Roman Catholic won its second straight Catholic League basketball championship, the fourth in the last five years, on Monday. Now the Cahillites turn their focus to another repeat attempt: the PIAA title.
The defending state champion Cahillites have won three of the last four Class 6A state crowns and are no strangers to getting every team’s best shot when they play. Senior Seth Lundy, a two-time state champion and Penn State recruit, doesn’t feel the squad is burdened by the expectations that come with the program’s successful history.
“We don’t feel pressure at all,” said Lundy. “We know we can be beat by any team and we can beat any team. We’ve just got to go out there and execute the game plan.”
The Cahillites open PIAA play at 7 p.m. Friday against Boys’ Latin at Southern.
Roman’s fast pace and superior athleticism typically create easy points in transition, but in the 64-50 PCL championship win over La Salle, head coach Matt Griffin preached defensive intensity, and his team listened.
“Normally, our focus is on getting out in transition and trying to get up as many field-goal attempts as possible,” Griffin said Monday as water dripped from the sleeves of his purple Roman golf shirt, darkened by the team’s postgame locker room celebration. “Today, we told ourselves, if we have to win 38-36, we will. It was a little bit of a mind-set shift."
In addition to the Penn State-bound Lundy, Griffin’s team features another 6-foot-6 senior wing, Hakim Hart, who is headed to St. Joseph’s next year. The Palestra crowd erupted when Hart threw down a one-handed dunk over 6-9 La Salle senior Zach Crisler, which set the tone for the game.
But if Roman is going to win the state title in Hershey again this year, it must do it without Lynn Greer III. The highly recruited junior guard was ruled ineligible for PIAA postseason play. Last spring, Greer left Roman for Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, only to transfer back to Roman in November.
A new PIAA rule approved over the summer requires students who transfer in their 10th-grade season or later sit out the next season’s postseason, unless they can prove hardship. Greer’s hardship waiver was rejected earlier this month.
The Cahillites could lean on a pair of talented freshmen to replace Greer, who scored 20 points in last year’s state title game and has received offers from eight schools including Miami, Florida, Penn State, and Temple.
“We focus on a next guy-up mentality,” said Griffin. “Each person on the team is going to have to do a little bit more. Lynn has been hurt at certain points this year and we’ve had to play without him.”
Freshman Jalen Duren, a 6-9 presence in the paint, and freshman Justice Williams, a 6-3 guard, will need to chip in on offense for Roman to repeat, along with senior guard Louie Wild. Duren sent the sold-out crowd into a frenzy as he finished a fast break with a ferocious dunk off a pass from Greer on Monday.
In last season’s state title game, Lundy led Roman with 28 points and Hart added 26. Lundy is ready for another opportunity to seize the moment.