The site of top professional talent, South Philadelphia also offers sports enthusiasts amazing amateur efforts, too. This year presented a plethora of athletes busting their tails, with numerous elementary and high school students leading the way.
Some surprises occurred but the last 12 months will go down as a period when the great became greater and everyone added more displays of guts to the community’s annals.
Point guard Tiffany Johnson helped Prep Charter High School, 1928 Point Breeze Ave., to bolster its history of producing collegiate talent by signing a basketball scholarship with Drexel University.
With the help of senior forward Rick Jackson and junior guard Antonio “Scoop” Jardine, graduates of Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School, 1736 S. 10th St., the Syracuse University men’s basketball team raced to a 16-0 record and the No. 4 ranking in two national polls.
The boys’ basketball team at Charles Y. Audenried High School, 3301 Tasker St., returned to Public League competition against Division D foes.
David Melaragni, a student at Christopher Columbus Charter School, 1242-46 S. 13th St., strengthened his hockey résumé with his selection to the 98 East Coast Selects-Q Team. The honor took him to Sweden and Latvia for competition.
Scoring machine Matt Powers topped 1,000 career points for the basketball squad at The Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts, 901 S. Broad St.
Under the leadership of coach Steve Gittleman and sniper Demetrius Davenport, the boys’ basketball team at The Academy at Palumbo, 1100 Catharine St., reached 19 wins, the highest tally in its three-season history. The total earned the Griffins their third straight postseason berth.
The Neumann-Goretti boys’ basketball team extended its winning streak in the Catholic League to 50 games with a last-second home win over St. Joseph’s Prep. The Saints, who overcame a 14-point deficit, set a league record for consecutive triumphs by claiming a 77-74 decision.
The Saints and Johnson’s Huskies continued their dominant seasons by scoring postseason semifinal triumphs.
With sophomore forward John Davis and freshman guard Ja’Quan Newton leading the way, the Saints made history at The Palestra by becoming the first parochial players to register three straight undefeated league campaigns by defeating Archbishop Carroll for the Catholic League title. The Huskies won their first Public League girls’ crown by downing rival Central at the Liacouras Center.
The chess stars at Palumbo advanced to the Philadelphia Scholastic Chess League final. The Griffins had company in taking on big challenges, as the Saints captured the city title against Philadelphia Electrical to kickstart a run to the state playoffs and the Huskies dropped the city championship to Archbishop Wood but still earned a spot in the state pool.
Twins Marcus and Markieff Morris, products of the Prep Charter boys’ basketball program, led the Kansas Jayhawks to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. Jackson and Jardine helped the Orange to receive a No. 3 berth, and Temple University guard Ramone Moore, out of South Philadelphia High School, 2101 S. Broad St., helped to secure a No. 7 spot for the Owls.
To prepare for the seventh Donnybrook Cup, the Ireland Wolfhounds and the USA Tomahawks, top rugby teams, used FDR Park, 20th Street and Pattison Avenue, and the South Philadelphia super site, 10th and Bigler streets. The visitors would defeat the American squad at Northeast Philadelphia’s Charles Martin Memorial Stadium.
The Saints captured their second straight PIAA Class AAA State championship by besting Allegheny County’s Montour High School at Penn State University’s Bryce Jordan Center. Their win gave them a second straight sweep of the Catholic League, District 12 City and state titles.
A graduate of Edward Bok High School, 1901 S. Ninth St., point guard James Jones led Doylestown’s Delaware Valley College to a school-best 17 wins. His endeavors helped him to win the Freedom Conference’s Player of the Year Award, along with many other distinctions.
Pugilist Joe Zimbello, of 11th and Mifflin streets, proved he is a powerful puncher by winning the Eastern District championships, becoming the City conqueror in the process. His three victories also brought him the tournament’s Best Boxer distinction.
The Neumann-Goretti baseball team made mincemeat of its first few opponents with a strong blend of upper- and underclassmen setting up the East Passyunk Crossing unit for a remarkable year.
Grays Ferry’s Joy Wilson won four medals and a trophy at the Philadelphia Department of Recreation’s All-Around Gymnastics meet. The youngster trained at Vare Recreation Center, 2600 Morris St.
Erik Reitinger, a Lower Moyamensing resident, continued his multisport career by earning a 13th-place finish in the USAT Duathlon National Championships in Tucson, Ariz. The educator landed a spot on the U.S. unit that ventured to Spain for September’s Short Course Duathlon World Championships.
Prep Charter’s baseball team celebrated Senior Day at Sabres Field, Seventh Street and Packer Avenue, with an 8-4 win over Penn Wood High School. Before the contest, coach Robert Hale thanked six players for their contributions, including star catcher Michael Sanderfur.
The third Battle of Brotherly Love basketball tournament featured 13 area players, including five from Neumann-Goretti and two former Southern stars, in a geographical duel. The ballers represented South and West Philadelphia and a county team.
Six area high school baseball teams advanced to the playoffs in what turned out to be a fantastic spring for secondary play.
Lower Moyamensing’s Cassandra King prepared for her 11th appearance in the Liberty Classic. The cyclist, a native of Puerto Rico, accumulated numerous accolades over her 22-year career, attaining Category 1 status and cruising to victories in prestigious events.
Only two days after winning the Catholic League Championship, Neumann-Goretti’s baseball team claimed the PIAA District 12 AAA title at McNichol Field, 26th and Moore streets. The 6-1 win over Franklin Towne Charter High School gave the bunch its 22nd-straight victory.
Dom Raia, a right-handed pitcher for the Girard Academic Music Program, 2136 Ritner St., finished his career with an inning of work at the 26th annual Carpenter Cup Classic at Ashburn Field, 20th Street and Pattison Avenue. His tenure with the Girard Estate school included a school-record 110 hits and a no-hitter.
The Morris twins and Rick Jackson looked to take their games from the college hardwoods to the professional ranks through the NBA Draft. The siblings left school a year early to post up fellow big men, while Jackson hoped to earn a roster spot after four years of service to his New York-based university.
NBA Commissioner David Stern shook the mighty mitts of the Morris boys June 23 at Newark, N.J.’s Prudential Center after announcing their names on draft night. Markieff went to the Phoenix Suns with the 13th pick, while the Houston Rockets took Marcus minutes later with the 14th selection.
Newbold’s Robert “Dondi” DeShields, head men’s basketball coach at Community College of Philadelphia, took eight players, including three locals, to London for the fourth Future Stars International Basketball Tournament. A sponsorship from former Villanova University standout Howard Brown’s Live the Dream Foundation allowed the Skoolz USA Select squad to battle top European teams.
The second annual Kids’ Fair at Bardascino Park, 10th and Carpenter streets, featured a spirited bocce tournament. Shane Cohen-Mungan, of the 700 block of Pemberton Street, and Marcel Roscioli, of the 1200 block of Ellsworth Street, won three matches to clinch the championship.
Members of the U-19 Indoor Championship team gathered at the Southeast Youth Athletic Association, Seventh and Bigler streets, to reflect on the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team’s run to the FIFA Women’s World Cup final. The younger ladies also lost a heartbreaking final in the ninth annual Cape Express Beach Blast in Wildwood, N.J.
Then-Eagles cornerback Trevard Lindley played with area youngsters at Shot Tower Playground, 131 Carpenter St., in preparation for his eponymously named community outreach football clinic. The practice session included eager boys and girls under the guidance of Joe and Mike Richmond, the heads of I Am Focused Inc.
Center City’s Shops at Liberty Place hosted the After School Activities Partnerships’ Checkmate Violence Chess event. The exhibition allowed Palumbo graduate David Blocker and Jacob Wycoff and Anthony Mecchi, both of William Meredith School, 725 S. Fifth St., to continue successful careers with the Philadelphia Youth Chess Challenge.
Frank Morrison, a GAMP student, won the National Junior Tennis League City Novice Championship in East Falls. The talented tactician and Center City resident swept aside six opponents to earn the title.
Neumann-Goretti graduate Kadeem Custis led a local contingent of college football players gunning for glory. The Grays Ferry native and defensive lineman showed his speed for the Temple Owls, a member of the Mid-American Conference.
To honor legendary broadcaster Harry Kalas, the Philadelphia Phillies unveiled a bronze statue of their long-time employee at Citizens Bank Park, 1 Citizens Bank Way. The Illinois native passed away April 13, 2009, six months after announcing the final out of the ’08 World Series.
Former Neumann-Goretti player Peter Piccoli traveled to Minnesota for the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities tournament. His squad fell in the semifinals, with the Marconi resident and now Prep Charter player making key contributions during its run. The Phillies honored him and his teammates with a congratulatory event at Citizens Bank Park.
The Eagles added nine notable players during the offseason. While the mix newcomers hoped to make the 13th year of coach Andy Reid’s tenure a Super Bowl-bound campaign, the team entered the final week of the season out of the playoff picture.
Former Neumann-Goretti football coach Bill Sytsma landed his second shot at instructing an Italian team by becoming the head man for the Terni Steelers. The Center City resident also led the Saints’ lacrosse team before making his first trip to Italy to oversee the Bari Wild Boars.
Former Southern stud DeShon Minnis decided to take his speed and determination to the Lone Star State, signing with Texas Tech University. The guard was looking to lead the Red Raiders back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since ’07.
Packer Park’s Raimondo Partito, right, worked on headers and passes as a member of the YSC Union Juniors. The youngster, a student at Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School, 2600 S. Broad St., earned his spot thanks to seven years of exceptional play in numerous leagues.
Bok student and West Passyunk resident Craig Lawson Jr. participated in his third Buddy Walk and Family Fun Day at Villanova University Stadium. The teenager joined with family and friends to support the fight against Down syndrome.
Roman Catholic High School golfers Dan Gentilucci, of the 3100 block of South 18th Street, and Pat McCann, of the 2400 block of South Woodstock Street, guided the Cahillites to the final of the PIAA District 12 Championships. The juniors almost helped their team to eke out a dramatic victory, as it fell to St. Joseph’s Prep in a playoff.
The Bok girls’ volleyball team romped to the Public League’s Silver Division title by going undefeated in the regular season. With coach Anthony Scafidi and sophomore Justice Pressley leading the way, the unit earned a playoff date with Palumbo, which inflicted its season’s lone blemish.
The Bok football team welcomed Frank “Roscoe” Natale to the head coach’s role and gave its leader a playoff shutout against Prep Charter. Star senior running back Shaquil Sammons, of Southwest Philadelphia, blasted the Huskies for 208 yards in the 32-0 romp.
Neumann-Goretti broke ground on a field house that will help the preparation of its baseball, football and soccer players. With a predicted April opening, the site will occupy space adjacent to the St. John Neumann Place, 2600 Moore St.
Thirteen teenagers, including many from Palumbo, ran in the Philadelphia Marathon. They tested their resolve along with running leader Joe Whelan as members of Center City’s Students Run Philly Style.
Neumann-Goretti and Southern prepped for their 77th Thanksgiving meeting, with the former hoping to extend its winning streak and the latter aiming for an upset. The Saints would cruise to a 35-7 victory, remaining undefeated in the series since ’04.
Prep Charter girls’ basketball star Kahleah Copper, a senior guard/forward signed with Rutgers University, with baseball basher Michael Borelli, a senior pitcher/infielder made the University of the Sciences happy two days later by inking his signature. Neumann-Goretti seniors Joey Gorman, Jimmy Kerrigan, Derrick Stewart and Omowumi “Ki-ke” Rafiu also made college selections. Gorman, a pitcher/outfielder, chose St. Joseph’s University; Kerrigan, an outfielder, selected Temple University; Stewart, a key forward on the Saints’ basketball team, picked Rider University; and Rafiu, a Nigerian product and star of the girls’ basketball team, opted for Georgetown University.
Three dozen basketball players with local ties were helping college basketball teams to outduel their foes this year. Prep Charter topped the area squads with 14 products, with Neumann-Goretti in second with 11.
Eight high school boys’ basketball teams are looking to gain more than area bragging rights, with Neumann-Goretti, the two-time reigning PIAA Class AAA champions, and two-time former champion Prep Charter eager to add state titles to their schools’ trophy cases.
Horace Furness High School, 1900 S. Third St., retired the No. 1 jersey of running back Sharif Smith, a Palumbo student. The former Point Breeze resident ended his four-year career in fifth place on the city’s all-time rushing list and will appear in tomorrow’s Chesapeake Bowl in Maryland.
Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or ext. 124.