Jalen Duren (above) and Roman got over consecutive double-OT losses to survive a challenge from Carroll. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Ari Glazier (@AriGlazier)
After two consecutive double overtime losses against PCL heavy hitters Archbishop Wood and Neumann-Goretti, and another overtime loss a few weeks ago against Bonner Prendergast, Roman Catholic managed to finish strong on Friday night against a talented Archbishop Carroll team.
Down four at the half, Roman outscored Carroll by 10 after the break, leaving the Community College of Philadelphia with a 76-70 win, and crucially advancing to 5-3 in conference play.
Cahillite big man Jalen Duren, viewed those earlier losses as stepping stones to prepare an inexperienced Roman team –– with two freshmen and two sophomores in the starting five –– for the rigors of Catholic League play.
“I feel like those really helped us more than it hurt us because now we know what we’ve gotta do,” said Duren, one of the top high school big men in the country. “We know how to approach these teams, how to close games...you learn to stay calm. Our guards got to really become floor generals in the end, really control the pace and just do what we know best.”
Duren had his work cut out for him on Friday. He was matched up with Tairi Ketner, a 6-6 Bryant commit who didn’t hesitate to attack Roman’s five-star recruit. Ketner played strong, physical defense on Duren, although the No. 2 player in the ESPN 2022 rankings got his.
Duren finished with 15 points on 7-for-10 shooting, 14 rebounds, and two blocks. Ketner was just as strong offensively, putting up 17 points on 7-for-10 and 11 rebounds.
Duren started the game off with a handful of smooth turnaround and elbow jumpers. Once those shots stopped falling, the 6-foot-10 center used his superior quickness to beat Ketner to the basket. Ketner relied on brute force, pushing his way to the hole and grabbing second chance opportunities.
“[Ketner] uses his body extremely well,” Roman coach Matt Griffin said. “He’s physical, he embraces contact, and he did a great job on our guys, and he was a challenge to guard.”
“I knew he liked to be physical, so I knew what shots I could get off,” Duren said. “I knew he couldn't move his feet as well. I knew he wasn't as fast.”
While Duren was dealt four fouls, he managed to stay on the court. He called this a mark of his increasing maturity and basketball intelligence, noting that he likely would have been tossed earlier in the season.
The highlight of Duren’s night came midway through the fourth when he recovered a missed Lynn Greer III free throw and launched a menacing two handed slam over John Camden, also drawing a foul.
Camden, a 6-7 sharpshooter with several high major offers, was bottled up by sophomore wing Justice Williams, who held Camden to six points. Williams paired his strong showing on defense with an equally impressive offensive output. He put up a game-high 25 points on an efficient 9-for 12 shooting, as well as dishing three assists and grabbing six rebounds.
Roman Catholic coach Matt Griffin (above) has his team in seventh in the PCL pecking order, but there's still a few key games left. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
“I thought he was extremely efficient from the floor,” Griffin said. “He took great shots and made tough ones. It was one of the best shooting performance I've seen from him.”
Williams credited the attention that Duren draws on the block from defenders with opening up his offensive game.
The Cahillites (9-7, 5-3) didn’t go entirely without hiccups down the stretch. After jumping up eight points off of a Nasir Lett 3-pointer with two minutes to play, Carroll managed to cut it to a one-possession game thanks to two consecutive Roman turnovers.
Roman regrouped with a timeout and put together a few stops and trips to the line, securing the victory with solid foul shooting.
Camden wasn’t the only 6-7 Patriot forward to struggle. Junior Anquan Hill scored seven points on 3-for-9 shooting, settling for a few too many missed 3-pointers.
While Camden and Hill struggled, guards Amiri Stewart and Dean Coleman-Newsome stepped up. Stewart finished with a team-high 18 points, three assists, and two steals. He went 4-for-5 from deep, not missing a three until a desperation shot towards the end of the fourth.
Coleman-Newsome, a freshman guard, played outstanding defense, collecting four steals as well as adding 12 points and three assists. Another freshman guard, Dayon Polk, had a strong outing off of the bench, contributing seven points and three assists.
Roman’s lone senior in the starting lineup, guard Lynn Greer III had an uneven game. He was the second leading scorer with 24 points, but suffered long cold stretches. After opening up the second quarter with two highly difficult layups through contact, Greer missed six straight shots going into the third quarter. Manty of those unsuccessful attempts could have been called fouls, but the whistles remained silent.
Greer did start to get to the line towards the end of the game. He put up nine points in the last quarter, seven of which came from free throws.
“We looked to him as someone who's been in these spots and experienced these types of games many times over, over his four year career,” Griffin said. “Him and Jalen are gonna be the guys that make us go.”
After a brutal month of matchups against the PCL’s best, Roman has a bit of a reprieve coming up. Their next three games come against St. Joe’s Prep, West Catholic and La Salle, none of whom currently have a winning record in league play.
The last stretch of the regular regular will likely be more competitive for Roman Catholic. They play Cardinal O’Hara, Archbishop Ryan, and Bishop McDevitt, who have a combined PCL record of 20-6. With two of those games coming at home, the opportunity is there for Roman put themselves in a strong position for the playoffs.
Carroll (11-5, 5-3), like Roman one of several teams along with Roman, two-loss O’Hara, Ryan, Bonner, and McDevitt, plus four-loss St. Joe’s Prep, fighting for space in the middle of the PCL. The Patriots play their next two on the road, starting with La Salle on Sunday and McDevitt next Wednesday, before hosting Archbishop Wood (9-1) in a big-time game on Friday night.