Jalen Duren (above, in Feb.) had 20 points and eight blocks as Roman fought off a challenge from Pennridge. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Kevin Cooney (@KevinCooney)
There is an imposing presence about him that goes beyond the height. And when Jalen Duren moves towards a shooter with his imposing 6-foot-9 frame, he knows what that presence can do to an opposing team.
“That’s a goal for me,” the sophomore for Roman Catholic said. “At my size, I know that when I come out and I’m aggressive –– jumping hard, dunking hard, blocking shots –– I can intimate smaller guys.”
On Wednesday night against a Pennridge team that didn’t scare easily, Duren made his presence felt at both ends of the floor. He scored 20 points, grabbed five rebounds, chalked up two assists and blocked eight shots in leading the Cahillites back to the PIAA Class 6A quarterfinals with a 62-51 win over the Rams at Bensalem High’s Sheldon Per gymnasium.
Roman will play Methacton on Saturday afternoon at a site to be determined on Thursday in a rematch of a December 14 contest won by the Cahillites 59-52 at the Diane Mosco Classic at Archbishop Wood. In that game, Duren had 12 points in his highly anticipated matchup against Methacton big man Jeff Woodward, who finished 11 points.
Saturday will have a lot more riding on the line between the two.
“I work on my game every day to prove where I’m at,” Duren said. “When I see a guy 6-8, 6-9 or 6-10 (like Woodward), I know that he’s guarding me. At that point, I know it’s go time.”
For the Cahillites, it was a second quarter spurt that broke the contest open. The Rams were able to hang in there for a quarter. By the time halftime rolled around, the Cahillites were up 30-18 and the mountain felt like it was awfully high for the Rams to climb.
“They are an incredibly well coached, senior lead team,” Roman Catholic head coach Matt Griffin said, “Opening up the game with a couple of baskets was a great way to start for our game plan going forward to our need.”
Pennridge would close within six in the fourth and had a few looks to get even closer. At one point, Roman played “stallball”, eating 55 seconds off the clock in a possession in the fourth quarter before a Duren layup sealed the contest.
“Our kids never gave up and always kept fighting,” Pennridge head coach Dean Behrens said. “You get down 20 to Roman and it can get ugly. Our kids kept battling. I have no regrets over what happened this season or tonight. Roman, obviously, is extremely talented and a historic program. I’m proud of what our guys did.”
Duren has been the center of attention for the entire season, drawing a ton of eyeballs as a consensus top sophomore prospect in the country. But he has made a point of working on different things in his game, including communicating with teammates when he is going for blocks.
“We were having trouble earlier in the season where he would basically be covering two guys and the other one would roll when he would step out,” Griffin said. “But he’s gotten a lot better with that and we’ve gotten tighter with having that defensive structure we need to let him do that.”
“I have to be the help for my guards,” Duren said. “That was a big problem and they would see me come off and dump it off. Now, we’ve adjusted and things are working better.”
Justice Williams had 16 points for Roman while Nasir Lett chipped in 11. The Rams were led by Trent Fisher’s 19 points.
Trent Fisher 6 4-4 19; Colin Post 4 1-2 9; Luke Yoder 3 1-1 7; Christian Guldin 3 0-0 7; Paul Croyle 2 0-0 6; Connor Pleijel 1 0-0 3; Totals 19 6-7 51
Roman Catholic (19-10)
Jalen Duren 9 2-2 20; Justice Williams 6 2-3 16; Nasir Lett 4 0-0 11; Xzavier Brown 3 2-2 9; Kyle Maska 1 0-0 2; Will Norman 1 0-0 2 Totals 24 6-7 62
Pennridge 11-7-18-15 - 51
Roman Catholic 15-15-17-15 - 62
3-pointers: PR: Fisher 3, Croyle 2, Guldin, Pleijel; RC: Lett 3, Williams 2, Brown
Math Civics & Sciences 80, Wyalusing 26
Dock Mennonite 56, Holy Cross 43
Constitution 79, Executive Education 76
North Star 72, Bloomsburg 57
Our Lady Sacred Heart 84, Portage Area 56
Farrell 51, Ridgeway 33
Sto-Rox 75, Lakeview 51
Bishop Guilfoyle 66, Clairon 47
Neumann-Goretti 87, Holy Redeemer 49
HS of the Future 75, Panther Valley 51
Loyalsock 66, Camp Hill 65
Trinity 70, Riverside 34
Richland 68, South Allegheny 58
North Catholic 68, Aliquippa 62
Lincoln Park 66, Brookville 46
Beaver Falls 78, Carlynton 63
Methacton 83, Lincoln 55
Roman Catholic 62, Pennridge 51
Chester 63, Simon Gratz 62
Reading 67, Freedom 65
McDowell 68, Central York 61
Butler 77, Upper St. Clair 73
Wilson vs. Lower Merion (3/12)
Cheltenham vs. Mt. Lebanon (3/12)