Tyreese Watson (above, in 2018) and Bonner-Prendergast are again in the mix in the Catholic League. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
This offseason, the preseason buzz around the Philadelphia Catholic League centered around three teams: Roman Catholic, Neumann-Goretti, and Archbishop Wood, each loaded with promise and high-major Division I talent. Early in the season, Cardinal O’Hara entered the fray as a top team, still unbeaten on the season.
And now, Bonner-Prendergast has left a message loud and clear: don’t forget about the Friars.
With the loss of two time Catholic League MVP Isaiah Wong (Miami), Tariq Ingraham (Wake Forest) and fellow starters Mike Peretta and Chris Haynes, it would not have been crazy for the average follower to forget about Bonner.
But there was depth on that team last year, and now seniors Tyreese Watson, Donovan Rodriguez, Connor Eagan, and Oscar Uduma have stepped into the starting lineup and have paced Bonner-Prendie to a 10-1 (4-0) start to the season after knocking off fellow unbeaten Roman Catholic on the road, 81-75 in overtime on Tuesday afternoon.
“We lost a lot in the offseason, but we still have our core guys here ready to go,” Eagan said. “We knew coming into the season people were going to doubt on us based off the big losses but
Coach [Kevin Funston] has got us ready to go, starting the league off strong.”
A gutsy overtime performance spurned by defense, a huge Tyreese Watson floater, and plenty of free throws had the Friars walk away with a huge win despite a brutal environment and severe height disadvantage, one which Watson shut down pretty quickly.
“At the end of the day it's about who has the most heart and energy,” said the lanky 6-1 point guard, who scored 20 points in the win, “and if we come out here and have the energy it's not going to really matter how big they are.”
And this was more than just a big win for the Friars. It’s an endorsement for the program that they’re here to compete this year and in the future with an established culture of toughness, heart, and leaving it all out on the floor. Themselves, O’Hara (11-0, 4-0), Carroll (9-1, 4-0), Neumann-Goretti (9-2, 3-0) and Wood (7-3, 3-0) are still unbeaten, and they’ll have to continue proving themselves over and over in the PCL gauntlet, but this was a big hurdle.
Funston offered an explanation: “It’s always been a next man up mentality. We're a program; great players make the program even better.”
Roman’s gym itself is absolutely worth mentioning, a haven of basketball olde. If you’ve never been to a game at Roman, the gym itself has a couple very interesting dynamics. One, it is close to the top floor of the school. Two, the court itself is nowhere near regulation size. There are no corner threes to be had here, otherwise you’ll find yourself in the bleachers standing out of bounds.
“We were harping on it all week that you're gonna have to play in tight spaces, be under control,” Funston said.
And to go along with the small size, fans and players seem to sit on top of the court limiting the area of play even more.
“You can try and prepare as much as possible, but until you're here and until you see a 6-9 big and some other really long athletic players it's pretty hard to recreate,” Funston said. “We have a lot of seniors and guys that are battle tested, and I felt pretty strongly that the guys would be able to handle the circumstances.”
Uduma (17 points/7 boards/3 steals) was tremendous in the first half, scoring 10 points, knocking down a three, and providing capable ball handling duties as Watson sat with foul trouble.
As the first half progressed, early problems became more than just turnovers for Roman as Bonner crashed the offensive glass and pulled in 13 of their 19 offensive boards in the first half.
A lot of credit goes to Eagan, a 6-1 wing who ended the game with eight offensive rebounds, and Funston gave him plenty of praise after the game, “Connor’s our glue guy. He does every little thing, I have to yell at him to look at the basket he's so unselfish. He defends, he dives on the ground, he rebounds, gets deflections.”
Eagen had the task of guarding Roman’s 6-3 sophomore guard Justice Williams (9 points/3 rebounds) and did a tremendous job throughout the game. With an obvious advantage in energy and rebounding, Friars took a 34-23 advantage into the half.
But Roman was not going to be held down on their home court for much longer. Justice Williams opened up with 5 straight points on a pair of tough jumpers, Jalen Duren (10 points/10 boards/10 blocks) had a pair of buckets, and Roman mixed it up defensively to include 6-6 sophomore Christian Kirkland and cut the Friar lead to 49-46 heading into the final frame.
Though Roman led by three in the final few possessions, an Eagan put-back and Watson bucket helped offset late heroics by Roman’s Lynn Greer III (37 points) and send the game to the extra session.
Players of the Game:
Lynn Greer III (37 Points/4 Rebounds/2 Blocks)
It was a quiet first half for Greer, scoring a relatively quiet 8 points on 2-7 shooting from the floor. But towards the end of the second quarter, you saw the intensity and aggressiveness pick up for the 6-3 guard who did everything in his power to claw Roman back into this game. Greer finally exploded in the fourth scoring 17 of his teams 23 points in the final frame of regulation. Greer impressed most with his ability to get into the lane and knock down a smooth pull up or take it all the way and finish around the rim. Greer finished with his 37 on a very efficient 11-19 shooting (2-7 from three) and 13-18 from the line.
Tyreese Watson (20 Points/5 Rebounds/5 Assists)
Despite playing Varsity since his freshman year, Watson has flown a bit under the radar as one of the better guards in the area. After being third on the team in scoring last year averaging 8.1ppg, the 6-3 178 pound point guard has taken the scoring reigns from Isaiah Wong, averaging 18ppg entering the Roman game. And it’s probably time for people to take notice of Watson, who despite not playing the whole second quarter due to foul trouble, still managed to put together a fantastic line shooting 8-17 from the floor (1-2 from three) and 3-4 from the line. A well rounded guard, Watson was at his best getting into the lane and using his size to finish through defenders. He was also able to find success posting up his matchup, offering an interesting dynamic when Duren was forced to be pulled away from the basket. Watson offered terrific vision and was a huge reason why Bonner was able to get so many buckets around the rim. While college interest seems to be slow with Rider and some D2s in the mix, a continued solid senior season should see his stock continue to rise.
Bonner: 15 | 19 | 11 | 20 | 16 | 81
Roman: 9 | 14 | 19 | 23 | 10 | 75
Bonner: 27-69 FG, 4-14 3PT, 23-31 FT
Roman: 27-55 FG, 5-13 3PT, 16-25 FT
Bonner : Rodriguez 21, Watson 20, Uduma 17, Edwards 9, Welde 6, Eagan 3, Scapoe 3, Johnson 2
Roman: Greer 37, Duren 10, Williams 9, X. Brown 6, Lett 5, Q. Brown 3, Norman 3, Kirkland 2