AS THEY trudged toward their locker room, Juan'ya Green and his teammates almost had to be thinking, "At least they could have given us a last meal."
OK, so coach Paul Romanczuk, of Archbishop Carroll High, did not take his players' lives last night after a craaaaazy Catholic Blue basketball game. Might have considered it, though.
"He's kind of a nice guy," Green said. "But tonight he had to be a coach. Did what he had to do.
"He was tossing tables. Cursing at everybody. He was furious. Everything he gave us, we deserved it."
With a 64-59 win over host West Catholic, the Patriots moved to 11-0 overall and 6-0 in the division. But the waning moments were so ugly, so frustrating, so almost disastrous, if his squad had completely squandered its apparently safe cushion and gone down to defeat, Romanczuk might not have minded because a valuable lesson would have been learned.
It was that kind of night.
With 1 minute, 32 seconds remaining, Green, a 6-3, 180-pound sophomore wing guard who's in his fifth year of being eyed by Villanova, turned an inbound pass from junior DJ Irving into a layup that provided a 62-53 lead.
Comfort time? Not quite.
Mostly thanks to guards Rob Hollomon and Aquil Younger, a senior and sophomore, respectively, West kept buzz-sawing and whirlwinding back into contention. The spread shrank to three, at 62-59, with 40 seconds remaining, and if those guys had not been so exhausted (they combined to miss 10 free throws in the last quarter) by the end, no doubt West would have won.
"They deserved to," Green said.
Romanczuk was already steaming before this, but the anger-clincher came at the very end as West got one, two, three, four, five shots on the same possession, and then Hollomon was fouled while attempting No. 6. Anyone ever hear of boxing out?
Today's an off day. Then it's back to work tomorrow in preparation for Friday night's showdown at Ss. Neumann-Goretti.
Might be a brutal practice, folks.
"We'll have endless drills," Green said, forcing a smile. "We'll be sweating hard. Maybe throwing up."
At least he knows what's coming.
Showing a propensity to go to his left, the righthanded Green finished with 19 points in addition to three apiece of rebounds and assists. He shot 7-for-14 from the floor and 4-for-4 at the line, and two of those free throws capped traditional three-point plays. He also nailed one of two treys.
"I was going to my left so much because they were forcing me that way," he said. "Since I was doing OK with it, no need to try crossover dribbles.
"I'd rather just go by people whatever way it can be done, rather than play around."
Green has long been a big name on the AAU circuit. While playing for St. Benedict, at the edge of East Germantown (he now lives in Elkins Park), he drew raves even as a sixth-grader and that was when 'Nova began keeping tabs.
Some seem to think he's almost ready to commit.
"I'm just playing basketball," he said. "I don't think about that stuff. If there is a school I'm favoring, though, yes it's Villanova and I could be making a decision by the end of my sophomore year. They've been looking at me the longest."
This game featured eye-popping athleticism thanks to Green and two of his teammates, Irving and Ben Mingledough, along with Hollomon and Younger for West.
Irving totaled 16 points and five assists. Mingledough had 10 points, four rebounds. Hollomon, star running back for the Class AA runners-up, exploded for 37 points while shooting 14-for-26 from the floor (two treys) and 7-for-14 at the line. He added three steals. Younger, held out for the first quarter, finished with seven points, four assists and five steals.
Hollomon was so drained coming down the stretch, he airballed one of his free throws and left the others way short.
"I didn't expect as much from him," Green said. "But he brung it. Brung it. Aquil didn't surprise me. That's how he always plays. Real hard.
"We didn't value the ball. We kept throwing it away, or making lazy passes that they kept stealing. We need to get it together and watch all that stuff. I blame myself for messing up. We had some very good moments tonight. Then we slipped up."
That's one phrase for it.
By tomorrow's practice, Paul Romanczuk will come up with many more. *