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Duren's big day helps Roman overcome O'Hara

02/03/2020, 12:00am EST
By Carter Fillman

Jalen Duren (above) had a massive third quarter as Roman Catholic rallied past Cardinal O'Hara on Sunday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Carter Fillman (@JC_Fillman)

When Jalen Duren walks into a gym, he’s typically hard to miss. And on the floor, the 6-foot-10 sophomore big is athletic, skilled, and imposing. So when his visiting Cahillites of Roman Catholic entered the second half trailing host Cardinal O’Hara, he knew something had to change.

Duren erupted for 14 points, grabbed 5 boards, and had three huge rejections in the third quarter alone, finishing with 20 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks as Roman battled back and spoiled Cardinal O’Hara’s senior day 77-70.

“It was about establishing myself,” Duren said. “I came out really slow and our team was down.”

For the uninitiated, the Roman sophomore has burst into the national spotlight after spending time with Team USA, dominating the AAU scene, and taking the PCL by storm as a freshman. This has led to a consensus top-three ranking among players in his class of 2022, typically trailing the national phenom Emoni Bates.

But Duren stays humble in the face of a bright spotlight.

“I try not to pay too much attention to it,” he said. “I try to focus on what’s going on around me in terms of like my high school and my family and all that. It’s cool to see that people like the work paying off and they see what I'm doing.”

Along with fellow sophomore Justice Williams, who led all scorers with 24 points of his own, freshman Xzavier Brown, and many more sophs/freshmen waiting in the wings, Roman finds itself with one of the deepest and most talented group of underclassmen in the area.

And for Roman coach Matt Griffin, it’s a luxury to have some of the best young talent in the area.

“It’s amazing, you can see from one year to the next, the goals that they have now, they’re carrying us offensively,” he said. “And that’s our goal: to develop and help them get better and better and better, it’s really exciting to see.”

With a young team can come some inconsistencies, but despite trailing at the half there seemed to be little panic on Griffin’s face.

“We knew it was gonna be a battle from start to finish… we knew it was just going to be a game of adjustments from start to finish.”

After a first half that saw O’Hara shoot a blistering 7-11 from beyond the arc, Roman decided to take matters into their own hands coming out of the half. The Cahillites upped the defensive intensity and consistently sent an extra man at the ball handler to force the Lions into quick shots or turnovers.

To Griffin, the decision came down to a couple factors: “tempo, keeping it out of their best players hands, because with no shot clock it was gonna come down to a possession game. We don’t want them holding the ball or running their offense.”

With the increased tempo and some turnovers in their favor, Roman was able to get out into the open floor and capitalize on having talented, athletic ball handlers.

Duren in particular thrived in the open floor: “[The team] makes it fun for me throwing lobs and just seeing me in transition and being able to just get those types of points, it's just fun. I think it’d be fun for anybody.”

O’Hara sprinted out to a quick start, hitting five straight threes to open up the first quarter, including 11 points from senior guard Tre Dinkins which included an explosive two handed slam on a backdoor cut. Junior guard Anthony Purnell then took over the second quarter, adding in 9 of his 19 points in the quarter as O’Hara took a 38-25 lead into halftime.

“Give a lot of credit to O'Hara. Dinkins is a tremendous player, he’s explosive, he shoots the ball extremely well,” offered Griffin. “Obviously we would've loved to play better defense to start the game, but again give them credit for executing.”

As the regular season comes to a close and Roman sets it sights on the future, the goal of the program echoed by both player and coach is focusing and preparing for one game at a time. But for a player with the potential of Duren, it can be looking towards much more.

Like potentially joining the greatest players in Philadelphia history; Duren mentioned names like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Wilt Chamberlain, and the Morris twins as those from Southeastern Pennsylvania whose impact he was hoping to mirror.

“Those guys are in the league doing their thing. They’re where I wanna go,” he said. “So, me having the opportunity to get there and me being recognized as one of the better players in our area is just a blessing.”

By Quarter
O’Hara:    19 | 19 | 13 | 19 | 70

Roman:    15 | 10 | 23 | 29 | 77

O’Hara: 27-54 FG, 12-26 3PT, 4-5 FT

Roman: 28-45 FG, 4-11 3PT, 17-19 FT

O’Hara: Dinkins 20, Purnell 19, Bombara 13, Irving 6, Reeves 5, Trickey 4, Kortue 3

Roman: Williams 24, Duren 20, Greer III 13, Lett 11, X. Brown 7, Maska 2

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