Chris Arizin and the rest of the St. Joseph’s Prep players know the end is near.
Sometime soon — maybe in the March 7 opener of the state tournament, maybe in the second round, maybe after a surprising, stirring run deep into the bracket — the Hawks will play their last game, marking the end legendary coach Speedy Morris’ 52-year career.
Arizin and his classmates, who are playing to extend their own careers as well, made certain midnight didn’t strike in a District 12, Class 6A play-in game Wednesday night against Olney Charter of the Philadelphia Public League.
With Arizin generating a double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds and senior guard Trevor Wall leading all scorers with 21, St, Joseph’s Prep kept alive its season and Morris’ career with a 77-59 victory at Father Judge High School.
“I was definitely something we thought about all day,” Arizin said of the implications of a loss. “We wanted to make sure that didn’t happen. We want to keep this thing going as long as possible for coach.”
Wall made four three-pointers and also collected eight rebounds and five assists as St. Joseph’s Prep (13-11) advanced to meet the No. 2 seed from District 3 in the first round of the state tournament.
The Hawks’ opponent will be the loser of the District 3 championship game on Saturday between Wilson West Lawn and Reading. Wilson has beaten Reading three times this season.
Junior guard Jimmy King scored 16 points and senior Brian Geatens made a trio of three-pointers on his way to 14 points for St. Joseph’s Prep.
Junior guard Richard Thomas, starting in place of injured senior guard Mike Keenan (thumb), contributed six points with six assists for St. Joseph’s Prep, which bolted to a 43-13 lead at the half.
“I thought we played well,” Morris said after his 1,037th career victory. “We shared the ball, shot well. We got a little happy on the farm in the second half.”
Olney (21-5) scored 46 points in a fast-paced second half as senior Zion Key made all five of his three-pointers in the final 16 minutes.
“They’re a good team — I knew they wouldn’t give up with Jason Lawson as their coach,” Morris said.
During his time as the head coach of La Salle University’s men’s team, Morris said he tried to recruit Lawson, a star at Olney who played at Villanova.
“I think I went to every one of his games trying to recruit him,” Morris said.
Morris said it crossed his mind during the day that a loss would mark the end of his career, which began at Roman Catholic in 1968 and has included stops at Penn Charter and La Salle University, where he coached both the women’s and men’s programs, and a still-going, 19-year run St. Joseph’s Prep.
“I thought about — I was hoping not because I really love these kids,” Morris said.
The Hawks removed all suspense in the first half, showing crisp ball movement to create open looks on offense while their zone defense forced the Trojans into a series of contested and off-balance shots.
Wall hit all four of his three-pointers in the first half, including two from NBA range.
“I think he’s 8-for-8 from three in the last two games,” Morris said of Wall.
Arizin, the Hawks’ tallest starter at 6-foot-4, scored 11 points with seven rebounds in the first half. He finished a clinical press break as the Hawks quickly moved the basketball from Wall to Thomas to the grandson of the late, great Paul Arizin for a layup and 34-12 lead midway in the second quarter.
“We don’t have a lot of size, so we need to share the ball,” Arizin said. “When we do that, we get good shots.”
Off since a Feb. 12 loss to Archbishop Carroll in the first round of the Philadelphia Catholic League playoffs, St. Joseph’s Prep now has a nine-day wait before its first PIAA game. When the Hawks take the court for the first round of Class 6A tourney, they will have played one game in the last 24 days,
“Practice is fun,” Morris said.
Olney 4 9 24 22 – 59
St. Joseph’s Prep 19 24 18 16 – 77
O: Aamir Terry 9, Rashad Rayford 7, Mekhi Tribbett 9, Zion Key 15, Sabree Glover 6, Milton Carter 7, Salikee Roberts 6.