There was the three-pointer that doubled the lead midway in the fourth quarter.

There was the alley-oop dunk that brought one of the liveliest crowds in recent Cardinal O‘Hara boys’ basketball history to its feet.

There even was the pair of free throws – part of an 8-for-8 effort by the Lions in the final two minutes – that helped seal Cardinal O’Hara’s 63-50 victory over St. Joseph’s Prep Friday night in Philadelphia Catholic League action.

But for Cardinal O’Hara coach Ryan Nemetz, Tre Dinkins’ performance at the other end of the floor was most impressive.

“What stood out even more for me was his defense,” Nemetz said of the senior. “I liked that even more than the alley-oop.”

Dinkins’ dynamic, two-way play was typical of the Lions this season. Cardinal O’Hara (9-0 overall, 3-0 in the PCL) is off to one of its best starts of the century thanks to its diligence on defense and floor-spreading, unselfish play at the offensive end.

“Guys just care about each other, and we’re all playing together,” said Dinkins, a 6-foot-2 senior guard. “We all have each other’s backs.”

Dinkins scored a season-high 24 points, shooting 9-for-13 from the field, including 3-for-4 from distance and 2-for-2 from the foul line. He also grabbed four rebounds.

Junior guard Adrian Irving added 14 points with six assists, and junior guard Anthony Purnell made a trip of three-pointers and was 4-for-4 from the foul line on his way to 15 points.

Cardinal O’Hara, the No. 9 team in the Inquirer Top 10, got some strong work in the paint from junior forwards Solo Bambera (four points, six rebounds) and Jax Trickey (two points, four rebounds).

“We’re gelling as a team,” Irving said. “We’re all having fun with it.”

Senior guard Trevor Wall scored 21 for St. Joseph’s Prep (6-4, 0-2).

“If we would have hit our shots we would have been OK,” said St. Joseph’s Prep coach Speedy Morris, who was honored before the game with a standing ovation from most of the spectators.

Morris, in his 52d season, has announced he will retire at the end of this campaign.

Adrian Irving (center) of Cardinal O’Hara holds up a phone as the team and the sudent section celebrate after their vicory over St. Joseph’s Prep on Jan. 3, 2020.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Adrian Irving (center) of Cardinal O’Hara holds up a phone as the team and the sudent section celebrate after their vicory over St. Joseph’s Prep on Jan. 3, 2020.

“That’s very good team,” Morris said of Cardinal O’Hara.

The Lions haven’t fashioned a winning record in PCL play since 2001. They won just five league games last season with the same starting lineup.

But this group is a year older, a year stronger and anxious to prove they belong among the league’s elite.

"Nobody respects this program, and nobody respects these guys as players,” Nemetz said. "They have that chip on their shoulder. They like being the underdogs.

“We’re playing well right now, but we haven’t done anything yet.”

With Wall snaking in the lane for a trio of buckets, St. Joseph’s Prep rallied from a 45-35 deficit to within 45-42 midway in the fourth quarter. That’s when Dinkins buried a three-pointer from the right corner off a feed from Irving.

That started a run that included an alley-oop dunk by Purnell off a dish from Irving and Dinkins’ dunk off Purnell’s perfect pass. Both plays sent the Lions’ raucous student section into a frenzy.

“This is the best crowd we’ve had in this gym in a long time,” Nemetz said.

The Lions host Bishop McDevitt Monday and Archbishop Wood Wednesday with the chance to cement their status as serious contenders in the typically loaded PCL.

“I think we’re the best team in the league,” Dinkins said. “Especially the way we’re playing right now.”

St. Joseph’s Prep 12 12 11 15 – 50

Cardinal O’Hara 8 18 15 22 – 63

SJP: Trevor Wall 21, Jimmy King 7, Chris Arizin 10, Mike Keenan 6, Brian Geatens 6.

CO: Anthony Purnell 15, Adrian Irving 14, Tre Dinkins 24, Solo Bambera 4, Kevin Reeves 4, Jax Trickey 2,