Roman Catholic basketball coach Matt Griffin preached the importance of defense so much this season that even the Cahillites’ student section caught on.
Monday night at the sold-out Palestra, Roman captured its fourth Catholic League championship in five seasons, 64-50, against La Salle in a game Roman dominated from nearly start to finish.
With 1 minute, 26 seconds left in the first half, the Cahillites student section succinctly explained the story of Roman’s second straight PCL title. Well, at least Part I.
“Single digits, single digits!” Roman’s student section chanted.
At the time, Roman led, 23-8, on its way to a 25–13 edge at intermission.
Part of II was, of course, a thunderous dunk by senior forward Hakim Hart. It started, however, on the defensive end.
“Our defense is our best offense,” said Hart, who finished with 21 points.
Two came in spectacular fashion near the end of the first quarter after Lynn Greer III deflected an errant La Salle pass.
Chased by a defender near half court, Hart had one thing on the brain.
“It was a clear lane, and I was like, ‘let me try it,’” the 6-foot-7 forward said.
He added: “I had dunk in my mind the whole time.”
La Salle (21-3) made a modest move in the second half, getting within 10 points on a few occasions.
Jake Timby led the Explorers with 15 points (five three-pointer). Allen Powell added 13. Konrad Kiszka and Zach Crisler added 9 and 7 points, respectively.
Roman, however, slammed the door with authority.
A powerful two-handed dunk by freshman Jalen Duren (three blocks, nine rebounds) was followed later by a one-handed hammer by senior Seth Lundy, when finished with 18 points.
Defense, however, was what satisfied Lundy the most.
“It was great just seeing all five guys on the same page tonight,” he said. “Helping the helper, going for loose balls. It was just great tonight. I love defense, man. I love defense. Seeing my team play like that, it really has a special place in my heart.”
Roman 14 11 15 24 64
La Salle 2 11 15 22 50
R: Seth Lundy 18, Lynn Greer III 14, Hakim Hart 21, Louie Wild 5, Justice Williams 2, Jalen Duren 2, Rashaun Deas 2.