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PIAA 6A: Brown, Roman steal overtime win from Lower Merion

03/16/2023, 1:30am EDT
By Jared Leveson

Jared Leveson (@jared_leveson)

PHILADELPHIA — Roman Catholic’s Xzayvier Brown has got some stuff in his bag, but what makes the Saint Joseph’s commit special is that he knows when to pull out certain tricks. 

The 6-foot-2 senior guarded Lower Merion’s senior guard Sam Brown (Penn) all night in the PIAA 6A tournament second round contest at Archbishop Ryan. 

The two guards are familiar with one another. They’ve gone back since fourth grade and played grassroots ball together for Philly Triple Threat. 

But Roman’s Brown noticed something about his former backcourt mate's game early on, which he turned into a big-time play for the Cahillites down the stretch. 

“(Sam) always does this thing where he spins,” Brown said. “He spun and just left the ball in his outside hand and I (stole) it.

“That’s something I always do to everybody. I didn’t do it earlier. I always try to time it because you never know when you’re going to need it.” 

Brown swiped the ball away, skied toward the rim, and finished through contact. He completed the and-one and gave Roman a three-point lead with 44.7 seconds left in overtime that the Cahilities wouldn’t relinquish in Wednesday’s 60-56 PIAA Class 6A second-round.

Roman Catholic's Xzayvier Brown, right, swipes the ball from Lower Merion's Sam Brown in overtime on Wednesday at Archbishop Ryan. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

The first team All-Philadelphia Catholic League honoree carried Roman Catholic to an overtime win after Lower Merion erased a 13-point third quarter deficit and tied the game with 20 seconds left in regulation. Brown’s response at the buzzer hit iron, but he took over in the overtime period and helped the Cahillites survive District 1’s three seed to advance to Saturday’s state quarterfinals against District 11 champion Parkland.

“We’ve always shown throughout the year that we could battle through adversity,” Brown said. “That we can fight back and we’re a team with a lot of mentally strong guys who always come back and never quit.” 

“We’ve been there before,” Roman Catholic head coach Chris McNesby added. “[We] played in the Catholic League championship in overtime. It’s such a long year. We’ve had so many experiences, so we try to take all those experiences and bring them back together and make the most of it.” 

Roman Catholic's Shareef Jackson blocks Lower Merion's John Mobley. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

Brown finished with 27 points, eight of which came in overtime, and added three rebounds, five assists, and two steals. The senior put another strong game under his belt, shooting 8-of-12 from the field and 3-for-6 from three, but Roman as a whole let Lower Merion hang around and the Aces almost made them pay for it. 

Lower Merion trailed 38-28, heading into the fourth quarter and head coach Gregg Downer’s squad, who essentially plays eight guards, had plenty of perimeter threats who were waiting to find their rhythm — and they did. 

The Aces poured 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field and 5-of-8 from beyond the arc in the fourth. Once the first threes fell, Roman pressed out, opening backdoor cutting opportunities that the Aces took advantage of. 

Their shooting resurgence was capped off by Brown’s three-ball that knotted the score at 49 apiece with 20 seconds remaining . 

“Just a never say die attitude,” the 33-year head coach, Downer, said about the Aces’ comeback. “We’re very dynamic from three, we probably didn't shoot quite well enough to get over the hump tonight but part of having eight guards on the floor is [there are] a lot of guys who can make threes. 

“All of a sudden a five-point deficit is tied.” 

Lower Merion's Teddy Pendergrass III, left, goes up for a shot on Roman's Robert Cottrell. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

The Cahillites had their opportunities to bury the Aces with their size advantage with 6-foot-8 Shareef Jackson and 6-foot-7 Anthony Finkley (St. Joe’s), but Lower Merion rebounded by committee and competed on the glass despite their size disadvantage. 

“We didn't rebound the ball well,'' second-year coach McNesby said. “We’ve done well all year. (Lower Merion) hustled, they played hard, they competed and we just didn't do a good job. They out hustled us.

“We have size. We should've rebounded the ball better. I think we kinda thought we were gonna go up and get it and we were just not very good.”

Roman got outrebounded 25-24 and a big reason why is because the Catholic League champions are missing seniors Jermai Stewart-Herring (6-foot-4) and Erik Oliver-Bush (6-foot-4) who are ineligible for the state tournament because they moved from out-of-state. The pair are long and athletic who provide scoring, but also rebounding and defense. 

“It makes our team change completely,” Brown said about losing Stewart-Herring and Oliver-Bush  “Both of them are like bigger wings who give us that presence on the offensive and defensive glass and they are great defenders. 

“They were just so good at the little stuff that don’t pop up on the box score. They were like our X- factors, (the) MVPS of our team like I think they are the reason why our team was so good when we had them.” 

Roman's Will Felder, right, goes up for a shot on Lower Merion's Sam Brown. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

Roman Catholic controlled the game up until midway through the fourth quarter, never leading by less than eight points. It also helped that the Aces, who are a shooting team, went 10-of-31 from the field through the game’s first three quarters. 

But Lower Merion kept chipping away, running their offense, mixing up defensive looks, and tiring out Roman’s players.

“I was tired,” Brown said. “They were just trying to tire me out, wearing me out, showing me different defenses, some man, some zone, I think they did a good job.” 

Lower Merion rode their fourth quarter momentum into the extra period as senior Sam Wright’s slashing lay-up gave the Aces their first lead since early in the first quarter. Junior Owen McCabe followed and his lay-in off a feed from senior Teddy Pendergrass III gave Lower Merion their last lead at 53-51 with 1:11 left in overtime. 

Roman’s Brown missed the second end of the one-and-one, but Jackson (10 points, eight rebounds, two assists) pulled down the offensive board and hit one of his two free throws, tying the game at 53-53 with 51 seconds remaining. 

The St. Joe’s commit then stole the ball away from Lower Merion’s Brown for a 56-53 lead after the and-one, which all but sealed the win for Roman, along with some final second free throws, and ending the Aces season. 

Roman Catholic has to go through another sharpshooting team in Parkland in the quarterfinals on Saturday, if they want to advance to their second straight PIAA 6A championship game. 

The old friends, Xzayvier and Sam, only shook hands after the game. Xzayvier understood why, but is glad his team still has a shot at a state title. 

“It’s pretty tough for him to talk,” he said. “His high school career is over. I know (Sam Brown) had a great career. I’m sorry that I had to end it. Survive and advance.

“We just blessed for the opportunity to keep playing. I know I don’t want it to end. I’m trying to go out on top.” 

By Quarter:
LM:  13  |   8   |   7   |  21  |   7   || 56
RC:  17  |  11  |  10  |  11  |  11  ||  60

LM: Sam Wright 15, Sam Brown 14, Jordan Meekins 13, John Mobley 4, Justin Poles 4, Adam Herrenkhol 2, Owen McCabe 2, Teddy Pendergrass III 2

RC: Xzayvier Brown 27, Shareef Jackson 10, Anthony Finkley 8, Will Felder 7, Robert Cottrell 5, Sebastian Edwards 3


Wed., March 15
Boys 6A
(11-1) Parkland vs. (1-7) Garnet Valley (6 PM)
(1-2) Spring-Ford 43, (3-3) Hempfield 39
(12-1) Roman Catholic 60, (1-3) Lower Merion 56 (OT)
(7-2) New Castle 65, (1-4) Downingtown West 56
(3-1) Reading 86, (1-6) Upper Darby 58
(1-9) Coatesville 61, (1-8) North Penn 55
(12-3) Archbishop Wood 72, (3-6) Chambersburg 45

Girls 5A
(1-1) West Chester Rustin 49, (2-2) Abington Heights 46
(12-1) Archbishop Wood 42, (1-2) Villa Maria 29
(1-3) Bishop Shanahan 43, (2-1) Pittston Area 35.
(11-1) Bethlehem Catholic 34, (1-4) Gwynedd Mercy 24

Boys 4A
(1-1) Bishop Shanahan 69, (2-1) Scranton Prep 57

Girls 4A
(12-1) Lansdale Catholic 79, (4-2) Jersey Shore 42
(3-5) Trinity 67, (12-2) Audenried 50
(2-1) Scranton Prep 51, (1-1) Nazareth Acad.47 (OT)
(3-1) Wyomissing 40, (12-3) Neumann-Goretti 33

Boys 3A
(12-3) Devon Prep 82, (2-2) Mid Valley 52
(12-1) West Catholic 56, (2-1) Holy Redeemer 47
(3-1) Trinity 91, Math, Civics & Sciences 84 Girls 3A
(2-1) Dunmore 52, (12-1) Imhotep Charter 34

Boys 2A
(11-1) Mahanoy Area 58, (12-1) Constitution 40
(1-1) Dock Mennonite 60, (12-2) Sankofa Freedom 44

Girls 1A
(4-2) St. John Neumann 40, (1-1) The Christian Acad. 37

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