Ty Daubert (@TyDaubert)
Bodies collided on a drive to the basket, and Roman Catholic’s Daniel Skillings took the brunt end of it. As multiple Cahillites went to block a shot, a teammate’s elbow caught Skillings in the left eye. The standout senior fell to the ground with a hand over his face.
“I tried to get back up, which I could’ve,” he said, “but I couldn’t see at all for a good 10, 15 minutes. I just completely could not see whatsoever.”
Daniel Skillings (above) sports a black eye after helping Roman beat Archbishop Ryan on Friday. (Photo: Ty Daubert/CoBL)
Skillings then sat on the sideline as a trainer flushed his eye with water. He blinked repeatedly to try to clear his vision. After giving it some time, he decided he was good to go. The Cincinnati-bound forward checked back in with four minutes remaining in the second quarter.
From there, Skillings — black eye and all — helped lead a Roman second-half surge as the Cahillites cruised by Archbishop Ryan 70-49 in a Philadelphia Catholic League game on Friday night at Cristo Rey High School.
“I just wanted to fight with my team,” Skillings said, explaining why he was determined to get back on the court. “They played well with me out and they fought hard, and I wanted to fight with my team and make sure we get the win.”
To make it in the Catholic League, you have to be able to take a punch — or an elbow in this case — and keep moving forward. That’s exactly what Roman (7-3, 3-1) did on Friday as it bounced back off a tough three-point loss on the road against Archbishop Wood two days prior in a rematch of last season’s PCL title game.
Seen by many as the top team in the league prior to the season, Roman had a chance to prove it against Wood earlier in the week. Following the loss, a matchup with a red-hot Ryan team was the furthest thing from a cakewalk. Problems certainly could’ve mounted, but the Cahillites made sure to take care of business.
“They came into practice on Thursday and focused in on what we need to do,” said head coach Chris McNesby, who’s back at Roman this season after five years away. “They came in with good attitudes, showed some maturity. I know that they didn’t want to go 0-2 (in those games), and we told them it was unacceptable to go 0-2. They did a good job and stepped up.”
Early in the game, Ryan (10-2, 2-1) kept things tight with Roman. Sophomore center Thomas Sorber scored nine of his 14 points in the first half, while the Raiders played solid defense.
Junior guard Xzayvier Brown hit three jump shots Skillings’ absence to help keep Roman afloat in a nine-point first half. The Cahillites led by a score of 29-23.
With a few minutes back under his belt, Skillings was a full-go for the second half. The 6-foot-6 wing shined in transition, throwing down a pair of monster dunks and converting some impressive finishes on his way to 17 points.
“He’s a little fuzzy, but somehow he always finds the basket,” McNesby said. “He still filled it up. Dan’s a gamer. He wants to be out there with his teammates, and he loves to play. I’m happy he was able to get back out there.”
Skillings and Brown, who finished with 23 points, saw many easy looks in the second half as Roman ran away with the game, fueled by a 19-2 run to begin the third quarter. Ryan turnovers turned into Roman points on the other end, as the Raiders gave the ball away 20 times.
Archbishop Ryan aims to clean that up in its next Catholic League opportunity against Cardinal O’Hara on Monday to continue its successful season.
“We’ve had losses like this before, came back and made noise and learned from it,” Raiders head coach Joe Zeglinski said. “We’ll learn from our mistakes. We’ll learn we can’t give a team like these easy opportunities, especially when they get rolling.”
For Roman, those chances came at least in part due to the adjustments it made following the Wood game. The Cahillites defense, led by 6-foot-8 freshman Shareef Jackson’s play on Sorber, locked in and helped force those turnovers.
“We lost the last game off of just not converting and running back on defense,” Skillings said. “Just little, little things. Games are won and lost from very, very small portions, so we knew we could bounce back.”
The Cahillites will have to continue fighting and overcoming adversity throughout the rest of the season, starting with their senior night matchup against Conwell-Egan at Roman on Wednesday. It’s simply a necessity playing in the Catholic League.
McNesby knows it as well as anyone. A winner of back-to-back Catholic League and PIAA state championships in 2015 and 2016, the veteran coach understands the grind of a PCL season. He commended his players ability to “keep the pedal down” against Ryan and wants to see it there the rest of the year.
“It’s the Catholic League, man,” he said. “You have no choice. It’s one of the best leagues in the state. That’s the nature of it, come out and get ready to go.”
Archbishop Ryan: 11 | 12 | 8 | 17 || 49
Roman Catholic: 15 | 14 | 31 | 20 || 70
Archbishop Ryan: Thomas Sorber 14, Darren Williams 11, Luke Boyd 10, Michael Paris 9, Jalen Snead 4, Ryan Everett 1
Roman Catholic: Xzayvier Brown 23, Daniel Skillings 17, Toby Ojukwu 10, Khalil Farmer 8, Quadir Brown 6, Shareef Jackson 4, Will Felder 2