When Quade Green graduated from Neumann-Goretti after last season and headed to Kentucky, some might have assumed that junior guard Chris Ings would step in and take control of the team.
Not so fast, according to the 6-2 Ings, the tenacious defender who also is as explosive offensively as anyone in the city.
Friday night, the host Saints' balanced team approach helped hold off rival Roman, 56-54, in front of a packed crowd in South Philly.
"Everybody was telling me, 'Quade's gone, you're in,'" Ings said, "I was just thinking we lost last year because all of us [deferred] to Quade. If we didn't know what to do, we'd throw it to him. We talked about it at the beginning of the season and we knew that we didn't have that this year. We knew we couldn't just get stuck and throw it to somebody. We all had to come ready, all five of us and everybody coming off the bench. … Now I can see that we're definitely coming out strong as a team."
Ings led all scorers with 22 points, including 17 in the first half. He also had five rebounds, four steals and three assists for the Saints (8-3, 3-0).
Senior wing Dymir Montague added 10 points, and illustrative of the team's mentality, senior forward Marcus Littles supplied needed third-quarter energy and finished with 8 points.
"I needed more of that, because he's capable of that," Saints coach Carl Arrigale said of Littles' contribution.
Later, Arrigale added: "We need Marc [Littles]. Our goals are high here. It's not just to win a game or win a playoff game. It's to win the last game, and we need Marc to be at his best."
After a 31-all stalemate at the half, Roman took a 44-38 lead late in the third frame.
Littles, who got into early foul trouble, made a turnaround jump-hook in the lane and followed with an offensive rebound and put-back to cut the Cahillites' lead to two just before the buzzer.
In last week's win against Carroll, Littles told Arrigale to leave freshman forward Ta'Quan Woodley in the game when Woodley was hot late.
Arrigale was impressed with Littles's unselfishness then. The 6-8 George Washington commit's willingness to put the team first also comes in handy when he goes to the bench in favor of a smaller, quicker lineup.
"When you're on the bench and energized and clapping for everybody, that carries over," Littles said, "As long as I go to the bench with energy, I'll come off the bench with the same energy."
Roman (6-3, 1-1) might have run out of gas late. The Cahillites, who aren't deep, were led by Seth Lundy's 17 points and nine rebounds. Hakim Hart added 15 points and nine boards, while Allen Betrand finished with 12 points. Louie Wild (three points) had the only points off the bench.
Roman also didn't attack the basket often, finishing just 5 of 8 at the foul line and 9 of 31 from behind the three-point line. The Saints finished 11 of 17 at the line and 20 of 44 overall.
Neumann-Goretti 16 15 11 14 56
Roman Catholic 20 11 13 10 54
NG: Chris Ings 22, Dymir Montague 10, Marcus Littles 8, Noah Warren 5, Ja'Cor Smith 5, Ta'Quan Woodley 4, Ahmad Fair 2.