Familiar foes Martin Luther King and Roman Catholic are set to square off in the PIAA Class AAAA boys' basketball final, with the winner making history.
The Cahillites have beaten the Cougars in the District 12 final three straight times. But King barely fell short of the crown the last two times, falling by 58-55 last year and 58-57 last month.
"We just have to make a few more plays," said King's third-year coach, Sean Colson. "I don't think much separates the teams."
With considerably more at stake this time, Roman (28-2) and King (23-8) clash at 8 p.m. Saturday at Hershey's Giant Center. The victor will become District 12's first Class AAAA state hoops titlist.
"It's exciting," Cahillites seventh-year boss Chris McNesby said. "A lot of the kids are friends. It's going to be a great atmosphere."
Conwell-Egan (20-8) goes for the Class AA title against District 7 champ Aliquippa (29-0) at 2 p.m. Saturday. Frank Sciolla's Eagles have won their first four state contests by an average margin of 23.8 points.
In Roman's narrow triumph over King on Feb. 27, guards Tony Carr (15), Gemil Holbrook (13), and D'Andre Vilmar (13) combined for 41 points for the Cahillites.
Carr, a junior floor general and Division I prospect, is averaging 12 points, six assists, and five rebounds per game.
"We've gone up against a lot of good players this year, including Antonio Blakeney," a five-star guard for Oak Ridge (Fla.) and a Louisiana State recruit, Colson said. "We don't fear anyone at this point."
The Cougars also must contend with swingman Nazeer Bostick, 6-foot-7 forward Paul Newman, and 6-5 forward Manny Taylor. "They have quite a few players who can get the job done," Colson said.
King has been spurred by guards Sammy Taylor, Jabri McCall, Ladji Fofana, and Tyheem Harmon. Foreman has averaged 15.3 points in states, with Fofana (12.8) and McCall (12) next in line.
Against Newman and Taylor, the Cougars need solid inside play from 6-8 center Tyere Marshall and 6-7 reserve forward Rasool Samir.
Pick. With Taylor as the X-factor, the Cahillites, coming off a pair of one-point wins, eke out another tight victory. Roman, 64-61.
C-E aims to keep Aliquippa from becoming only the second District 7 squad to achieve perfection (New Castle went 31-0 en route to the AAAA title last year) since Sto-Rox (AA) in 1983.
The speedy Quips have won all 29 games by double figures. In states, coach Nick Lackovich's squad has won by an average margin of 30.5 points.
Aliquippa, located 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, is spurred by 5-9 guard Stephon McGinnis, 5-10 guard Jassir Jordan, 6-2 forward Kaezon Pugh, and 6-5 forward Charles Humphries.
Pugh, who rushed for 1,600-plus yards and 25 scores as a running back in football last season, has scholarship offers from Miami, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and West Virginia, among many others.
C-E, which was toughened by a rigorous Catholic League schedule, is led by point guard Stevie Jordan (16.6 ppg.), wings Chase Kumor and LaPri McCray-Pace, and 6-7 forward Vinny Dalessandro.
Pick. C-E is capable of pulling the upset, but the Quips' overall athleticism and experience keeps the Eagles (they have three junior starters) waiting another year. Aliquippa, 56-49.