Xzayvier Brown (above) hit his first game-winner Tuesday night as Roman topped La Salle. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
WYNDMOOR, Pa. — When it’s all said and done, there’s a decent chance that the 2019-20 through 2022-23 seasons at Roman Catholic will be known as the Xzayvier Brown era. Not necessarily in the sense that he’s a dominant talent (though he’s plenty talented), but in an era where transfers are common and rosters shift constantly, Brown is set up to be a four-year standout at one of the proudest (and most successful) programs in the City of Brotherly Love.
The Cahillites’ talented point guard burst onto the scene last year starting at point from the first game of his freshman year, then proved his worth all year long for the PCL runners-up, with a floor game and steadiness beyond his years. Now as a sophomore, he’s established himself as one of the best pure point guards around as well as one of the top area prospects in the 2023 class.
Brown put another stamp on his ever-growing resumé Tuesday night, hitting a turnaround jumper at the buzzer to lift Roman past host La Salle, 57-55, and keep the Cahillites in the Catholic League championship race.
There were 7.5 seconds left on the clock when Brown took the inbounds pass, and less than five as the 6-foot-2 guard drove towards the right side of the lane. But the La Salle rotation was strong as Brown jump-stopped near the baseline, his hopes of getting near the rim denied.
Instead, Brown spun to his right to create some space and faded away as he released the high-arcing jumper, which splashed through the net almost simultaneously with the final buzzer.
“[After] I stopped and jump-stopped, there was a lot of people there, so I knew I couldn’t go up, so I faded away to create more space,” he said. “I knew if I passed it, time was going to be up, so I had to shoot it.”
It was his first career game-winner, he confirmed afterwards, his eyes revealing a sure smile behind his mask. And it came at a time when his team really needed it.
This year’s Catholic League playoffs are currently slated to be only a championship, the top two teams facing off only if the entire league slate gets played. Coaches are hoping for an expansion, but they’re all playing under the scenario that only a near-perfect season leads to a PCL championship opportunity. With one loss already on the slate, to unbeaten Archbishop Wood, another would have been a major blow to Roman’s hopes.
Instead, the Cahillites (6-1) kept pace with Neumann-Goretti (5-1) and Archbishop Ryan (3-1).
“We know, I mean we take it one game at a time but we can’t lose anymore,” Brown said. “And this is a 6A [matchup] so this is very important if we ever want to get a chance at states.”
La Salle (5-3), which is having a resurgent season after winning just three league games a year ago, finds itself with slim odds of winning a league title unless the scenario changes.
Brown’s game-winner was the only shot he took the entire second half, capping off a 10-point, four-rebound, six-assist, three-steal performance. He spent most of the second half deferring to junior guard Khalil Farmer, who continued up on a 30-point outing by dropping 25 against La Salle.
Farmer, a 6-3 guard who spent the last couple years at Shipley, was 7-of-10 from the floor and 4-of-6 from 3-point range, hitting all seven of his foul shots and grabbing six rebounds.
Khalil Farmer (above) had 25 points Tuesday, following up on a 30-point outing. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
“I feel like we’re clicking with that chemistry, everybody’s making sure they get their touches,” said Farmer, who received a scholarship offer from Boston University last week and said he’s also been hearing from Elon, Holy Cross and La Salle, among others. “My teammates are looking for me down the stretch, we all play together so that’s really it. It’s just been coming to me the past few games, but we’ve been getting wins, most importantly.”
Daniel Skillings, a 6-7 junior wing who was previously at St. Joe’s-Hammonton (N.J.), added 11 points and seven rebounds for Roman. And freshman Toby Ojukwu, who got his first career start, finished with three points, all on foul shots in the final minute of the game.
“I’m happy for him, it reminded me of me last year,” Brown said. “He’s playing good, so he deserved the starting spot today.”
Brown’s certainly used to sharing the spotlight. Last year he was just one piece on a loaded squad that included potential future NBA lottery pick Jalen Duren, now at Montverde (Fla.), in the middle, as well as five-star 2022 shooting guard Justice Williams (also at Montverde), and Dayton commit Lynn Greer III (prepping at IMG Academy).
Entering play Tuesday night he was third on his team in scoring (9.3 ppg), with as many assists as shot attempts (46), a trend he continued with six of each Tuesday. Skillings and Farmer had both been averaging 20 ppg, and the two Division I recruits are certainly going to be offensive focal points all year long. But Brown, who has a St. Joe's offer of his own –– Hawks assistant Justin Scott is his stepfather –– has the ability to get his shot off when he needs to, as he's proven on multiple occasions and sealed Tuesday night.
“I’m imploring him, encouraging him to be aggressive,” Griffin said. “And he just continues to make the right play, probably as frustrating as that is for him because he also wants to be a great shooter, but he’s making the right plays and leading the Catholic League in assists as a result [7.7/game entering play Tuesday night], and he really makes our team go.”
Roman led almost the entire way through save for a few minutes early in the second quarter, but was never able to put the game away. La Salle battled back from a double-digit deficit early in the second half to get within five entering the fourth, and finally drew even with 15 seconds left on a pair of game-tying foul shots from sophomore wing Horace Simmons.
The Explorers got 17 points, four rebounds and six assists from junior guard Sam Brown, the school’s two-sport standout who was recently offered an opportunity to play both football and basketball at Princeton. Simmons impressed with 15 points and six rebounds, while senior guard Charles Ireland had four 3-pointers for 14 points.
La Salle next plays Saturday at home against Father Judge, then hosts Archbishop Ryan on Monday. Roman hosts Bishop McDevitt on Thursday and then travels to West Catholic on Sunday.
Roman: 17 | 13 | 15 | 12 || 57
La Salle: 12 | 16 | 12 | 15 || 55
Roman: 20-44 FG (7-18 3PT), 10-11 FT; 8 turnovers
La Salle: 16-37 FG (9-23 3PT), 14-15 FT; 10 turnovers
Roman: Farmer 25, Skillings 11, Brown 10, Radanovic 4, Ojukwu 3, Martin 2, Anglin 2
La Salle: Brown 17, Simmons 15, Ireland 14, Conroy 6, Varano 3