There was a time when J.P. Sanders watched as others cleaned up the mess, made the big play, and led Roman Catholic basketball to victory.
Saturday afternoon, however, Sanders took the lead.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound guard scored a team-high 19 points in the Cahillites' 66-60 victory against host Haverford School at the Don McBride Classic. Sanders was also named the tournament's MVP.
"I think this was a big game for us to get used to each other," he said. "Playing a good team like Haverford was a good challenge because we'll face good teams like that down the road."
Despite a sloppy, turnover-plagued performance from the new-look Cahillites, Sanders scored 12 points in the decisive fourth quarter to help ensure the victory.
Although he may have watched as Shep Garner and Tony Carr (both now at Penn State) took over late in Roman games in years past, Sanders also took notes.
"Playing behind 'Tone' and Shep Garner for the last few years was tough because everyone wants to be on the floor playing a lot," he said. "But I just learned from them. They were a big help and great role models. A little bit of them rubbed off on me, so I just bring it to practice and games every day."
In addition to Carr, Roman, the two-time defending Catholic League and PIAA Class 4A champion, also lost Lamar Stevens and Nazeer Bostick to Penn State, and coach Chris McNesby stepped down to spend more time with his family.
Those losses left a void that first-year coach Matt Griffin said Sanders has helped to fill.
"J.P. is our captain and is probably one of our strongest defenders," Griffin said. "He battles all game long and he'll [guard] any position you ask him to."
His defense was needed early in the third quarter, when 6-foot-6 Roman sophomore Seth Lundy went down with an injury. Roman (2-0) had led, 28-20, at halftime, but saw its lead whittled away by Christian Ray, Haverford School's 6-foot-5 sophomore.
Ray finished with a game-high 23 points and added nine rebounds. Without Lundy, Sanders spent time slowing Ray and even helped Roman build a 10-point advantage.
Lundy eventually returned, but he could be seen frequently favoring his lower back. In the final frame, Sanders' offense was needed as the Cahillites, who finished with 18 turnovers, struggled to score.
Da'Kquan Davis, who finished with 18 points, was also essential to Roman's victory. Freshman guard Lynn Greer III was all-around effective, supplying eight points and 12 rebounds.
Junior wing Allen Betrand (two points) struggled offensively, but he made quality defensive plays before fouling out with 6 minutes, 24 seconds left.
Kharon Randolph added 15 points for the Fords (3-1). Fords sophomore Jameer Nelson (11 points) tied the game at 48 with 4:39 remaining.
Sanders followed with seven points after that mark to secure the win.
"This is a big year for me and I want to go out with a bang," he said, "and I know my guys do, too."
Roman Catholic 12 16 11 27 - 66
Haverford School 6 14 13 27 - 60
R: JP Sanders 19, Da'Kquan Davis 18, Lynn Greer III 8, Seth Lundy 12, Chris Kuhar 5, Allen Betrand 2, Colin Flach 2.
H: Christian Ray 23, Kharon Randolph 15, Asim Richards 3, Gavin Burke 8, Jameer Nelson 11.