ENOLA - Arm bandaged nearly all the way from his wrist to shoulder, Neumann forward Ryan Reid planted himself in front of a 6-foot-7, 200-pound Robert Morris recruit while drawing a charge. The force of the collision knocked Reid toward the wall behind the basket.
Reid did not flinch. It was a necessary sacrifice in the pursuit of glory. Ultimately, Math, Civics and Science prevailed in Tuesday's Class A second round state tournament game, 62-46, but Neumann players left the court against the state's No. 2 team knowing they could look at the man in the mirror and know they did everything possible to win.
"They followed the game plan and did exactly what we wanted them to do," Neumann coach Paul Petcavage said. "It was an incredible season and they battled and they competed."
St. John Neumann teammates walk off the floor after losing to Math, Civics, and Science Tuesday night at East Pennsboro High School in the PIAA?Class A playoffs. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
That was Neumann's style all season and it led to one of the best seasons in program history. The Knights (24-3) captured their first District 4 championship in 13 years and won more games than any team since that 2000 squad. But the memorable season finally came to an end at East Pennsboro High School.
Not without a fight.
Senior guard Jordan Cole shined in his final varsity game, scoring 16 points and dealing five assists. Alize Johnson enhanced his all-state credentials, recording his second straight double-double, scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Tyree Vidal added eight points and made his first four shots.
"We didn't think we were going to lose but I'm proud of the way everybody competed," Cole said. "We weren't scared, we competed hard and everybody played great. If we were going to go down, we were going down swinging."
Unlike a year ago when eventual state champion Constitution routed Neumann from the start, the Knights proved they belong with the state's elite teams and made MCS (25-2) earn its third state quarterfinal appearance the hard way. The Mighty Elephants, 2011 state champions, and a team that held an open gym for Division I coaches to watch its players in the preseason did not secure victory until the final minutes.
MCS, starting three Division I recruits, led the whole game but Neumann used a 12-2 run to pull within a point just past the midway point of the second quarter. The Knights forced MCS to call a timeout and hit 5 of its first 6 second-quarter shots.
Neumann so effectively shredded MCS's defense that coach Dan Jackson was forced to scrap his big lineup that included 6-8 St. Peters-bound Quadir Welton and go with a smaller, faster lineup that could keep up with the Knights.
"I think you saw the shock in the other team's eyes a little bit that they were wondering why they weren't blowing us out by 40," Petcavage said. "These guys were ready to play and they did what they had to do."
"We were confident," Cole said. "You could tell they weren't expecting that."
The Elephants regrouped and ended the half on a 10-0 run while taking a 32-21 halftime lead. They extended that lead to 16 early in the third quarter and the rest of the game featured Neumann repeatedly rallying only for MCS to answer, usually with a 3-pointer.
Louis Myers scored a game-high 19 points and scored 11 straight second-quarter points while adding five more in the third. He hit five 3-pointers and MCS drained nine. The excellent shooting made defending MCS especially difficult since its players are so quick. The Robert Morris-bound guard gave Neumann trouble with his penetration while scoring 19 points, including eight in the fourth quarter.
Neumann refused to go away in the second half a Cole drive capped a 7-0 run that made it 42-33 late in the third quarter. Lee answered with a 3-pointer, though, and the Knights could pull no closer.
"They're still devastated because they truly believed they were going to win this game," Petcavage said. "Still, we've been in the Sweet 16 two years in a row and that's pretty special."
Cole again shined in the second half and tried willing Neumann back, scoring 13 second-half points and hitting three 3-pointers. He and the Knights made nearly 50 percent of their shots and turned the ball over only six times over the final three quarters against a swarming defense that has flustered several big school teams this season.
Neumann expected to win last night so it is not happy with a moral victory. Still, what it accomplished this season and how it played last night can only help it in coming years. This team raised the bar and the best might be yet to come.
"I love these guys," Cole said. "They all work hard and this is putting us on the map. We're just going to keep getting better."
Alize Johnson 7 0-0 15, Jordan Cole 5 2-3 16, Richard Allen 2 0-4 5, Tyree Vidal 4 0-0 8, Noah Beiter 0 0-0 0, Ryan Reid 1 0-0 2. TOTALS 19 2-7 46.
Jeremiah Worthem 2 0-0 5, Britton Lee 9 0-0 19, Quadir Welton 3 1-3 7, Shafeek Taylor 3 0-0 6, Jeffon Powell 0 0-0 0, Louis Myers 7 0-0 19, Tyrese Hester 1 0-0 3, Tyheem Harmon 1 0-0 3. Totals 26 1-3 62.
Neumann9 12 12 13-46
MCS14 18 13 17-62
3-pointers: Neumann 6 (Cole 4, Johnson, Allen); MCS 9 (Myers 5, Worthem, Lee, Hester, Harmon).
Records: MCS 25-2. Neumann 24-3.