Photo courtesy Annette Robinson
Canevin boys celebrate first PIAA title in program history after defeating St. John Neumann 64-47 March 24.
By Mike Longo Jr.
HERSHEY, Pa. – When playing in any championship game, one would assume a team needs little motivation. After all, making it to the finals is half the battle. Now in his fourth year at the helm of the Canevin Crusaders boys team, Gino Palmosina had years ago set two goals for his team. They were to “win the WPIAL Gold” and “win the PIAA Gold.” On March 24, 2022 that second goal was realized and the Bishop Canevin sweet PIAA title ride came to an end with a 17-point, 64-47, win over St. John Neumann.
In terms of motivation, the Crusaders had plenty, four year’s worth to be exact. Canevin's talented team was poised two years ago for a PIAA title run. Enter COVID-19 and not only the PIAA playoff season, but the whole world came to a screeching halt. Last year, the coronavirus once again reared its ugly head and the Crusaders were forced to forfeit their quarterfinal game, knocking them from the state playoffs. COVID-19 was all the motivation this team would need.
Simply put, the goal this year for the Crusaders: make it to the PIAA finals and win it all.
"We were finally able to play," said Palmosina. "If our season was going to end, let's at least have someone end it – not circumstances that we can't control... We got the job done."
It was a tall order for the Crusaders as they had to face St John Neumann's star Division 1 prospect, Davion Hill, who already has an offer from Maryland University. He was the eventual game high scorer, drooping in a blistering 30 points. Knights Hanief Clay chipped in 14 as the pair combined for 44 of the team's total 47 points.
Quarter number one was a bit of a struggle for Bishop Canevin as they posted a narrow 11-10 lead as the Knights from St John Neumann were also looking for their first title game win. The second quarter saw a Crusaders group hit the accelerator and net 18 points in a well-balanced attack. At the intermission, after an 11-2 run, the Crusader's lead grew to eight points. Overall in the contest, the Bishop Canevin defense forced 20 turnovers.
Bishop Canevin's offense went into overdrive with its fast-paced attack and pressure defense in the third stanza, which resulted in a 20-point burst on the scoreboard. An explosive dunk by Jaden Gales lit the fire and desire the Crusaders needed as they began to pull away from the Knights. The third quarter ended with a Bishop Canevin 19-point cushion. A scant 8 minutes was all that separated the Crusaders and PIAA Gold.
The final stanza saw more fast-paced action on both sides of the ball by both combatants. There were 32 combined points scored in the final period, more than any other in the contest. Unfortunately, in the end, it was too little too late as the title hopes came crashing down with a 17 point defeat for the Knights.
Let the celebration begin. Mission accomplished.
Bishop Canevin Crusaders are the PIAA State Class 1A Boys Champions in their title game debut. A first for the East Carnegie Catholic high school.
For Bishop Canevin, the four-hour bus ride to Hershey was indeed a very SWEET ride. Of the 64 total Crusader points, four players accounted for 55 of them. Kai Spears led the way with a team-high of 16 points, followed by Kevaughn Price 15, Jaden Gales 14 and Amari Evans with 10.