Ja'Quan Newton and company flipped the switch in late January.
After a 71-64 loss to Roman Catholic, which looked more than capable of winning its first Catholic League title since 2007 and ending Neumann-Goretti's five-year reign, the Saints reeled off 17 consecutive victories.
The highlight of the regular season for Carl Arrigale's squad was a 64-58 road victory over talent-filled Archbishop Carroll before an overflow crowd in Radnor.
In the Catholic League playoffs, Neumann-Goretti bested Carroll for a second time, 67-62, in the semifinals. Then, in claiming their sixth straight crown and 10th in the last 14 seasons, the Saints reversed their loss to Roman with a 53-48 triumph.
Neumann-Goretti stayed on track in the PIAA Class AAA state playoffs, winning its first four contests by an average of 14 points. Moving on to Hershey, it secured state gold for the fourth time in five seasons by beating District 3 titlist Susquehanna Township, 64-57, in overtime.
For its impressive stretch run, Neumann-Goretti (27-4) is The Inquirer's Southeastern Pennsylvania boys' basketball team of the year.
In nonleague play, the guard-driven Saints were toughened in losses to Providence (Fla.), Lincoln (N.Y.), and powerhouse Mater Dei (Calif.).
In 16 seasons in South Philly, Arrigale has compiled a 376-89 record.
Here are some other season-ending awards:
Coach of the year. While Arrigale is certainly worthy of the honor, the nod goes to La Salle's Joe Dempsey.
After the junior-laden Explorers (23-7) sneaked into the Class AAAA state playoffs as District 12's No. 3 seed, they surprisingly reached the final before bowing to District 7's New Castle, 52-39, at the Giant Center.
Dempsey, an English teacher at La Salle, is 144-114 in 10 seasons. He has been with the program for 24 seasons.
Best individual performance. A day after his mother's death, a grieving Newton generated a career-high 33 points, including five three-pointers, and eight rebounds to lead Neumann-Goretti to a dramatic win over Susquehanna Township in the state final.
What some might not know is that Newton's first shot of the night, a three-pointer from up top, missed the rim entirely and smacked hard off the backboard. He quickly recovered.
Freshman of the year. Episcopal Academy's Nick Alikakos, a 6-foot-4 forward, averaged 11.5 points in helping the Churchmen place third in the Inter-Ac League. In the league finale, a 70-64 upset of Haverford School, he netted 20 points.
Newcomer of the year. After arriving from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., John Carroll, a 6-8, 220-pound forward and native of Ireland, averaged 18.5 points and helped Hill School go 20-3 and win the Pennsylvania Independent Schools tournament. He is bound for Hartford.
Biggest upset. On Feb. 4, Interboro stunned Chester, 73-62, in a Del-Val League matchup. It was the Bucs' first win over the vaunted Clippers since 1978.
Service award. After 30-plus years as an assistant, including the last 24 at Plymouth Whitemarsh, George Wadlin, one of the area's most likable coaches, is stepping away from the game.
During Wadlin's stint at PW, the Colonials went 545-169 and won 15 Suburban One League American Conference championships. They captured Class AAAA state titles in 1997 (under Al Angelos) and 2010 (Jim Donofrio).
Sixth man of the year. Vaughn Covington consistently provided a spark off the bench in Neumann-Goretti's drive to a state championship. The 5-11 sophomore guard averaged 5.1 points, 2.3 assists, and 1.5 steals. He drilled 25 three-pointers.
Best comeback. Down by 12 late in the third quarter, Lower Moreland rallied to stun Pope John Paul II, 59-58, in a District 1 Class AAA semifinal. The difference was freshman Matt Cerruti's pull-up jumper with 5.5 seconds remaining.
Best long-range showing. Holy Ghost Prep junior guard Liam Brennan sank seven threes in the first half of the District 1 Class AAA final against Lower Moreland. Six came in the second quarter of the 65-47 romp at Villanova.