HERSHEY, Pa. - Even before the PIAA Class AAAA state final Saturday night between Roman Catholic and Martin Luther King, Philadelphia-area boys' basketball had achieved a first.
With its 62-51 afternoon victory over previously undefeated Aliquippa, Conwell-Egan assured District 12 a clean sweep of four championship games. That's something no other district has accomplished since the tournament began in 1920.
In 1978, six years before the switch to four classifications, three District 11 girls' squads - Allentown Central Catholic (Class AAA), Tamaqua (AA), and Pottsville Nativity (A) - claimed top state honors.
The last year a district swept the boys' championships was in 1945, when District 11's Allentown (AAA) and McAdoo (AA) triumphed in a two-classification system.
Roman capped the milestone, easily turning back King, 62-45, in a rematch of a District 12 final played three weeks earlier.
Constitution began the dominance in Friday afternoon's Class A final with a 85-53 thrashing of District 10's Farrell. Later, in the weekend's first all-District 12 final, Neumann-Goretti picked up its fifth AAA crown with a 69-67 win over Archbishop Carroll.
"I'm extremely proud," District 12 chairman Robert Coleman said Saturday. "We use sports to make better citizens in the city of Philadelphia. We're all in this together. We're one big family."
The Neumann-Goretti girls, ranked No. 1 in the country by multiple publications, started the weekend off by clobbering District 7's Seton-La Salle, 79-34, for the Class AA title.
Archbishop Wood's girls almost made it six championships for District 12, but came up short against District 7's Blackhawk, 46-40, in a rematch of last year's Class AAA final.
The Public League joined the PIAA in 2004-05. The Catholic League came on board in 2008-09.
"It took us a while to get used to how the referees blow their whistles in state games," Coleman said. "So there was an adjustment period. Once that happened, people had to adjust to us."
And for those who protest that some of District 12's squads have gained an unfair advantage from open enrollment and recruiting? "It's sour grapes all around," Coleman said matter-of-factly.
Before this season, Roman had mostly struggled in states. They had a 3-6 record and were ousted in the first round in four of six appearances.
"I feel so good for our alumni and all the people who have supported us all along," Cahillites coach Chris McNesby said. "To give them a win in a big stage like this, it's very satisfying."