Recalling Neumann’s initial state basketball title in 1972

(EDITOR’S NOTE: In the 1970s, parochial schools in Pennsylvania were banned from playing in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association and, instead, formed and competed in the Pennsylvania Catholic Interscholastic Athletic Association, which operated from 1943-74. In 1972, Bishop Neumann High School, the forerunner to today’s St. John Neumann Regional Academy, posted a 22-4 record and won the PCIAA Class C state championship. Coached by Gary Koons and paced by leading scorer Paul Petcavage, who averaged nearly 16 points a game and now coaches the Knights, Neumann completed a 17-4 regular season, and then knocked off East Stroudsburg Notre Dame, 98-42; Mt. Pocono, 76-57; West Scranton Central Catholic, 92-67; St. Francis Prep of Spring Grove, 65-40; and captured the title with a 70-64 win over Bradford Central Christian Catholic at the Farm Show Arena in Harrisburg. These are Sun-Gazette championship-game preview highlights and a reprint of the championship game).


Riding a 10-game win streak and in its best season ever, Bishop Neumann puts everything on the line tonight as the Knights meet Bradford Central Christian Catholic High of Bradford for the Class C PCIAA crown at 7 o’clock at the Farm Show Arena in Harrisburg.

Under the first-year coaching of Gary Koons, the Knights finished their regular independent season with a 17-4 record. Neumann’s four losses came at the hands of Mifflinburg, Scranton’s Bishop Hannan, St. Francis of Clearfield and Williamsport High.

Bradford Central Christian Catholic has two league affiliations. In the Erie Diocese the Ramblers of coach Joe Vecellio finished in first place and in the Allegheny Mountain League, which includes both public and parochial schools, they ended their season in second place behind Brockway. Overall in its regular season, Bradford Central finished with a 19-3 record.

In Bishop Neumann’s postseason play, the Knights won the Scranton Diocese in Class C Zone 4 play as they whipped East Stroudsburg’s Notre Dame, 98-42; Mt. Pocono, 76-57; and West Scranton Central, 92-67. In the Eastern championship Saturday at the Farm Show Arena they took St. Francis Prep of Spring Grove, 65-40, for their current 21-4 record and a shot at the state title.

The only team that both Bishop Neumann and Bradford Central Christian have played this season was Clearfield’s St. Francis. When the Ramblers hosted St. Francis they won by 17 points, 77-60, and while on St. Francis’ court they eked out a 76-72 decision in double-overtime. Bishop Neumann dropped its game at Clearfield by nine points, 80-71, and when St. Francis played here Neumann won by 15, 73-58.

Leading Bishop Neumann tonight will be Paul Petcavage, whose slick ball handling and good shooting have been a determining factor in the Knights’ current record. Other starters for Neumann besides Petcavage, who is averaging about 16 points a game, are Mike Bloom, Keith Burkhart, Mike Brownlee and Chris Pellegrino. Three to five of Neumann’s starters have scored in double figures in the last eight games.

Neumann may have a slight advantage playing on the Farm Show Arena court as it played there Saturday while the Ramblers have not seen any action on the court.

The last time a Williamsport parochial school went to the state championship was 1965 when Frank Sullivan was head coach at St. Joseph’s. In that game, St. Joseph’s lost to St. John’s of Uniontown. In 1970, St. Joseph’s and St. Mary’s were phased out to form the present Bishop Neumann.

The championship

Headline: Knights Capture PCIAA Class C Title

Drop head: Brownlee’s 15 Sparks 70-64 in Second-Half Comeback Victory

Sparked by Mike Brownlee’s 15 points in the second half, Bishop Neumann came from behind to become the first parochial school in Williamsport history to win the PCIAA Class C championship as the Knights of first-year head coach Gary Koons defeated Bradford Central Christian Catholic, 70-64, at the Farm Show Arena in Harrisburg last night.

Early in the game, Bishop Neumann was the victim of the Bradford team’s fast break, but never fell far behind and trailed by three points, 12-9, at the end of the first period.

Hot shooting by Mike Fischer, Keith Burkhart and Mike Bloom in the second quarter helped the Knights keep pace with the Ramblers for a 19-19 standoff in the period. Bradford Central thus held a 31-28 halftime lead.

Koons’ halftime instructions included a plan to stop the Ramblers’ fast break and super outside shooting of guard Mike Walters, tops in the game with 27 points.

In the early minutes of the third quarter, Bloom and Burkhart combined to bring the Knights to within two points and then tie the game at 36-all.

The Knights halted Bradford’s fast break and Brownlee opened up to lead them to a 51-46 edge at the end of the third.

Good defensive play along with Paul Petcavage and Bloom controlling the boards in the last period kept the Knights on top.

Brownlee led Bishop Neumann’s five players in double figures with 17 points. He was followed by Burkhart with 16, Petcavage and Bloom with 11 each and Fischer with 10, all of Fischer’s coming in the first half.

Bradford Central’s top scorers behind Walters were center Mark Smith and Mike Aluiti, each with 11.

Koons said after the game that it was a great team effort that gave the Knights their victory.


Neumann closed out its best season in its three years of existence with a 22-4 record including wins in its last 11 games. The Knights’ last loss was Jan. 19 to Williamsport High.

Bradford Central also finished with a 22-4 mark.

Bishop Neumann had never been in a state title game before but forerunner St. Joseph’s had played and lost in the championship game three times, twice under the coaching of Charley Blackburn and once under Frank Sullivan. Sullivan coached the last St. Joseph’s team that went to the finals in 1965.

Suited up for the last time for Bishop Neumann were seniors Petcavage, Burkhart, Chris Pellegrino, Dave Hane, Brownlee, Gary Welteroth and Lester Loner.

Koons was assisted this season by Rick Tira. Tira also was Neumann’s Junior varsity coach and led the Junior Knights to a 20-1 season.


Bishop Neumann 70

Petcavage 3 5-5- 11, Pellegrino 0 3-5 3, Bloom 5 1-3 11, Burkhart 7 2-5 16, Brownlee 7 3-8 17, Fischer 4 2-4 10, Clark 1 0-0 2. Totals 27 16-30 70.

Bradford Central Christian Catholic 64

Aluiti 5 1-1 11, Walters 10 7-7 27, Smith 5 1-3 11, Sapko 1 1-1 3, Gleason 2 1-2 5, D. Gleason 3 1-2 7. Totals 26 12-16 64.

Bishop Neumann 9 19 23 19 – 70

Bradford Central 12 19 15 18 – 64

Non-scorers: Bishop Neumann – Hane, Welteroth; Bradford Central – Buck.