Neumann-Goretti tops Roman for Catholic League title

Members of the Neumann-Goretti boys' basketball team celebrate their title after beating Roman Catholic.
Members of the Neumann-Goretti boys' basketball team celebrate their title after beating Roman Catholic. (YONG KIM / Staff)
Posted: February 26, 2014

A pair of fans settled into the front row of Roman Catholic's student section at the Palestra shortly before the tip-off of Monday night's Catholic League boys' basketball final.

The student on the left had "Ja'Quan" scribbled in purple marker across the bottom of the white undershirt that dragged past his purple shirt. The other student's shirt read "Who?" Perhaps - though unlikely - the two students did not know who Ja'Quan Newton was before Neumann-Goretti's 53-48 win.

The city's top high school player and Catholic League MVP made sure everyone in the packed arena remembered his last Catholic League game. And it would not just be for his orange Creamsicle-colored sneakers.

He took over the fourth quarter and scored 15 of his 23 points in the second half to lead the Saints to their sixth straight title. It's the second time in league history and the first time in 20 years that a team has won six consecutive crowns. Newton is the first player in Neumann-Goretti's history to start for four straight league champions.

"This is the best one," Newton said. "It's our last year. We're going out with a bang."

With 10 seconds remaining, Newton hit the first of his two free throws before Saints coach Carl Arrigale called a timeout. When the timeout ended, the senior guard grabbed the four other Saints players on the floor and reminded them to get his rebound. The instructions were unnecessary, since Newton drained his second free throw to seal the win.

"He has to go down in history as one of the greatest to play in this league," said coach Carl Arrigale, who won his record-tying 10th title. "I told my coaches I was going to ride him like a jockey into the finish line."

With seven minutes left and Neumann ahead by three, Newton raced back on defense in hopes of dispelling Roman's fastbreak. He defended the shooter, forced a miss, and watched as the ball went out of bounds off Roman.

Four minutes later, Newton hit a field goal and hauled in the rebound on Roman's ensuing possession. The senior quickly led Neuman's fastbreak and found Jamal Custis for a two-handed slam. Roman - its two point halftime lead now a nine-point deficit - called a timeout and Newton flexed for the Saints crowd.

Newton said he did not notice that the Roman fans who wore a message for him on their chest. But he said his fans were the loudest they have been in his four years. Late in the fourth quarter as Newton toed the free-throw line, the Saints' student section serenaded him with chants of "M-V-P." Newton said he heard that and "it was crazy."

Neumann-Goretti 10 11 15 17 – 53

Roman Catholic 10 13 10 15 – 48

NG: Lamarr Kimble 2, Troy Harper 10, Tony Toplyn 6, Jamal Custis 12, Ja'Quan Newton 23.

RC: Tony Carr 5, Rashann London 22, Manny Taylor 9, Gemil Holbrook 5, Shep Garner 7.

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