Hot Neumann-Goretti reaches final

Neumann-Goretti's Ella Awobajo draws a bead on the basket as she goes up for two points in the fourth quarter. Awobajo scored 13 points in the Saints' 62-45 semifinal win.
Neumann-Goretti's Ella Awobajo draws a bead on the basket as she goes up for two points in the fourth quarter. Awobajo scored 13 points in the Saints' 62-45 semifinal win. (RON TARVER / Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 22, 2014

There's little about the Neumann-Goretti girls' basketball team that doesn't attract attention.

It starts with the sneakers they wear: a rainbow that runs from a loud shade of lime green to a hue of hot pink that is tame only in comparison.

Then there's the height: The Saints have so much of it, their tallest player, at 6-foot-9, is a little-used reserve.

But all of that flash is secondary to the main reason the Saints have become a must-watch team: They won't stop winning.

Neumann-Goretti polished off Bonner-Prendergast, 62-45, in the Catholic League semifinals Thursday night at Philadelphia University for its 23d straight victory.

Long a league afterthought, Neumann-Goretti will compete Monday at the Palestra for its first Catholic League championship since 1978, when the then-all-girls school was called St. Maria Goretti.

"We do talk about it, but we try not to dwell on it," junior guard Sianni Martin said. "Yeah, we went 22-0, and that's good, but if we don't make it to the championship, all that goes out the window. We know Neumann hasn't had anything like this in history."

The Saints haven't just risen to prominence - they've blown through its ceiling.

Neumann-Goretti won its 12 regular-season league games by an average of more than 36 points. Only Bonner-Prendergast (18-6), which lost by two points to the Saints last month, had managed to stay close.

This was different for a couple of reasons.

Martin, held to five points in the first meeting, scored 23. And the Saints did a much better job on the Pandas' Sarah Monaghan, limiting her to 12 points, nine fewer than she had in the previous matchup.

"She's a shooter, so any little room we give her, she'll knock it down," Martin said. "So we had to stay out on the shooters."

The Pandas hung around for a while again Thursday. They cut the Saints' lead to 14-12 less than two minutes into the second quarter.

Neumann-Goretti closed the half on a 21-5 run, and the game was never again close.

Alyssa Monaghan led Bonner-Prendergast with 17 points.

All the reasons the Saints are in uncharted territory were on display. They blocked shots into the stands, ran the court for uncontested layups, and put pressure on the Pandas' ball handlers.

Junior A.J. Timbers, one of two transfers from Prep Charter boosting the Saints, scored 16. Ella Awobajo, a native of Nigeria, scored seven of her 13 points in the second quarter as the Saints seized control.

"At Neumann, it was always the boys, the boys, the boys," Martin said.

This year, the spotlight will have to be big enough for both.

Bonner-Prendergast 10 7 15 13 - 45

Neumann-Goretti 14 21 13 14 - 62

BP: Amber Ballinger 3, Princess Clemons 5, Shalina Miller 7, Sarah Monaghan 12, Alyssa Monaghan 17, Shannon Murphy 1.

NG: Ella Awobajo 13, Ciani Cryor 5, Alisha Kebbe 4, Sianni Martin 23, Tanesha Sutton 1, A.J. Timbers 16.


tmcmanus@philly.com

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