Neumann-Goretti cruises into CL title game

Neumann-Goretti's John Davis draws a foul from Roman Catholic's Secean Johnson in the third quarter of the CL semifinal.
Neumann-Goretti's John Davis draws a foul from Roman Catholic's Secean Johnson in the third quarter of the CL semifinal. (ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: February 23, 2012

ONE THING about an extra-long winning streak: It can be just as bad as good.

"It's great to keep winning like this," Hanif Sutton said. "But it also makes for a lot of pressure. Even teams that don't do too well against inferior teams are really going to be coming after you. They're going to give you their best shot."

Did someone say best shot?

Last night at the fabled Palestra, Ss. Neumann-Goretti posted a bunch of those early and wound up (mostly) not having much trouble in besting Roman Catholic, 73-56, in a Catholic League semifinal.

It was the Saints' 69th consecutive CL victory, counting the regular season and playoffs, and Monday they'll shoot for their fourth straight title.

Emphasis on shoot. With a side order of long-distance.

In this one, N-G sniped 10-for-23 from beyond the arc and the marksmanship reared its pretty face early. Forward Derrick Stewart drilled a trey to open the game. Billy Shank then followed one, two, three more and the lead was 10 points, at 12-2, never to be outrageously challenged.

Wait. Was that the same Billy Shank who went scoreless during the teams' regular-season meeting, going 0-for-5 total and 0-for-4 on treys as N-G was taken to overtime?


"We watched the film on that this week," said Sutton, a 5-10, 150-pound junior point guard. "I knew Billy was off that game, but I didn't realize he didn't score.

"Just because he didn't have any points, I was still going to pass him the ball. He's too good a shooter. He always has confidence."

Sutton then mentioned the pregame drills, specifically how assistant Mike Casey was feeding the ball again and again to Shank and other shooters.

"I can't say I was watching him non-stop, but it looked like Billy was mostly making them," Sutton said. "But even if he wasn't, I still would have been passing it to him."

Though N-G coach Carl Arrigale never expects much from Sutton in the way of scoring, Hanif did manage six points. In the much-more-crucial department, he dished eight assists and scrambled for six rebounds.

"I was getting those assists early," he said, smiling. "Just pass the ball and watch it go in.

"When I come downcourt, I'm just looking to get us the best shot. Off the penetration, I can look for threes or something down low or on the wing. It's my choice, really, and I'm pretty good at making the right one."

A year ago, Sutton served as N-G's sixth man and his primary job was to handcuff opponents' franchise scorer. Even as a sophomore, he was one of the best around. His assignments in this one ranged from Rashann London to Shep Garner to Britton Lee, and he was counting each guy's fillings.

Ja'Quan Newton led the Saints with 17 points. Though he struggled from the floor (3-for-11), he sank 10 of 14 free throws. Shank added one more trey in the fourth quarter to finish with 12 points. John Davis, despite foul miseries, totaled 11 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.

The Saints twice led by 18 in the fourth quarter and, along the way, the Cahillites never drew closer than six.

Garner led Roman with 20 points. Shafeek Taylor and Lee added nine and seven while halving 12 rebounds.

The first quarter ended 21-7 and the last part of that bulge came courtesy of Sutton, who lives near 56th and Lansdowne.

How? He banked in an awkward-looking, buzzer-beating trey.

No word on whether he called it.

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