The Cahillites (Roman Catholic) will post impressive victories until they run into Norristown in the semifinals. Still, they triumph and go on to cut down the nets at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center.
-Keith Pompey, The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 6, 2009
Just in case the Central Bucks South boys’ basketball team needed any added inspiration heading into Saturday’s PIAA Class AAAA contest against Roman Catholic, Philadelphia Inquirer sportswriter Keith Pompey gave it to them in Friday’s edition of the newspaper.
The Titans were dismissed without so much as a second thought in Pompey’s state playoff predictions – not even a speed bump on the way to Roman’s semifinal showdown with Norristown and an eventual state championship for the highly regarded District 12 champions.
Pompey wasn’t being unkind. In truth, he was being realistic. An eighth seeded team that lost three straight isn't supposed to beat a district champion that was ranked number one in the state in The Patriot-News poll, but that’s the beauty of sports. It doesn’t always follow the script.
The Titans – in their first trip to the PIAA Tournament – did the unthinkable, turning in 32 gutsy, refuse-to-lose minutes of basketball and holding off an immensely talented Roman squad for a scintillating 62-57 win.
“They received a little motivation from The Inquirer,” South coach Jason Campell admitted. “I used that in the locker room today.”
But Campbell began preaching the ‘you gotta believe’ theory long before Pompey made his predictions and well before his team’s pre-game locker room meeting.
The South coach used the women’s basketball team from his alma mater – Holy Family – as an example. Ranked 25th in the nation in the USA Today/ESPN/WBCA Coaches poll at the time, Holy Family entered the Centennial Athletic Collegiate Conference Championship Tournament as the top-seeded team.
The Tigers were stunned by Wilmington (Del.) in the quarterfinals, falling 67-64 to a decided underdog.
“I told my guys, ‘That team was on top of the world, and they lost. We can be that Wilmington team that comes in and upsets them,’ and they believed,” Campbell said. “I believed.
“I had a lot of faith in what we were going to do. We had a great week of practice. We worked on a couple of things defensively that we felt would work, and it all came together the last two days.”
Saturday’s big win put Central Bucks South on the basketball map – sending the state’s top-ranked team home for the season will do that for a squad, and the Titans might want to thank Pompey for the added motivation his prediction gave them because it took an inspired effort to knock off a talented Roman squad that was as good as its billing.
“Coach told us at the beginning of the game what The Inquirer said,” said senior Ian Gordon. “He said, ‘Forget it. We’re going to come out of here with a win. No one expects us to win, but we’re going to do it,’ so we did.
“We pulled it off. That (article) gave us a little extra motivation.”
The Titans used that motivation and a consummate team effort to pull off the upset of the state tournament. Four players – Will Barrett, Mike Pincus, Mike Doty and Gordon – finished the game in double figures. Four other players – Ryan Clark, Alex Dedeian, Greg Johnston and Nick Joerger - contributed points.
And on a day that was supposed to belong to Roman – which celebrated the return of All-American Malik Wayns to its lineup after a nine-game absence because of an injury, the Titans stole the spotlight.
“We came here as the underdog,” Campbell said. “There was no pressure on us. No one expected us to win except the guys who put on the jerseys and the coaching staff. We’re the only ones that believed.
“You do that – good things can happen.”
The Titans will face another monumental task on Wednesday when they will be pitted against William Penn (28-1) in a second round game at Coatesville High School at 7 p.m. The District Three’s second place team – better known as York High – defeated Liberty 58-41 in an opening round game. York’s only loss came at the hands of Central Dauphin East in the district title game.
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