For Roman Catholic basketball, historically, anything worth doing has been worth repeating.
By clubbing La Salle, 64-50, last Monday night at the sold-out Palestra, Roman owns 32 Catholic League championships, 11 more than No. 2 on the all-time list, Neumann-Goretti.
“We’re not the greatest,” third-year coach Matt Griffin said at practice on Wednesday. “We’re just the latest.”
The Cahillites went on to beat Boys’ Latin, 94-72, on Friday at Southern for the District 12 Class 6A championship.
The newest installment of Catholic League kings at Broad and Vine Streets has captured the last two PCL crowns and four in the last five years.
These Cahillites also share a special championship connection with previous generations of title holders.
Twenty-three of Roman’s championships, which are chronicled high above the practice gym on purple banners with gold numbers, have come in bunches of at least two.
The longest consecutive run was six, led by coach Dennis Seddon, whose teams went a combined 78-6 in league play from 1989-94.
Coach Billy Markward led a five-peat with a 50-8 mark in PCL play from 1924-28.
Current St. Joseph’s Prep coach William “Speedy” Morris strung three crowns together as Roman’s head man from 1978 to 1980 with a 39-3 record in league play.
This year’s crop of Cahillites (21-4) finished 13-1 in PCL play and beat national and Public League power Imhotep, 82-69, Dec. 16 at Community College of Philadelphia.
Last Monday night at the Palestra, senior forward Hakim Hart, who will play at St. Joe’s, launched himself into the “Twittersphere” with a first-quarter dunk that was emblematic of Roman’s dominance of La Salle.
"One of the best parts about life is about memories,” said Griffin, 29. “And to play in that environment, win that game as a group, as a unit, I think they’ll always share a memory that’ll last forever.”
Griffin, who played at the Prep (2007) under Morris, would know.
His dad, John Griffin Jr., 62, won titles as a player at Roman while coached by Morris during the 1973 and ’74 seasons.
Griffin Jr., who later coached at Siena and St. Joe’s, still vividly remembers Zane Major returning to the 1974 title game against La Salle after a rock thrown from the stands hit Major in the head during the third quarter.
Major, who had a heart attack and died at 61 in January, returned to that game, finishing with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Current senior guard Louie Wild, now the proud owner of consecutive crowns, was born into Roman lore.
His father, Mike, now an assistant coach at Roman, also claimed consecutive titles while a starter for the Cahillites’ 1999 and 2000 league champions. Louie Wild, a 6-foot, 160-pound guard might not remember it, but he was also held as a baby by another two-time winner, the late Eddie Griffin.
“Somebody once told me the tradition at Roman isn’t necessarily about the winning,” Matt Griffin said. “It’s about the work.”
Louie Wild feared his work was done after his right leg buckled awkwardly in the final seconds of Roman’s 73-67 regular-season win at La Salle on Feb. 1.
Face stained with crimson, postgame tears flowed down his cheeks. An Achilles injury was feared.
“Cut my foot off,” he told his dad. “I don’t care. I’m playing.”
He missed only Roman’s next game. Then he worked hard, his dad said, to get his body ready.
A broken left foot had already hampered his summer. Back and hamstring injuries had also made this season a struggle.
As a junior, Wild sometimes split time at power forward and point guard in Roman’s mostly six-man rotation. In Monday’s finale, he finished with five points, four rebounds and two assists.
“It was a testament to how tough he is,” said Mike Wild, 37.
“From a parent’s point of view, that [means] success in life,” he added, “which is more important than anything else.”
Mike Wild’s favorite PCL championship memory was cutting down the Palestra nets with his friend and teammate, Eddie Griffin, who died in 2007.
After losing to Father Judge in the semifinals as sophomores, Wild said the pair made a pact to finish their careers with back-to-back titles.
When they finished the feat as seniors, Wild and Griffin stood atop a ladder, hands raised, each gripping the freshly cut net as someone snapped a photo.
“He leaned over and said, ‘We did it,’ ” Mike Wild said.
“That’s the thing I remember the most, doing it with someone I called my brother … and you can walk into that gym, see the banner, and say we’re a part of that club.”
After Louie was born, Griffin cradled the future champion in his arms.
“Now, every time they walk back in this gym,” Matt Griffin said, “they’ll get to look up at the banner and say, ‘Hey, I was a part of that team.’”
Even Griffin’s older brother, John III, now an assistant coach at Bucknell, twice claimed championships with the Prep under Morris in 2003 and 2004.
John III, now 33, anxiously listened to last Monday’s final on the radio. He still remembers twice beating current NBA star Kyle Lowry and Cardinal Dougherty in the PCL finals at La Salle University. John III scored just two points as a junior, but struck for 27 in the finale as a senior.
“We’re all just proud of Matt and what he’s accomplished with his staff and his team,” John III said via phone Thursday.
According to his father and brother, that pride comes from more than purple and gold banners.