Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
It’s time for the Catholic League playoffs.
The most-anticipated tournament around, the 10-team boys’ bracket is loaded with talent from top to bottom, the league arguably the deepest it’s ever been. Three teams finished tied atop the regular-season standings with two losses, two others one game behind. Everybody in the top seven has beaten someone else in that mix, and there’s no one favorite to emerge successful at the Palestra a couple weeks from now.
Darrell Davis (above) and Archbishop Carroll play Bonner-Prendergast in the opening round Wednesday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Here’s a look at the boys’ bracket and first-round games, which take place Wednesday; we’ll have a preview of the girls’ quarterfinals up this week.
7) Archbishop Carroll (8-5) vs. 10) Bonner-Prendergast (4-9) (6 PM)
The Patriots are the youngest team in the league, Carroll coach Francis Bowe starting five underclassmen, but it’s a group that’s figuring things out. After losing their first three league games, Carroll rallied to win eight of its last 10, including a season-ending win over Father Judge, its first win over a top-six finisher. The Patriots lean on a backcourt of sophomores Ian Williams and Nasir Ralls plus freshman Darrell Davis, with 6-7 freshman Munir Grieg perhaps the highest-ceiling prospect in the league. Bonner, which battled Carroll in a 66-62 Carroll win on Jan. 15, features wing forward Deuce Ketner, who could be a mismatch problem, while senior guards Kevin Rucker, Kyree Womack and Reggie Selden have a ton of varsity experience under their belts.
8) Devon Prep (5-8) vs. 9) Cardinal O’Hara (4-9) (7 PM)
This is a rematch of Sunday’s season finale, which Devon Prep won 58-49 in overtime after a close game all the way through. The Tide might not have a current Division I offeree on the roster but Jason Fisher has a great junior class led by 6-6 Reece Craft, 6-5 Zane Conlon, 6-3 Shane Doyle and 6-1 Mason Thear, giving them a good bit of size at the 3A level. O’Hara has two future D-I players in forward Pearse McGuinn (Stonehill) and guard Aasim ‘Flash’ Burton (Rider), with some youth around them for head coach Fran O’Hanlon to work with. O’Hara forced 16 turnovers in their most recent meeting and survived an off shooting day from Devon Prep; they need both to go their way again on Wednesday.
The winners of those two games will advance to the quarterfinals, of which two matchups have been set. We’ll look at all four of these games (which take place Friday) in-depth on Thursday:
1) Roman Catholic (11-2) vs. TBD
2) Neumann-Goretti (11-2) vs. TBD
3) Archbishop Wood (11-2) vs. 6) Father Judge (9-4)
4) St. Joseph’s Prep (10-3) vs. 5) Archbishop Ryan (10-3)
Semifinals: Feb. 21, Palestra (6:15 PM/7:45 PM)
Championship: Feb. 26, Palestra (8 PM)
X-Factors to Watch
Everybody knows the stars in the league at this point — Wood’s Jalil Bethea and Josh Reed, Ryan’s Thomas Sorber, Roman’s Shareef Jackson, Prep’s Jaron McKie and a few others who are locks to be on all-league and all-state lists. So instead of writing more about a group of players who’ve already written plenty about, here are some players whose impact could really be the difference-makers in the championship hunt:
Torrey Brooks (above) has been a big-time scorer in his first year in the PCL. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Torrey Brooks (Soph. | Neumann-Goretti)
This one’s maybe cheating a little, as Brooks has become one of the Saints’ go-to scoring options with Khaafiq Myers and Amir Williams missing time due to injuries. But he’s an X-factor in the sense that he’s untested on this stage, the baby-faced guard playing in New Jersey last year. The Saints have a few other veterans they can turn to, and Carl Arrigale’s one of the best coaches around, but they need Brooks to be a big-time scorer all postseason long.
Robert Cottrell (Sr. | Roman Catholic)
It’s almost an entirely new group that’s been getting it done for Chris McNesby, aside from a couple familiar faces. Jackson, mentioned above, is a force to be reckoned with. And they’ve been getting great scoring from newcomers Travis Reed and Hunter Johnson, among others. Cottrell, who was in the mix last year as Roman won the PCL and finished as the runner-ups in the state, has been more of a role player than a featured scorer, but he’s had his moments. A big performance at the right time could go a long way.
Mike Green (Jr. | Archbishop Wood)
Opposing defenses have to pay so much attention to Bethea and Reed, there’s room for others to potentially take advantage of a couple holes. Green, a 6-0 left-handed sharpshooter, is in his second year in the Wood rotation after a state semifinal run a year ago, and he’s improved his abilities with the ball in his hands as well. He can get hot in a hurry and knock down a few triples in a row, and those could very well swing a game.
Anthony Lilly (Sr. | Father Judge)
Judge’s strength is in its guards — sophomore Derrick Morton-Rivera, senior LaQuan Byrd, junior Kevair Kennedy and more. Lilly, the team’s starting center, is a 6-6 senior who has to go up against some of the best forwards in the state; he’s had games in foul trouble but others where he’s been a huge benefit to the Crusaders. If he can give them rebounding and some post scoring, that’ll help open things up for the Judge guards.
Jaden Murray (Sr. | Archbishop Ryan)
Ryan’s at its best when Murray is at his, simple as that. The 6-6 wing has the ability to be a real game-changer, with his athleticism allowing him to be a great off-ball shot-blocker while he can stretch the floor with his shooting and score around the bucket. He’s one of the most athletic players in the whole league and can make the type of plays that can fire up a crowd, like sending a rejection five rows deep or slamming home a big-time dunk over a defender.
Tag(s): Home High School Catholic League (B) Archbishop Carroll Archbishop Ryan Archbishop Wood Bonner-Prendergast Cardinal O'Hara Devon Prep Father Judge Neumann-Goretti Roman Catholic St. Joe's Prep