Roman Catholic’s Big Three were at their best on the Big Stage.
Senior Lynn Greer III scored 20 points with six assists, controlling the game’s pace with steady, savvy leadership.
Sophomore guard Justice Williams scored 25 points, went 10-for-11 from the foul line, and handled Archbishop Wood’s frantic full-court, fourth-quarter pressure with aplomb.
Sophomore center Jalen Duren generated a double-double with 20 points and 18 rebounds along with five blocks in another dominant performance in the paint.
But there were two other reasons fifth-seeded Roman Catholic stunned top-seeded Archbishop Wood, 83-73, in the Philadelphia Catholic League semifinals Wednesday night in a rocking Palestra.
That would be freshman guard Xzayvier Brown and senior guard Nasir Lett, who combined for 20 points and did not miss a shot.
Not from the field.
Not from the foul line.
“That’s unbelievable,” Roman Catholic coach Matt Griffin said after his team advanced to play Neumann Goretti in the league title game Monday night, back at the Palestra.
Neumann Goretti, the No. 3 seed, advanced with a workmanlike, 51-41 win over seventh-seeded Archbishop Ryan in the second semifinal Wednesday night.
Roman Catholic (16-8) will be seeking its third straight PCL championship. The Cahillites also will be looking to turn the tables on the Saints, who scored a 77-69, double-overtime victory over their inner-city rivals Jan. 17 in a heated battle in South Philadelphia.
“We remember what they said about us, that we were from the wrong side of Broad and Vine [Streets],” Greer said of Neumann Goretti. “That’s going to fuel our fire.”
Junior guard Rahsool Diggins, the league’s MVP in a coach’s vote, set a semifinal record with 35 points for Archbishop Wood (19-5), which will look to regroup in advance of District 12, Class 5A play.
Diggins scored 20 in an endless fourth quarter, when the teams combined for 43 free throws. His 35 points broke the semifinal record of 33 set in 2017 by Archbishop Wood’s Collin Gillespie.
“Terrific player,” Griffin said of Diggins.
Roman Catholic’s victory continued a late-season surge that began after back-to-back, double-overtime losses to Neumann Goretti and Archbishop Wood on the weekend of Jan. 17-19.
Since then, the Cahillites have won eight of nine. They beat fourth-seeded Bonner-Prendergast on Duren’s buzzer-beating put-back in the quarterfinals and they looked like that familiar, purple-and-gold, big-game team of old in their annual return to the Palestra.
With Duren owning the glass, Williams slashing into the lane and Greer orchestrating movement from the top, Roman Catholic built leads of 36-26 at the half and 55-37 after three quarters. The Cahillites showed with crisp ball movement that led to sizzling shooting from distance, going 7-for-9 from three-point range, all in the first three quarters.
“It’s basketball, it’s not the most talented team, it’s the team that plays the most together,” Griffin said. “I’m just so proud of these guys. They played unselfishly and they played together.”
Brown, a ninth-grade starter with the unflappable air of a seasoned veteran, was 3-for-3 from the field, including 2-for-2 from behind the arc. He also was 4-for-4 from the free-throw line, once appearing to take Greer’s place when it looked as if the Roman senior was the player who had been fouled.
“I didn’t even care because I knew he was going to make them,” Greer said.
Lett bounced off the bench and played 26 minutes. He was 2-for-2 from the field, both from three-point range, and 2-for-2 from the foul line. He also had three assists.
“Those guys,” Duren said of Brown and Lett, “make our jobs so much easier.”
Greer was at a loss for words to describe the importance of the play of Brown and Lett in securing the two-time defending champion’s third straight visit to the league championship game.
“I don’t even what to say,” Greer said. “Those two guys, they mean so much to this team.”
Roman Catholic 19 17 19 28 – 83
Archbishop Wood 8 18 11 36 – 73
RC: Jalen Duren 20, Justice Williams 25, Lynn Greer III 20, Xzayvier Brown 12, Nasir Lett 8.