After years of futility, the Sts. Francis & Joseph Shockers are back on top again!
It will most likely go down as one of the most improbable runs through the Catholic Primary basketball league, but definitely one of the most exciting, as the Shockers completed an unbelievable season yesterday evening at Loyola Hall on Gladstone Road, by sweeping the defending champions in the finals.
Khobe Mackey’s desperation three point shot fell short at the buzzer, and the Shockers escaped with a thrilling 32-29 win over the St. Cecilia’s Strikers yesterday, to sweep the best-of-three series two games to none. The Strikers found themselves up by a point, 26-25, with 2:05 remaining in the game, but that is when things fell apart for them. Sixth grade guard Jared Delancey put the Shockers on his back in that final two minutes and carried them to their first league title since 2005, but their fifth in total. The eventual Most Valuable Player (MVP) completed a three-point play to give the Shockers a 30-26 lead with 1:13 remaining on the clock, and then put the game away with two free shots with 21 seconds left. Michael Cartwright hit one of two free shots with 15.8 seconds left to pull the Strikers within three points, but they could get no closer as Mackey’s shot fell short at the buzzer.
“All we did was go out there and do the things that our coach taught us in practice and we came out with the win,” said Delancey. “I think that we were a little nervous at the beginning of the game but we really came together in the fourth quarter. We just kept working hard and kept playing hard and it paid off for us. I knew that I had to make those free shots because my friends, family and school members were out there in attendance watching and I didn’t want to disappoint them. It feels good to win. We knew that if we played hard we could do it.”
Shockers’ Head Coach
Devon Johnson said that he always instilled in his boys to play hard through the final whistle and that is exactly what they did.
“We never gave up,” he said. “To be honest, I wasn’t looking to come this far but how the ball bounced this year, it was anyone’s season. I just took it and ran with it. I always knew that I had the team to win it all, but the competition was extremely tough this year. I’m just thankful that we were able to pull it off,” he added.
The Shockers had to win a sudden death playoff game against the St. Bede’s Crushers just to get into the playoffs as the fourth seed. Their remarkable run this season continued as they knocked off the pennant-winning Our Lady’s Blue Flames in their sudden death playoff game, and then they hustled their way past the second seeded Strikers in the championship series. Head Coach Johnson said that defense was the key.
“I told the guys at the beginning of the fourth quarter that if they don’t play defense in this quarter, they’ll get beat. They stepped up and played defense and made some key free shots down the stretch and that lifted us over the top,” he said. “Jared Delancey showed up for us when I needed him the most and that is what matters. He had his share of struggles this season but he showed up in the playoffs and championship. Defense was the key tonight and for the whole championship. These boys are fighters… they never gave up. They came out and played defense in these playoffs and championship and now they are champions.”
The Strikers won their first Catholic Primary title last year and were looking to repeat as champions this year. They came into the series confident but the Shockers had other plans and weren’t going to be denied.
“Sts. Francis & Joseph just wanted it more than we did… that’s all I can say about that,” said Strikers’ Head Coach Leo Delancey. “A couple of turnovers cost us in the fourth quarter, but that happens. I’m happy with the season we had. A lot of people didn’t expect for us to be here but they played hard and were able to defend their championship. Next year, we intend to be back here again. We have a good crop of players coming back so we intend to be back,” he added.
MVP Delancey had a game-high 16 points for the Shockers yesterday. Ashanti Johnson added 10 and Alexander Neely powered in five. Cartwright powered in 12 points for the Strikers. Khobe Mackey helped out with seven points and Christopher Smith dropped in six.
“A couple of calls didn’t go our way but that is how it goes sometimes,” said Cartwright. “We’re a little disappointed because we felt that we had the team to win it again.”
Point guard Mackey said that he is also disappointed but satisfied with the way they played.
“We’re disappointed but we played well,” said Mackey. “The [referees] were calling against us, especially in that last quarter but we feel good about how we played. Jared Delancey came through for them in that last quarter. We’ll be back… I think that our team is coming back very strong next year. I think that we’ll get back to the championship,” he added.
No team led by more than four points at any point in the game yesterday. The Strikers were up by a point at the end of the first quarter and up by two at the half. The game was tied at 22 at the end of three quarters, and it wasn’t until the final two minutes that the Shockers took control of the game.