Neumann-Goretti ousts Boys' Latin in Class AAA semifinal

Neumann-Goretti's Hanif Sutton tries to gain control of the ball while on his back.
Neumann-Goretti's Hanif Sutton tries to gain control of the ball while on his back. (STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: March 21, 2012

LA'QUAN COAXUM would not mind being a footnote in city basketball history.

As in, The Guy Who Kept Maurice "Doo-Wop" Watson From Going Berserk in His Final Game.

Yes, the wonderful career of Watson, a 4-year star at guard for Boys' Latin Charter, is over and the end came last night at Southern High, in a sauna disguised as a gym, as the Warriors dropped a 74-43 verdict to Ss. Neumann-Goretti in the semifinal round of the PIAA Class AAA state playoffs.

Watson departed with 3:30 remaining and the score at 62-40. He sat at the end of the bench and put a towel on his head. Only for a few moments did that towel cover his face. He then resumed team-leader duties, even standing to yell downcourt to the subs, "Play defense, everybody! Lock 'em up!"

With a half-minute left, he walked over to be with his father/coach, Maurice Watson Sr., and to greet his brother, Tymir, a freshman, upon his removal from the game.

An 18-point outing left Doo-Wop's career total at 2,356, the No. 2 mark in city history to the 2,681 posted by 2003 Strawberry Mansion grad Maureece "The Scorelord" Rice.

"He's pretty good. Definitely pretty good," Coaxum said. "A number like that? Amazing, really. You just don't hear about that kind of point total too much."

Coaxum, who spent his first 2 years at now-defunct Cardinal Dougherty, is a 6-1, 165-pound senior guard. He serves coach Carl Arrigale as the sixth man and, mostly, he was the guy assigned to stalk Watson.

He did not completely achieve heavy-blanket status. However, Watson hit only eight of 19 shots from the floor and made one measly visit (2-for-2) to the foul line, where he often spends enough time to receive mail. Plus, he hit no three-pointers, posting 0-for-4 numbers in that category.

Hanif Sutton, a starting guard, also played Watson. Really, anybody and everybody did. That was the plan.

"They like to set a lot of high screens for him," Coaxum said. "So, we were going with that flow and switching. If you wound up with him, you had to do the job. Sometimes, we just went at him with a [two-man] blitz.

"We worked on that a lot in practice. They never had me going against a starter [to simulate Watson], but our bench guys are very good, so I definitely had the feel of what it would be like. Our practices are always competitive. Everybody wants playing time."

Of his overall mind-set, Coaxum said: "You gotta want to do it. I'd do anything for this team. Whatever they ask."

N-G, which will seek its third consecutive state title Friday night, 8 o'clock, vs. Montour at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center, used an 18-12 second quarter to claim a 34-23 halftime lead. Any hope that the second half could produce some nail-biting was quickly dashed as the Saints enjoyed a 10-2 burst in the first 2 1/2 minutes.

With 12 of his 19 points (two three-point plays mixed in), junior forward John Davis was particularly effective throughout the third session.

Watson was finished adding to his point total by the end of those 8 minutes. In the fourth quarter, he missed two shots - a regular, then a trey - before sitting.

Right after weaving his way through the handshake line, Watson said he felt as though his career had started "just yesterday."

He added: "It went by so fast. But we accomplished a lot and I love the fact we made it so far in my last season, especially with a team that people doubted. I took my career day by day, working hard and getting my guys to compete with me. What I liked was that I never had declines. I got better and better each season, made constant progression, and I opened eyes and got a scholarship."

In that vein . . . Watson knows there are rumors he might try to break ties with Boston University.

"The one I'm hearing the most," he said, "is that I'll go to prep school for a year and then wind up at Villanova. Not true. I'll be at BU. In fact, I can tell you the day I'll be starting summer school there - July the 2nd."

Ja'Quan Newton joined Davis with 19 points for N-G, while Billy Shank drained three treys en route to 13. Coaxum, who's being pursued by Division II Lock Haven as a combo guard prospect, had four points and three apiece of rebounds, assists and steals.

He just hopes he left an impression on Watson.

With a respectful smile, he said, "Yeah, that'd be nice if he remembers me."

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