It really didn't set in until D.J. Irving returned to Archbishop Carroll for his senior year in September. That's when students stopped him in the hallway to ask the questions.

When is the first game? What do you think of the team? Can you guys do it again?

"They never asked before," Irving said. "Until this year."

Archbishop Carroll has basketball fever. That's what two state championships in one season will do to a school.

Last season, the Patriots became just the seventh school in Pennsylvania state history to win both a boys' and girls' basketball state championship in the same season. Carroll is the first area school to ever do it.

And in the last nine months since Carroll brought the two trophies home to Radnor, there have been plenty of benefits on and off the court.

"It was so special," said Paul Romanczuk, the boys' coach. "It really did galvanize the community and the school. I was so proud, being an alumnus of the school, to see how they responded with a parade and what they did for the kids, how they came out to Penn State to support them. It was a special moment."

There is plenty to remind both Carroll teams of that moment. Right outside the gymnasium at the school, a large display case holds the two PIAA Class AAA trophies and a ball commemorating each title.

Across the hallway, newspaper clippings from throughout the season remain stapled to a bulletin board. There are pictures from the parade, held at Carroll a week after both teams won, showing players from the boys' and girls' teams riding in a truck.

Splashed over one is the headline: "TITLETOWN."

Inside the gym, the large banners proudly proclaiming two PIAA champions hang tucked away in a corner, almost as to say, "That was the past."

"We really took the time to enjoy it," said Erin Shields, a senior captain on the girls' team. "Sadly, we have to move on."

But as the two teams prepare for title defenses with preseason practices, it is clear the state titles have left an indelible mark.

The girls' team is used to winning: Carroll claimed five Catholic League championships in the last decade. But a state championship gave an already proud program even more recognition and validation.

The boys' team had previously won a title once, when Romanczuk scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to beat Roman Catholic and win the 1995 Catholic League championship.

The Patriots had played second-fiddle to rival Neumann-Goretti since 2001 - having lost 18 straight games to them in that stretch. The Saints denied Carroll a Catholic League title again last season.

But Carroll finally exacted revenge in the Class AAA state quarterfinals, beating Neumann-Goretti, 70-65.

"They are obviously a team to be reckoned with now," Saints coach Carl Arrigale said.

At State College, the Carroll boys routed Greensburg Salem by 21. And the next night, the Carroll girls crushed Lampeter-Strasburg by 23.

Two titles in two days.

"I remember, the first week back at school was just crazy," Shields said. "That was the first time I actually felt, 'Wow, I'm proud to be on the girls' basketball team. I'm proud to be a part of this legacy we have here.' The people are what makes it great."

The surrounding community took notice. Before the parade - it was a modest route around the school's campus - the school held a pep rally in the gym to a packed house.

"It was crazy," Irving said.

The lights went out, a spotlight flicked on, and one-by-one, the players from both teams were introduced and presented their state championship medals one last time.

"I never knew how big the state championship was until last year," said Irving, who has signed to play for Boston University next season. "I always thought about winning the Catholic League, but the state seemed way more important to everyone."

That's a side effect of the Catholic League's membership in the PIAA. Until last season, every Carroll team has only ever aspired to a Catholic League title. But now there is more out there, and Carroll set about as high a bar possible.

Romanczuk said the real test will be how much attention the team gets at the beginning of this season. During the run last season, the coach said it took fans a while to come out with full support.

"They had to see it to believe it with us," Romanczuk said. "They didn't have to see it to believe it with [the girls' team]. They've done it for so long."

That means no more flying under the radar, Romanczuk said, a tactic that he didn't mind using last season. Opposing teams will scout Carroll closer knowing they are defending state champions. It comes with the territory.

But there are other benefits, too.

Anthony Butler, a senior who played at St. Elizabeth's in Delaware last season, transferred to play with his friend, Irving. And Yosef Yacob, a 6-foot freshman from Chester already turning heads, chose Carroll after the state title.

"The reason he came here is because we won," Irving said.

With all the attention on Archbishop Carroll, the two teams took full advantage. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing," girls' coach Chuck Creighton said.

And the celebrations will stop when the new season tips. But they will always remember that one season when two state basketball championship teams shared the same gym here.

"Opportunities to do something special come so few and far between," Romanczuk said. "You have to grasp those opportunities. I'm glad we did last year.

"Hopefully, we have another great run this year."

Contact staff writer Matt Gelb
at 215-854-2928 or mgelb@phillynews.com.