The Neumann-Goretti girls basketball team ends another season as PIAA champs
By Bill Gelman
In a baseball or softball game, the numbers are as good as it gets for a hitter.
The number is equally as impressive when it’s referring to a head coach’s record in state tournament championship games. On Monday night, Ss. Neumann-Goretti head girls basketball coach Andrea Peterson made a return trip to Hershey for the PIAA Class 3A championship game. Like the three previous seasons, the Saints prevailed with a 63–46 victory over Bishop Canevin — the same school they defeated for the 2017 crown — at the Giant Center. The Saints post-game celebration included the four-finger salute, signifying a championship four-peat.
“It’s a great feeling. This group was my first as a head coach so this one had a little more emotion than the others,” Peterson said. “It’s a great accomplishment for these young ladies and says a lot about who they are and the culture they have helped create here at Neumann-Goretti.”
The Saints only led by three at the half, 24–21, but made the necessary adjustments in the final 16 minutes to pull away in what Peterson described as a “hard-fought game.”
“We knew Bishop Canavin was going to give us a good one. They have athletic players who can do it all. We made adjustments at halftime going to our 2–3 match-up and it got the job done,” she said. “Tatiana Jones and Jabria Ingram were huge last night in the second half. Both struggled in the first half but turned it around in the third and fourth quarter.”
The coach told the duo at halftime that the game would be dictated by their play in the final 16 minutes.
“They took on the challenge like they have all season and put together an unbelievable finish,” Peterson said.
Jones led the Saints with 19 points while Ingram, a University of Hartford signee, finished with nine points and 10 steals. Diamond Johnson contributed 14 points to the winning cause.
The Neumann-Goretti players and coaches opened the PIAA tournament dealing with the unfamiliar situation of suffering back-to-back losses in the Catholic League title game — 54–39 to Cardinal O’Hara, and District 12 Class 3A championship game — 62–59 to Imhotep Charter. The state tournament presented another one-and-done scenario, leaving no room for error in this Pennsylvania high school version of March Madness.
“It’s always tough taking a loss but two in a row will either make you or break you,” Peterson said. “After our two losses, our seniors stepped up and reminded these young guys what was at stake.”
Once the state playoffs came around, the Saints, who finished the season with a 22–7 record, got back on the championship track in the form of a 69–32 victory over Pine Grove. Wins over Loyalsock Township, 79–31, Saint Basil, 47–29, and Dunmore, 66–42, followed.
Neumann-Goretti was originally slated to play for the championship on Thursday, March 22, but last week’s nor’easter led to a complete reshuffling of the PIAA boys and girls basketball schedule. The players ended up getting an unexpected mental break heading into the final. Monday night’s return trip to South Philly included a break of another kind — sleep.
“One last bus ride together as this team and having the win made it a better one,” Peterson said. “I will say they played their hearts out because about 45 minutes into the ride they were all sleeping.”
Looking ahead, Ingram, Daihah Parmley and Angel Ricks, Peterson’s three original players, will be moving on, but the coach said the entire group of players was an “amazing group.”
“I cannot thank them enough for the amazing four years and allowing me to coach them,” Peterson said. “This group especially my three originals ( Jabria, Daijah, and Angel), have such and amazing bond that will never be broken. They made things easier for me this year, and their support and dedication to the program has helped pave the way for these younger guys.”