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PIAA 6A: Roman Catholic closes strong against Parkland in quarters

03/18/2023, 9:30pm EDT
By Corky Blake

Corky Blake (@corkyblake)

NORRISTOWN — Xzayvier Brown has accomplished so much during his four-year career at Roman Catholic.

The point guard helped lead the Cahillites to the 2022 PIAA Class 6A state championship.

Brown’s scored more than 1,000 points.

He’s earned a scholarship to play at Saint Joseph’s.

Most recently, Brown sank the shot heard around the city – a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that he banked in at the end of regulation to tie the score with Neumann-Goretti in the Catholic League championship game and eventually resulted in a Roman Catholic triumph.

Roman senior Xzayvier Brown, above, dunked for the first time Saturday against Parkland. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

But on Saturday afternoon against Parkland in the Class 6A quarterfinals at Norristown, Brown experienced a first and it brought a wide smile when he acknowledged the significance.

“That was my first dunk – ever – in a game,” Brown said after the deceptive 53-35 win that propelled the Cahillites into Tuesday’s semifinals against Catholic League rival Archbishop Wood. “I’ve been wanting to do that since I was young.”

Brown’s one-handed slam came on a breakaway after a strip steal at midcourt with 3:03 remaining and punctuated Roman’s 14-0 run to end the game.

“Yeah, I knew it was his first,” said Roman senior 6-6 forward Anthony Finkley and a fellow Saint Joe’s signee. “We thought he’d do it earlier in the season because he had some chances. I told him he was going to do it today.

“I’d give it a 6 (out of 10).” 

For the first two and a half quarters against the District 11 champion, there were few smiles from the heavily favored Cahillites (26-3). They were tied at 9-9 after the first quarter and trailed 20-17 at halftime as Finkley, 6-7 sophomore center Shareef Jackson and Brown all were hampered by two fouls apiece. Brown never left the court, but the big men spent time sitting next to coach Chris McNesby on the bench.

Parkland knew what to expect from Roman because the teams scrimmaged in the preseason.

“They’re a good team and we lost in that scrimmage,’’ Brown said. “Nick Coval’s a great player.”

Roman Catholic senior Anthony Finkley, above, scored 10 points Saturday against Parkland. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

Coval, a 6-2 junior guard who holds a scholarship offer from Saint Joe’s among other Division I programs, was the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference MVP and came into the game averaging 23 points a game.

“Coval to me is one of the top guards in the state,” McNesby said of the son of Scott Coval, the long-time successful DeSales University coach. “We knew we had to contain him and defensively for us he was option No. 1, 2 and 3. They had some other guys who could shoot, too.”

Roman closely followed its coach’s defensive game plan. With sophomore William Felder Jr. and Brown switching on and off Coval, the Trojan shot 2-for-9 from the field and finished with eight points.

“He had trouble getting his shot; they were keying on him,” said Parkland coach Andy Stephens.

Even with the Trojans (20-10) facing a large size disadvantage and their shooting gone awry (13-for-37 overall), they were still ahead 29-24 when 5-9 guard Matt Ray snaked his way through Roman’s defense for a layup midway through the third quarter.

At this point, Brown and Finkley were staring at the end of their high school careers if they didn’t change the direction of the game.

Like he’s done so many times, Brown answered the bell, hitting a 3-pointer from the right side to jump-start an 11-2 run to end the quarter. Finkley followed with a 3 for his first points of the game, and Jackson came alive around the basket for the final five points of the quarter.

The Cahillites continued their momentum into the fourth quarter. Jackson dropped in a baby hook, Finkley dunked on a run-out and splashed a 3 after Joey Gerbasio sank a 3 for Parkland’s only points of the quarter.

“At halftime, I said ‘Ant, this is your senior year, let’s get going,’” McNesby said. “Sometimes, we have to beg him to shoot.”

Brown also was imploring Finkley to unleash his offense.

“I told him he has to start shooting, he has to step up,” Brown said. “I can do that because he’s my best friend.”

Roman Catholic sophomore Shareef Jackson scored 19 points Saturday against Parkland. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

“In the beginning of the game I let the game come to me. I didn’t have a lot of open looks,” said Finkley, who finished with 10 points. “When we fell behind, I knew it was time for me to take and make shots.”

Jackson, who was 8-for-8 from the floor and scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half, demoralized Parkland with consecutive putbacks. Felder cashed in a stolen inbound pass to push the lead to 50-35.

Which led to Brown thrilling his teammates and Cahillite fans with his first dunk to cap his 18-point outing. 

“He’s been getting stronger and putting time in the weight room,” said McNesby of his star guard’s path to soaring above the 10-foot rim and slamming home the ball.s

Now, it’s onto the semifinals against Archbishop Wood. Roman Catholic defeated Wood 66-59 in the PCL semifinals and 77-56 on Jan. 3.

Roman Catholic 9 8 18 18 53

Parkland 9 11 12 3 35


Roman Catholic: Brown 18, Cotrell 2, Finkley 10, Felder 4, S. Jackson 19.

Parkland: Coval 8, Ray 4, Gerbasio 15, Smaltz 6, Rusich 2.


Roman Catholic: 20-36 FGA (4-10 3PT), 9-16 FT

Parkland: 13-37 FGA (4-15 3PT), 5-11 FT

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