It’s a moment a quarter-century in the making for the Cathedral Prep Ramblers.
For the first time since 1996, they will take the floor at Hershey’s Giant Center (7:30 p.m.) in search of a state championship.
The Rambles lost by five in that title game to a Lower Merion squad led by late NBA legend Kobe Bryant.
Another formidable opponent awaits them this time around in the Class 5A final in the form of the Archbishop Ryan Raiders of the storied Philadelphia Catholic League.
This will be the Raiders’ first trip to the state championship game, but they are battle-tested.
So are the Ramblers, however, going on a run through the state playoffs that few could have seen coming.
It started by knocking off Meadville in the District 10 championship game, a team they lost to twice by double-digits during the regular season.
That was followed by a 13-point subregional win over DuBois, and a 52-50 overtime stunner over WPIAL champion New Castle in the Hurricanes’ home gym.
The run to Hershey was made complete by a complete performance in a 54-46 win over District 3 champion Lower Dauphin in the semifinals.
“This means a lot,” Prep senior Liam Galla said after the win over Dauphin“ This is Prep’s first time in 25 years. It is just a great feeling for all of us. We all talked about leaving our own legacy before the game. Coach wrote it up on the board. We did that here tonight.”
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In that game, Khali Horton connected for 16 points, while Galla added 11, Reece Colvin 9 and Will Innes 6.
On the season Galla averages 14.5 ppg., while Horton, just a sophomore checks in at 14.0 ppg., followed by Innes (5.9 ppg.).
Like Prep, Archbishop Ryan has run the gauntlet to get to Hershey.
They knocked off the Academy at Palumbo to secure the District 12 championship and followed that up with wins over District 11 champ Bangor (68-50) and an impressive 85-63 win over District 1 champion Chester in the semis.
They are led by 6-5 forward Aaron Lemon-Warren, a senior with Division I offers from the likes of Penn State and Richmond who checks in at 18.9 ppg.
Lemon-Warren has been on fire in the postseason, including a 36-point performance in the win over Chester.
The Raiders also have a dominant big man in Christian Tomasco, who averages 13.6 ppg. He was also brilliant in the win over Chester, finishing with 26 points.
Ryan also features a pair of experienced guards in senior Dominic Vazquez (10.4 ppg.) and junior Luke Boyd (10.2) ppg.
Both programs are led by former players – Prep’s Steve Piotrowicz, a 2008 Rambler grad and Ryan’s Joe Zeglinski, a 2006 Raider grad.
“This team stuck together,” Piotrowicz said after the semifinal win. They didn’t give up on each other. They didn’t give up on me. Now is the result. You are seeing it.”