Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree slams home two points in the fourth quarter of Neumann-Goretti's win over Lancaster Mennonite in the PIAA Class 3A quarterfinals. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Michael Bullock (@thebullp_n)
READING — Carrying a mighty big lead when they checked back into their Santander Arena locker room early Sunday evening, Neumann-Goretti’s talented group of Saints just might have felt things were pretty well in hand.
Well, it turned out they weren’t.
In fact, Carl Arrigale’s bunch was forced to deal with a serious challenge when they returned to the floor for the third quarter. And when quarter No. 3 was over, the mighty big lead was all but gone. Concerns? Plenty of them.
Not for long.
Able to right themselves in the opening moments of the fourth quarter, Arrigale’s resilient Saints used a timely spurt to create separation and ease away from Lancaster Mennonite 69-56 in a PIAA Class 3A quarterfinal-round contest.
“It was just a weird game,” Arrigale admitted.
Neumann-Goretti (22-7) flashed plenty of offensive balance in locking up its latest success, popping five players into double figures while keeping alive its hopes for a fourth consecutive state championship and its seventh crown in eight seasons.
East Stroudsburg recruit Mike Millsip led Neumann-Goretti with 15 points, while Kentucky recruit Quade Green and Christian Ings each wound up with 14 for the Saints. The 6-0 Green, four steps ahead of everyone throughout, added nine assists.
Up next for the Saints in Tuesday’s semifinals will be another go-around with Del-Val Charter for the right to play later this week at Hershey’s Giant Center. That game likely will be part of a twinbill at Temple University’s Liacouras Center.
Del-Val Charter, which lost to Neumann-Goretti in the District 12 final, ousted District 1 champion Valley Forge 61-46 in Sunday’s other quarterfinal.
Villanova-bound Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree cranked out a double-double (13 points/11 rebounds) and blocked a half-dozen shots. Marcus Littles also reached double digits, scoring 10 of his 12 points before the halftime break arrived.
And when that halftime break finally arrived, Neumann-Goretti was sitting on a commanding 40-23 lead that had everyone convinced the game essentially was over. Everyone except those smoldering in the Lancaster Mennonite locker room.
With 6-3 senior Javan Terry tossing in 13 of his 21 points — Isaac Beers added 11 points for Geoff Groff’s Blazers (25-5) — Mennonite stormed back and made things extremely interesting for those on hand and extremely uncomfortable for those in the white unis.
“We lost our focus,” Arrigale said. “We lost our focus and when things didn’t go well early, I think we just didn’t handle it real well. Luckily, we were able to gather ourselves and kind of flip the thing over again. That’s a concern coming out of that locker room.
“If they win that quarter again, the game’s over and we get our [butts] handed to us and that’s not cool.”
While a 13-0 spurt to begin the third had the Lancaster-Lebanon League entry down by just four (40-36) — Terry’s and-one capped the timely salvo — an Ings trey (he finished with four 3s) interrupted Mennonite’s momentum … but only briefly.
Especially since Mennonite promptly ran off nine of the next 10 points, grabbing a 45-44 lead with 1:39 left in the quarter when Terry canned both ends of a two-shot look.
Millsip, with two of his future East Stroudsburg coaches on hand to see him play, erased that deficit quickly by turning a Green dish into a deep trey from the left corner.
Two more Terry freebies and a finish underneath were sandwiched around a Green drive to the tin, leaving the game in a 49-all tie with seconds to go.
Yet Neumann-Goretti was hardly done as Green’s alley-oop was flushed at the horn by Cosby-Roundtree. And while the Saints suddenly had energy — they also were plugged back in following that third-quarter experience — Mennonite had to be deflated.
A 10-0 spurt to open the fourth highlighted by a Littles stickback, a pair of Millsip jumpers and yet another Ings trey simply starched the Blazers.
“I basically had the ball and I just had to shoot it,” Millsip said. “We gotta get a lead on these guys, because if they stick around they could possibly take this game from us. In my head, I’m going home this early so I’m hitting these shots.
“I just had confidence in myself.”
“It was good to see Quade trust the other guys in that situation,” Arrigale added. “It’s been a thing at times this year when he’ll try to do too much in those types of situations. He draws a crowd whenever he drives it and he threw the ball to the open man.”
While a Mennonite roster featuring no players taller than 6-3 may not have had the Saints’ complete attention coming in — getting out to a healthy advantage did nothing to diminish Neumann-Goretti’s early assessment of the Blazers.
“We came out with people basically judging a book by its cover,” Millsip said. “We figured we could beat these guys, but those guys stuck with us the whole game.
“You saw that in the third quarter when we blew a 17-point lead.”
“When you do enough in the second quarter to go in the locker room up 17, you’ve got to come out with a better frame of mind and better focus,” Arrigale said.
Lack of focus certainly won’t be the case Tuesday, especially since Del-Val Charter will be parked on the other bench and the Saints are aware of what those guys can do.
“With those guys, we’ve just got to compete,” Millsip said.
“Hopefully we can pull that one out as well.”
At least they’ll have that chance.