15 record.
The Edward Bok High School, 1910 S. Ninth St., Wildcats beat back 11 of 12 Division D rivals to collect a 15-4 regular-season mark and the division title. Even with home support, the East Passyunk Crossing crew could not fend off Dobbins in Feb. 7’s preliminary playoff. Senior guard and leading scorer Sean McLean stroked 14 points in the 67-53 loss.
The teams from The Academy at Palumbo, 1100 Catharine St.; Girard Academic Music Program, 2136 Ritner St.; The Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, 901 S. Broad St.; and Universal Audenried Charter High School, 3301 Tasker St., failed to make the playoffs but were not without a couple combined highlights. Averaging 22.8 points per game, Palumbo senior guard Demetrius Davenport ranked sixth in the city, and GAMP junior guard Tobias Stokes stroked eight three-pointers in Jan. 28’s 77-46 victory over host Friends Select.