The Berks Catholic boys basketball team traveled to Archbishop Ryan High School in Philadelphia on Friday evening, where they would battle Neumann-Goretti, the state’s top ranked squad. What better way to celebrate the first Friday of lent than a biblical clash of two powerful teams, both named the Saints? Well played, PIAA.
Anyone from the outside could see that Berks Catholic would have their hands full, as they tried to stall a Neumann team that featured 3 NCAA Division I basketball commits, as well as one committed to play football at Syracuse. Most notable of the commits was Ja’Quan Newton, who will play collegiately at the University of Miami, under head coach Jim Larranaga.
As the first round clash got underway, Berks Catholic jumped out to a 5-2 lead after a Nana Foulland jump hook and a Connor Jack three-pointer. When the opening quarter came to a close, the two teams found themselves tied 11-11.
Berks Catholic managed to not only keep their heads above water, but also frustrate the heavily favored Neumann-Goretti team. Three Neumann starters found themselves on the bench with three fouls during the first half, many of which could be classified at “frustration fouls”. Berks Catholic did not surrender the lead until the 4 minute mark of the second quarter, as Neumann pulled ahead 17-15. As the horn sounded at the conclusion of first half, Neumann-Goretti held a 26-23 lead. As the teams headed to the locker room, several members of the Neumann-Goretti team, including coaches, could be seen shaking their heads, knowing that Berks Catholic was not going to go down without a fight.
Knowing their opponent’s grit and overall abilities, Neumann-Goretti came out much better prepared for the second half. In fact, Neumann, led by Ja’Quan Newton, Troy Harper, and Jamal Custis, would score the first 16 points of the second half, pushing their lead to 42-23 with just over three minutes left in the third quarter. Berks Catholic would do their best to answer, led by Isaac Lutz, who seemingly could not miss. After three hard fought quarters, Neumann-Goretti held a 52-36 lead over Berks Catholic. The 26 points surrendered during the third quarter, were far and away the most that Berks Catholic had allowed in a single frame this season. In fact, they had only allowed 20 one time previously on December 28 against Harrisburg.
With the final grains of sand falling in the hour glass of Berks Catholic’s season, Neumann-Goretti’s Troy Harper, a Campbell University signee, threw down an emphatic dunk to speed up the process. The huge slam put Neumann up 62-46, which would be the final score.
Neumann was led by Ja’Quan Newton, who finished with a team-high 14 points and 10 rebounds. Troy Harper would add 13 points, while Jamaal Custis poured in 10.
Berks Catholic got a game-high 21 points out of their senior big man Nana Foulland, while sophomore point guard Isaac Lutz tied his career best with 18 points.
Coach Esterly’s team finishes the season with a 24-6 mark. Berks Catholic will have plenty to look forward to as they return starters Pop Lacey, Isaac Lutz, and Connor Jack next season.