More than anything, Neumann-Goretti coach Carl Arrigale said he wanted his team "just to compete well" against fellow preseason favorite Archbishop Carroll in Wednesday night's Catholic League boys' basketball showdown.
"I don't even know that the outcome was that important," he said after his Saints surged past the Patriots, 64-58, before a sold-out crowd in Radnor. "I just asked our guys to play hard in a hostile environment and make it tough for them."
Still, after falling to Roman Catholic earlier this month at Philadelphia University, Ja'Quan Newton and company wanted to prove themselves.
"It was pretty big for us," Newton said. "We knew, if we lost this game, that everyone wouldn't have high hopes for us."
Newton, a senior guard, registered 19 of his 29 points in the second half. The Miami signee said he spent extra time in the gym after shooting 4 for 20 from the field and scoring 11 points in a 71-64 loss to Roman.
"You have games like that, but it still bugs you," he said. "You want to make up for it. I knew I had to have a big performance."
Neumann-Goretti, which took control with a 14-3 spurt at the start of the fourth quarter, improved to 13-4 overall and 7-1 in the league. The Patriots, hurt by 13 turnovers, slipped to 15-3 and 7-2.
Senior guard Troy Harper contributed 12 points, including a third-quarter trey; junior guard Lamarr Kimble posted eight points and five assists; and senior forward Jamal Custis managed seven points and seven boards for the Saints.
Arrigale said the 6-6 Custis has been bothered recently by an injured finger. "He really fought for me," the coach said.
For Carroll, Austin Tilghman struck for 25 points, but junior star Derrick Jones (12 boards) was limited to seven points vs. Newton and Tony Toplyn. Jones was slowed by early fouls, picking up his third late in the first half.
The Patriots' other inside force, 6-9 junior Ernest Aflakpui, collected 13 boards (four on offense) and six points. He was guarded mostly by Custis.
Tilghman, a transfer from St. Andrew's (Del.), shot 8 for 19 from the field (1 for 3 on threes) and 8 for 11 from the line. He added 11 boards and seven assists.
"He's a lot stronger than I thought," Arrigale said. "Once he got his shoulder past a guy, he was tough to stop."
Neumann-Goretti 14 12 15 23 - 64
Archbishop Carroll 16 10 18 14 - 58
NG: Lamarr Kimble 8, Troy Harper 12, Tony Toplyn 2, Jamal Custis 7, Ja'Quan Newton 29, Quade Green 6.
AC: Samir Taylor 10, Joe Mostardi 10, Ernest Aflakpui 6, Derrick Jones 7, Austin Tilghman 25.