Neumann-Goretti was coming off a big win. That was bad news for the Saints.
Archbishop Carroll was coming off a big loss. That was good news for the Patriots.
In the end, top-ranked Neumann-Goretti used more grit than grace to stave off an upset bid by Archbishop Carroll and score a 65-62 road victory in a Philadelphia Catholic League game on Monday night.
“We had to gut it out,” Neumann-Goretti senior guard Hakim Byrd said. “The offense wasn’t working the way it was the other night, so we had to grind on defense.”
Byrd led the Saints with 26 points, making four three-pointers and scoring five in the final two minutes.
Junior guard Hysier Miller added 16 points and senior swingman Jordan Hall generated seven assists, six rebounds and three steals for Neumann-Goretti (11-2 overall, 5-0 in the league), the No. 1 team in the Inquirer Southeastern Pennsylvania Top 10.
Neuman-Goretti coach Carl Arrigale said his team still was basking a bit in the afterglow of scoring 115 points – the most in a single game in his 22 seasons – in a win Friday night at Bonner-Predergast.
“Winning on road in this league is not easy,” Arrigale said. “We made it look really easy Friday night because we made every shot.
“We get three days of that noise, everybody telling you how wonderful you are, you’re never going to miss another shot.
“So we come in here and we missed shots early because we took some bad ones. Next thing you know you’re in a meat-grinder.”
The situation was reversed for Archbishop Carroll, which was coming off a lopsided loss Saturday night to national power Montverde (Fla.) Academy at a showcase event in Toms River, N.J.
“I know it sounds crazy when you lose by 40 but I really think it helped us,” Archbishop Carroll coach Francis Bowe said. “To play against that size and speed, I think it brought us into this game with some confidence.”
Senior center Tairi Ketner, still rounding into shape after missing time with a finger injury, scored 13 with eight rebounds for sixth-ranked Archbishop Carroll (10-3, 5-1).
Junior swingmen John Camden (14 points) and Anquan Hill (13) combined for seven three-pointers and freshman guard Dean Coleman-Newsome finished with eight points and five assists for the Patriots.
“I’m so proud of my guys,” Bowe said. “Neumann-Goretti is hands-down the best team in the league and I thought we did a great job of playing defense, playing tough.”
Neumann-Goretti’s senior leadership showed late, as Cameron Young (14 points) drained a pair of three-pointers in the fourth quarter, Hall made several key plays and Byrd knocked down some clutch free throws.
“Grit,” Arrigale said of his team’s best asset on a tough shooting night. “We showed some poise. You look to your senior leaders late.”
Down 45-44 entering the fourth quarter, Neumann-Goretti took command with a 9-2 run featuring both of Young’s three-pointers as well as a bucket by a back-dooring Miller off a feed from Hall.
The Saints spread the floor in the final four minutes, with Hall finding teammates for open looks.
“He had a couple good finds late in game,” Arrigale said of Hall, who played the second half with a large bandage on his cut lip. “He’s a very cerebral player, he can settle us down and get us something good.”
Byrd sealed the victory with a free throw at the 1:19 mark, a driving layup at 1:28 and two more free throws at 0:12.
“Nobody is selfish on this team,” Byrd said. “If my teammates are on, I’m giving it to them. If I’m on, they’re coming to me.”
Neumann-Goretti 17 16 11 21 – 65
Archbishop Carroll 14 18 13 17 – 62
NG: Hakim Byrd 26, Jordan Hall 2, Hysier Miller 16, Cameron Young 14, Blaise Vespe 7.