North Catholic boys running full speed ahead into playoffs

Friday, February 7, 2020 | 4:21 PM

North Catholic is coming into the playoffs running, that much is for sure.

Making sure they keep running deeper into March is the Trojans’ challenge this postseason.

The Trojans have zipped up and down the court to the tune of a WPIAL-leading 78.6 points per game and an 18-2 record, and their up-tempo style has made things fun for the players and difficult on opponents all season.

In its second year under coach Dave DeGregorio, Class 3A No. 2 North Catholic has clinched the Section 2 title outright after sharing it a year ago with Seton LaSalle. But the Trojans’ gaudy scoring numbers aren’t just a result of running it up on section foes.

The team has played a loaded schedule that included wins over three Class 6A schools and Class A No. 1 Vincentian. Both of its losses are to non-WPIAL opposition, the first in overtime against Eastern Pa. power West Chester East, a 20-2 Class 5A team.

“I think we’ve gotten out and challenged ourselves, which you’ve got to do,” DeGregorio said. “We play a system that the kids enjoy. You get freedom, you get up and down the floor, and it’s fun to play. Along with that, we’ve got six seniors, so that helps. We have a lot of good leadership.”

The system certainly fits the Trojans’ talent, starting with the backcourt of senior Isaac DeGregorio and junior Isaiah Jackson. Seniors Jackson Paschall, Jake Tomer, Ryan Feczko, Anthony Serventi and Hans Rottman fill out the starting lineup and the first spots off the bench, with junior Andrew Ammerman and Connor Maddalon rounding out a formidable nine-man rotation.

And while the Trojans do have some good size with 6-foot-5 Tomer and 6-7 Ammerman, even the bigs for North Catholic are part of the transition game that has stepped up in the second year under DeGregorio.

“We had a lot of juniors who got time last year, so this year, everyone knew what to expect, and we started off way ahead, playing a lot faster and getting the ball up and down the court,” Feczko said. “This year, there are times when we make teams work for almost a minute trying to get a basket, and then we get down the court and get a quick layup for one of our bigs running the floor. That’s just demoralizing for other teams.”

Balance is another big strength of the Trojans, who pride themselves on moving the ball and not relying on one scorer to carry the load.

“We’re averaging close to 80 (points) a game, but our assist numbers, especially assists-to-turnovers, are really good. The other night, at halftime, we had 18 assists. That’s outstanding,” Dave DeGregorio said. “They’re motivated kids who want to be successful together.”

“I have the best job because I have guys around me who can score just as well as I can,” said point guard Isaac DeGregorio. “It’s nice to move the ball, trust all your teammates, and our players are probably the most unselfish guys. They pass up the open shot for the more-open shot.”

By fine-tuning their game against such a loaded schedule, which includes a regular season finale Monday against Pine-Richland, the Trojans are priming themselves to have a lengthy postseason.

Last year, North Catholic was stopped in the WPIAL final by Lincoln Park, but that disappointment was doubled by a first-round exit in the state tournament against Forest Hills. That defeat has stuck in the minds of some of the Trojans as this year’s playoffs draw near.

“Our energy right now is so good. Last year, we lost in the WPIAL championship, lost in the first round of states, played terrible in the first round of states,” Isaac DeGregorio said. “This would be a redemption year if we can get back at Lincoln Park, get to the WPIAL Championship and win it all this year.”

Despite those lofty goals, both coach and players were in agreement that they don’t feel any additional pressure entering the playoffs.

“When you’re working six days a week in the offseason, you want to get back there and change the outcome,” Feczko said. “It’s not pressure. We’re definitely pretty loose. The nine of us are best friends off the court, and we like getting our work in and playing together. We’re excited for the playoffs.”

Matt Grubba is a contributing writer.


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