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Catholic League: Shareef Jackson powers Roman Catholic to semifinal win over Father Judge

02/21/2024, 9:15pm EST
By Owen McCue

Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)

PHILADELPHIA — Shareef Jackson had been to the Palestra before.

But as he walked onto the court Wednesday night for the Philadelphia Catholic League semifinal against Father Judge, Jackson carried his team’s title chances on his broad 6-foot-8 shoulders for the first time.

Roman Catholic’s junior forward, the team’s only first team All-PCL selection, did not disappoint as the centerpiece of a dominant Cahillites win.

Jackson put up a monster 20-point, 13-rebound performance to send the reigning champs past Father Judge, 65-57, and into Monday’s championship game, where they will face Archbishop Ryan.

“I’ve been here a couple of times but not in this leadership role, so I was definitely a little nervous coming out on that court,” Jackson said. “But getting that win, especially against a team that you lose to earlier in the year, is such a good feeling.”

Roman Catholic junior forward Shareef Jackson scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in Wednesday's win over Judge. (Photo: Gavin Bethell/CoBL)

There were plenty others who all had their hands on the outcome.

Senior Travis Reed added 13 points, sophomore Sammy Jackson, Shareef’s younger brother, scored nine and seniors Robert Cotrell and Hunter Johnson both chipped in eight apiece. Johnson’s points didn’t come until the fourth quarter, his back-to-back 3-pointers with less than five minutes left putting the Cahillites up 54-37 and providing the put-away punch. Senior guard Kabe Goss added six assists.

Jackson worked hard for 12 points in the quarterfinal win over Cardinal O'Hara on Friday and pointed to the rest of the team collectively leading the charge, including 16 from Cottrell. Jackson, who received an offer from the University of San Diego after the game, was happy to return the favor Wednesday night.

“He’s a bull, man,” Roman coach Chris McNesby said. “He’s that rock for us. Inside, outside, he does it all, and I know these guys love playing with him.”

After Judge grabbed a 14-8 lead on a 3 by sophomore Rocco Westfield with 1:23 left in the first quarter, Roman held the Crusaders scoreless until the 1:56 mark in the second quarter — a seven-minute, 23-second stretch. The Cahilittes closed the first half on a 17-2 run to go up 25-16 at the break. 

“It was a two-point quarter for them, and we pride ourselves on defense,” McNesby said. “These guys did a great job of guarding, and we were able to make some baskets and get Shareef going and Sammy going.”

Judge freshman Nazir Tyler hit a 3-point shot early in the second half, but the Cahillites locked down after that and answered with a few of their own to go up 40-21 on a Sammy Jackson triple with four-and-a-half minutes left in the third. Roman went just 6-of-19 from 3-point range in the game, but they all felt like backbreakers, silencing any life Jude tried to generate on the other end. 

As fun as it was for Shareef to have his moment as "the guy" for Roman for the first time, it way have been even more enjoyable sharing the court with Sammy, who stepped up for multiple big shots throughout. 

"I don't have any words for it," Shareef said. "You always have people telling you, 'Oh it's going to be awesome,' or it's going to be this special thing, but in my mind I'm like, 'OK, OK.'  When you finally get there, and you finally see him on that court and finally see him play with you, I assume it's pride. I'm proud of him, something I've really never said before."

Roman Catholic's Shareef Jackson, left, goes up for a block on Judge's Everett Barnes. (Photo: Gavin Bethell/CoBL)

Senior guard Laquan Byrd scored 14 points and Westfield added 12 for Judge, which went 10-of-21 from deep but just 12-of-32 from inside the arc. 

The loss ended a terrific season for the Crusaders, who were making their first appearance at the Palestra since 1999. Archbishop Wood will be the second PCL team along with Roman in the PIAA Class 6A tournament.

The Cahillites go back to the title game going for their first repeat since 2018 and 2019.

“This is the game we wanted to be in all season long,” McNesby said. “Judge had a great year. They’re a great team. They’re really well coached. We played a really, really good game, and I’m proud of our guys for getting up for the challenge and our seniors led us at the guard spot and Shareef obviously did his thing.”

By Quarter
Roman:  11  |  14  |  21  |  19  ||  65
Judge:   14  |   2   |  16  |  25  ||  57

Roman: 27-52 FG (6-19 3PT), 5-7 FT
Judge: 22-53 FG (10-21 3PT), 3-8 FT

Roman: Shareef Jackson 20, Travis Reed 13, Sammy Jackson 9, Robert Cottrell 8, Hunter Johnson 8

Judge: LaQuan Byrd 14, Rocco Westfield 12, Derrick Morton-Rivera 8, Anthony Lilly 8, Kevair Kennedy 6, Nazir Tyler 5, Everett Barnes 2, Calvin Starks-Walden 2


Catholic League Boys

Semifinals (Wed., Feb. 21 at the Palestra)
1) Roman Catholic 65, 6) Father Judge 57
5) Archbishop Ryan 48, 2) Neumann-Goretti 43

Championship (Mon., Feb. 26, 8 p.m. at the Palestra)
1) Roman Catholic vs. 5) Archbishop Ryan

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