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Stewart-Herring helps Roman Catholic hold off West Catholic

01/22/2023, 9:00pm EST
By Jerome Taylor

Jerome Taylor (@ThatGuy_Rome)

PHILADELPHIA — In a battle of Philadelphia Catholic League heavyweights, a league newcomer came up clutch to solidify the win. 

With 3:31 remaining in the fourth quarter, Jermai Stewart-Herring headed to the line with a chance to give Roman Catholic a one-point lead, its first lead since early in the third quarter. 

The senior knocked them down, setting the tone for what would be a clutch fourth quarter for him as he went 5-6 from the free throw line in the Cahillites' 60-55 win over West Catholic on Sunday.

“You could feel the energy [in the game], it was intense,”  Stewart-Herring said. “They punched us in the mouth in the second half… but the fourth quarter, we really got it together and won the game.”

Roman Catholic senior Jermai Stewart-Herring had 16 points in Sunday's win over West Catholic. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Through seven games in league play, Roman (15-1, 7-0 PCL) has an unblemished record standing atop the PCL, and Stewart-Herring’s contributions have played a significant part. 

Since transferring from St. Elizabeth in Delaware at the start of the year, the 6-foot-5 guard is averaging more than 14 points per game, including his 16-point performance on Sunday. It’s safe to say he’s adjusting nicely to the PCL. 

“It’s been great,” Stewart-Herring said about the transition to Roman Catholic. “This is like one of the first years that my coach has really been on me. He just wants to see me be great. … I’m just learning the winning nature [of the program].”

“He’s super coachable,” Roman coach Chris McNesby added. “I think his adjustment to Philly basketball and the Catholic League and playing with other great players, I think it’s about being efficient, and he’s done that. He’s really made great strides for us.”

Stewart-Herring’s contribution on both sides of the ball was as essential as the Jerry Lorenzo-designed sweatsuits found all over the nearly-packed West Catholic gym. 

In addition to his scoring, he also was tasked with guarding one of the most dynamic guards in the PCL, Adam “Budd” Clark, who scored 13 points, below his 19-point average. 

“[Stewart-Herring] is such a mature senior he competes defensively. He defended Budd for most of the game,” McNesby said. “And then, offensively, he just steps up in big moments… X[zayvier Brown] and Ant[hony Finkley] do a lot for us, but Jermai kind of plays off of them, finds his spots, and he just stays so consistent, he’s a huge lift for us.” 

Clark and Zion Stanford (17 points) helped drive the Burrs (8-8, 403) throughout the game, most notably helping them turn a 28-26 halftime deficit into a 43-39 lead heading into the fourth quarter. 

In the final frame, Roman made the clutch plays needed to pull out a victory, whether it was Erik Oliver-Bush’s three-pointer to give the Cahillites a 52-50 lead with 2:30 remaining in the fourth. Or the Cahillites’ ability to protect the lead from the free throw line in the final frame.

Roman made a pair of free throws at the 37.8, 17.6, and the 2.2-second marks to keep the Burrs at arm's length. 

Xzayvier Brown converted two of those free throw opportunities. He also went 5-6 from the line in the fourth quarter en route to his game-high 24 points. 

“He’s a winner, he’s seen it all, we lean on him in those moments,” Mcnesby said about Brown.

“That was just clutch,” Stewart-Herring added about Roman’s late-game free throws. “We knew we needed those. Everybody was making their free throws, X[zayvier Brown] and me. That’s basically the game, we miss those we knew they were going to jump us.”

The tough win for McNesby’s squad kept them undefeated, and it was another passed stress test for the Cahillites, who are again aiming for a deep Palestra run. 

“The good thing about us playing the schedule we play in the non-league is we usually challenge ourselves pretty good,” McNesby said. “This league is a bear, we’re learning from this stuff.”

Next up for Roman is a matchup with Father Judge on Thursday. West Catholic will look to get back on track against Cardinal O’Hara on Wednesday.

“Everyone could beat everyone [in the PCL]… Just trying to collect a little bit from each game and get us ready for the first-round playoffs.” 

By Quarter:

Roman Catholic: 15 | 13 |11 | 21 || 60

West Catholic: 10 | 16 | 17 | 12 || 55


Roman Catholic: Xzayvier Brown 24, Jermai Stewart-Herring 16, Anthony Finkley 8, Eric Oliver-Bush 5, Robert Cottrell 4, Shareef Jackson 3

West Catholic: Zion Stanford 17, Amyr Walker 15, Adam Clark 13, Isaac Cole 3, Tariq Jennings 3, Marcus Branker 2, Micah Waters 2

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