HERSHEY, Pa. – The glass slipper fit.
The second seed in a two-team District 10 Class 5A tournament, Cathedral Prep went on a run of a lifetime that cumulated in a state title – the school’s first since 1993 – thanks to a 69-49 win over favored Archbishop Ryan in the PIAA Class 5A title game at The Giant Center in Hershey Friday night.
“This is just straight excitement,” Prep senior star Liam Galla said. “I am proud of our guys, I am proud of of myself, proud of our coaches, proud of everyone. Everyone kept believing in us. We just kept buying in and we got a win tonight.”
Prep took control of the game in the final 3:14 of the first quarter and never looked back leading the final 27:14 seconds following two free throws by Khali Horton that broke an 8-all tie.
Those charity shots started a 13-2 run by the Ramblers that also included five straight points to end the first quarter by Malachi Milsap.
“We knew we had to come out with a big punch early,” Galla, who finished with 12 points and six rebounds said. “We came out and made our first few shots and got them out of their rhythm on defense and controlled the boards.”
Watch Galla’s postgame interview
The Ramblers ended up outscoring Archbishop Ryan 15-4 in the second quarter to take a 30-14 halftime lead with Horton having a monster half with 15 points.
“The kids a winner,” Prep coach Steve Piotrowicz said. “The kids a winner. He might not spend as much time on detail as I would like him to. I always have to remember he is young. He is a sophomore. But when the bright lights come on, that kid never shies away from it. He is never scared of the moment. He really set the pace offensively and defensively for us tonight.”
Horton never backed down finishing with a game-high 25 points on 9 of 18 shooting while grabbing eight rebounds and blocking two shots.
“It was kill time, it was crunch time,” Horton said. “Get these buckets and bring this dub home, back to the city.”
Watch Horton’s postgame interview
Up 16 at halftime, Piotrowicz told his team to forget about the first half.
“The score is 0-0,” Piotrowicz said when asked what he told the players at halftime. “Hickory came back by 18 last night. That was the message. We always focus on the first three minutes of each quarter. That’s what we did tonight. The kids were locked in the whole way.”
Archbishop Ryan, out of the Philadelphia Catholic League, cut the lead to 12, 32-20, early in the third quarter and looked like it had gained momentum following a turnover by Prep.
But an offensive foul on Prep’s Will Innes turned into five points for the Ramblers.
After grabbing a rebound, Innes was trying to create space for himself when he was whistled for the offensive foul.
But the Raiders Luke Boyd took exception to the physicality and was whistled for a technical foul. Archbishop Ryan head coach Joe Zeglinski was then also called for a technical foul.
Galla hit three of the fourth technical free throws, and Tavlon Spencer followed with a basket.
When Horton scored 30 seconds later, Prep’s lead grew to 19, 39-20.
“We aren’t scared of anyone,” Innis said. “If you are seven foot or five foot, we are going to come at you with the same intensity and speed.”
The Raiders weren’t done yet, though, as five straight points from Dominic Vazquez got them back within 12, 39-27, with 2:35 to play in the third quarter.
With the game hanging in the balance, Prep had the answer in the form of a quarter-ending 9-3 run that featured five points from Innis, including an old-school 3-point play with 9.8 seconds left, to push the lead to 18, 48-30, going to the fourth quarter.
“It feels great,” Innis, who added 14 points and three assists, said. “This is what we were working all year for. Early mornings, late nights, this is what we were working for all year. To finish on a W, you can’t ask for a better way to finish up the season.”
Watch Innis’ postgame interview
The lead never went under 14 points in the fourth quarter, and Prep was able to empty its bench late in the game getting many players the opportunity to experience a state-championship hardwood.
“I am feeling appreciation, humbled, blessed to be part of such a great group,” Piotrowicz said. “To see that they just did, what they just pulled off, especially going on the road for most of the games, you know, I can’t thank them enough. I can’t put things into words right now. Honestly, at this point right now, I am like what’s the next game. But there is no next game. That is how focused I am. I am sure when I come down a little bit and I think about it this group is unbelievable.”
Archbishop Ryan was paced by Division I recruit Aaron-Lemon-Warren, who scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds. But Galla held the Raiders star to just four first-half points.
Vazquez added 15 points for the Raiders while going 7 of 8 from the free-throw line.
Prep shot 50 percent (21 of 42) from the floor and held Archbishop Ryan to 29.6 percent (16 of 54), including 1 of 14 from 3-point range.
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It was the seventh state title and the third PIAA title for the Ramblers, who won Pennsylvania Catholic School titles in 1953, 1954, 1968, and 1971 and PIAA titles in 1980 and 1993 prior to Friday night.
“It is hard to express the words, but I am feeling great,” Horton said.
CATHEDRAL PREP 69, ARCHBISHOP RYAN 49
Score by Quarters
Cathedral Prep 15 15 18 21 – 69
Archbishop Ryan 10 4 16 19 – 49
CATHEDRAL PREP – 69
Will Innes 4-10 6-9 14, Tavlon Spencer 1-4 1-2 3, Liam Galla 3-4 508 12, Khali Horton 9-18 5-9 25, Malachi Milsap 3-3 0-0 7, Shamari Lofton 0-0 2-2 2, Reece Colvin 0-2 2-4 2, Nicholas Ldic 0-0 0-0 0, Ethan King-Vincent 1-1 0-0 2, Jacob Sambuchino 0-0 2-2 2, Alexander Bahey 0-0 0-0 0, Amaree Pickens 0-0 0-0 0, Sam Spence 0-0 0-0 0, Nolan Falk 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-42 23-36 69.
ARCHBISHOP RYAN – 49
Luke Boyd 1-10 2-2 4, Christian Tomasco 1-5 4-4 6, Jalen Snead 2-8 0-2 4, Dominic Vazquez 4-15 7-8 15, Aaron Lemon-Warren 6-11 3-4 16, JT Arpino 0-0 0-0 0, Darren Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Michael Paris 2-3 0-0 4, Dylan Maloney 0-0 0-0 0, David Wise 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 16-54 16-20 49.
Three-pointers: Cathedral Prep 4-11 (Horton 2-7, Galla 1-1, Milsap 1-1, Innes 0-1, Colvin 0-1). AR 1-14 (Lemon-Warren 1-2, Boyd 0-6, Vazquez 0-4, Snead 0-1, Wise 0-1)
Rebounds: Cathedral Prep 31 (Innes 8, Horton 8). AR 24 (Snead 6, Lemon-Warren 6).
Assists: Cathedral Prep 6 (Innes 3). AR 5 (Tomasco 2, Vazquez 2)