Tony Carr was flat on his back, looking equal parts exhausted and exhilarated immediately after the Catholic League semifinal Wednesday night at the Palestra.
Moments after the final horn blared, the Roman Catholic senior found himself mobbed by exuberant teammates as the defending champion Cahillites defeated Archbishop Carroll, 64-63, before a packed crowd.
For Carr, who led all scorers with 24 points, reaching the title was sweeter this time around.
"We've just worked so hard," he said. "We tuned in every day in practice and just to finally get the results again, it's just a great feeling. It even feels better than last year."
And just like last year's championship game, the Cahillites will face Neumann-Goretti on Monday night after the Saints blasted Archbishop Ryan, 89-55, in Game 1.
In Game 2 of the doubleheader, however, No. 3-seeded Roman (20-4) and No. 2-seeded Carroll (21-3) treated fans to a hotly contested game that featured six ties and 11 lead changes.
And, in a close game in which each possession was important, the Cahillites out-rebounded the Patriots, 22-11, in the second half.
"I just thought it was a great character win," said Roman coach Chris McNesby. "I think Tony led us and stepped up big throughout."
Carr, who will play at Penn State next season, scored seven points in the final frame, and finished 9 of 16 from the field and 4 of 7 from three. He also finished with eight rebounds and five assists.
"I just didn't want to let my team lose," Carr said. "I feel like I'm the leader on this team, so down the stretch I'm just trying to do whatever I can to lead us to the win."
Carroll's 12-2 lead early in the first quarter quickly became an afterthought as Roman rallied with a 16-5 spurt to end the frame.
The tug-of-war continued as the Patriots took a 36-33 lead into intermission.
Ryan Daly (Hartford) scored 15 of his team-best 21 points in the first half. Josh Sharkey (Samford) played an excellent game, finishing with 15 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and three steals. John Rigsby added 16 points.
Roman, however, as it has done frequently this season, found ways to win late.
With the Cahillites ahead, 62-61, in the fourth, senior forward Lamar Stevens (13 points, six rebounds) picked up a loose ball near the Patriots' foul line, sped down the court, and unleashed a thunderous one-handed dunk that yielded a three-point lead with 1 minute, 49 seconds remaining.
Although the Cahillites missed the front end of three subsequent one-and-ones at the foul line, that basket - Roman's last - was enough for victory.
Roman Catholic 18 15 16 15 - 64
Archbishop Carroll 17 19 17 10 - 63
RC: Tony Carr 24, D'Andre Vilmar 4, Mikael Jones 2, Lamar Stevens 13, Nazeer Bostick 14, Paul Newman 7.
AC: Josh Sharkey 15, Ryan Daly 21, Miks Antoms 8, John Rigsby 16, Alex House 3.