Mike Keenan said it was a story he would tell his children, the tale about that time he played a key role in helping legendary coach Speedy Morris win the last regular-season game of his career.
Keenan, a senior guard for St Joseph’s Prep, can spice his recount with some important details, like his five three-pointers in the second quarter, including an improbable buzzer-beater that sent the Hawks charging into the locker room at halftime.
"This is something I’ll never forget,” Keenan said after St. Joseph Prep’s 59-56 victory over host La Salle Sunday in the Philadelphia Catholic League finale for the fierce rivals.
Keenan scored 18 points, including a key layup with 0:14 on the clock, as St. Joseph’s (12-10, 6-8 PCL) secured Morris’ 1,036 victory in his 52d and final season.
Senior guard Trevor Wall added 11 points with six rebounds and five assists and senior forward Chris Arizin scored eight points with 12 rebounds as St. Joseph’s Prep locked up the No. 9 seed in the PCL playoffs.
St. Joseph’s Prep will play at eighth-seeded Archbishop Carroll in a preliminary-round game Wednesday at 5 p.m.
“It’s been pretty special,” said Wall, who scored his 1,000th career point last Monday in a loss to Archbishop Wood. “Fifty-two seasons and we’re his last [team], that’s crazy to think about.”
The 77-year-old Morris, whose teams have won 367 games in 19 seasons at St. Joseph’s Prep, announced in December he was stepping down at the end of this campaign because of health reasons.
Morris’ final season has been something of a farewell tour, with opposing teams presenting him with gifts, with fans, friends and former players gathering around him before and after nearly every game.
“All the fanfare has been unbelievable, overwhelming really,” Morris said after Sunday’s game. "I don’t deserve it. But it’s been great.”
Sunday’s game was played before a crowd that filled both sections of bleachers and stood two- and three-deep in the corners of the gymnasium. Players from both teams warmed up wearing commemorative T-shirts that marked the occasion, with school logos, the date and “Coach Speedy Morris” on the front and “52 Seasons — Philly Legend, One of a Kind” on the back.
Morris was honored with an extended standing ovation before the game.
“I love him,” said La Salle coach Mike McKee, a former standout player at Roman Catholic. “When I was a youngster, my dad, who is a Roman alum, would always say, ‘I want you to play for a coach like Speedy Morris.’
“There’s Rocky. There’s the Liberty Bell. And there’s Speedy."
The game was fast-paced and well-played by senior-heavy teams that had been battled-tested by the rigorous competition in the PCL.
“We knew it would be a tough game,” Morris said. “We were both 10-4 at one time. They played teams tougher than we did.
“They could play. We had to make shots to beat them and we did. It was a great game I thought.”
St. Joseph’s Prep made 13 three-pointers, including nine in the first half. Keenan’s three-pointer off a steal and dish by Richard Thomas beat the buzzer at the end of the second quarter for a 36-32 lead.
“I kind of knew it was going in,” Keenan said. “I was feeling it. Shot it up, went in.”
La Salle battled back on Senior Day. Senior guard Jake Timby led the way for the Explorers (10-12, 3-11) with 20 points, including four three-pointers.
Timby’s jumper off the move with 2:30 left in the fourth quarter and sophomore Sam Brown’s two free throws at 2:08 cut the Prep’s lead to 55-54.
Keenan made the game’s key bucket with a layup off a nice feed from junior Jimmy King (11 points, three assists) for a 57-54 lead at the 0:14 mark. Senior Brian Geatens (11 points) closed the scoring with two free throws at 0:01.
“He’s a legend,” Keenan said of Morris. “This is all I wanted to do, win this game.”
St. Joseph’s Prep 12 24 15 8 – 59
La Salle 15 17 16 8 – 56
SJP: Trevor Wall 11, Jimmy King 11, Mike Keenan 18, Brian Geatens 11, Chris Arizin 8.
L: Sam Brown 9, Mike DiPietro 12, Shane Holland 4, Liam O’Donnell 6, JakeTimby 20, Nix Varano 5.