PIAA crown completes Saints' perfect season


When she begins studies at the University of Texas this fall, Christina Aborowa knows she will often find herself reflecting on her senior campaign at Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School, 1736 S. 10th St., and when she does, the theme of her club as a family will hold the most significance. On Friday, she and her extended clan finalized a legendary ledger by throttling Seton-La Salle 79-34 at Hershey’s Giant Center to score the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class AA title — the first in program history.

“We wanted to make a statement and go undefeated,” the forward said of the 30-0 squad, which, in addition to acquiring local love, has collected kudos as the nation’s top team. “We had unity and that grew with each game.”

Aborowa and the Saints mercilessly displayed the depth of their solidarity in the state championship tilt, a rematch of last year’s duel in which Seton-La Salle’s 58-50 triumph cost them a perfect slate. With determination marking every play, the hoops heroes raced to a 43-16 halftime lead.

“That is pretty amazing,” Aborowa, who deposited 13 points, said of the fact that she and her mates could have emerged victorious even by going scoreless in the second half. “It didn’t matter to me who we played because we were going to go hard versus anybody.”

“I actually wanted to play them again because I hate losing, and they’re the only ones who had been able to beat us,” senior guard A.J. Timbers said. “We knew we needed to get on them early and be dialed in from the tip.”

Relying on their immense work ethic and athleticism, the Saints, with six All-Catholic selections, including Aborowa and Timbers, exorcised last year’s result with perfect execution, stemming mostly from their family-first mentality.

“Throughout the year, we knew we couldn’t play or think selfishly for one minute,” Timbers, who led all scorers with 20, said. “There was no way we were going to forget about that in the championship game.”

Like the sniper, rookie coach Andrea Peterson had been desiring a second encounter with Seton-La Salle. With her first wish fulfilled, she reverently observed her charges obtain her other request, a blemish-free run.

“We feel like we’re on top of the world,” the revered leader, who flew to Atlanta Tuesday to receive regard as the Naismith Trophy National Coach of the Year, said. “For these young women, this is an unbelievable experience. It’s exactly what we wanted.”

Having returned most of last year’s contributors, the Saints, with Peterson succeeding 2011 South Philly Review Difference Maker Letty Santarelli, sought to saddle every foe not only with a comprehensive defeat but also an undeniable understanding of the power of selfless play. As the year unfolded and double-digit annihilations became commonplace, nobody could deny that an unforgettable year could be theirs.

“They’ve always believed in their skills, especially defensively,” Peterson, having gained great admiration for their tenacity last year as an assistant coach, said of the belief that quickly helped them to distance themselves from the rest of the parochial pack. “We had incredible chemistry when we began, and that only grew as they realized how special they are.”

Tearing through the Catholic League, they captured their second-straight league plaque Feb. 23, downing Archbishop Wood 50-45, and third-consecutive City championship Feb. 28, overwhelming Imhotep Charter 71-28. In preparing for the state playoffs, the Saints knew that no matter the opponent or the location, each matchup could test their might as much as their limbs.

“Overall, we just wanted to go out and play to reflect how much confidence we’d gained,” Aborowa said. “We learned to apply pressure every time we touched the ball. No loose possessions and no lack of concentration.”

Trinity and Minersville became the first two victims, with the Saints registering 40- and 35-point victories. In March 13’s quarterfinal, they needed every bit of their tenacity to down Dunmore 64-61, taking their first lead of the contest with three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter thanks to a Timbers three-pointer. A more customary result occurred March 17, with Holy Redeemer absorbing a 77-41 drubbing in which junior guard Kimayah Smalls notched 18 points, senior guard and Georgia Tech University signee Ciani Cryor netted 17, senior sharpshooter and Towson University-ticketed guard Sianni Martin contributed 12 and Aborowa and Timbers added 11.

“Heading into the final, the seniors wanted to go out on top,” Peterson said of culminating their roles as conquerors. “The fact that we were able to get it done against the team that ended last year’s dream was very fulfilling.”

With more experience, resolve and passion, this year’s athletes clinched their eternal placement in the Neumann-Goretti annals, with Aborowa feeling especially proud that she could contribute to their maturation and learn from it, too.

“This is a family,” she said of her immersion into the system. “I’ll think about that for a long time.”

“We prepped ourselves to be the best,” Timbers, who will also attend Towson, added. “We put it all together, and now we have a perfect record as a result.”

Set to part with a wealth of talent, Peterson looks forward to molding the remaining roster members and enjoying another season as the hunted.

“We’re definitely eager,” the coach said. “It’s great to look forward, but it’s awesome right now to look back on what we achieved. Nothing can really compare with this.” 

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