Philadelphia High School Basketball

A Look at St. John Neumann's
1996-97 Catholic League Champions . . .

This page includes stories, special lists, record breakdown and recaps of postseason games.

   To provide additions/corrections:tedtee307@yahoo.com. Thanks!
   Thanks to Tom Taylor for his help.

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Coach Tom Dougherty

GAME BY GAME

*-Hagerstown Tourney (MD)
%-Southern Division Shootout
#-Central Bucks West Tourney
&-Slam Dunk Shootout (DE)
  Non-League  
63 *Chambersburg 62
72 *DeMatha (MD) 77
72 *Xavier (NY) 63
72 Ryan 59
78 University City 56
75 %Holy Cross (NY) 58
75 %MacNamara (DC) 56
87 #Straw. Mansion 68
113 #Central Bucks West 58
68 &Mercersburg 52
82 &Atlantic City 53
  CL Regular Season  
83 West Catholic 74
60 Carroll 66
71 SJ Prep 60
65 Kennedy-Kenrick 52
83 Bonner 25
65 O'Hara 54
49 Roman 47
51 West Catholic 41
58 Carroll 70
62 SJ Prep 59
66 Kennedy-Kenrick 56
67 Bonner 44
60 O'Hara 43
77 Roman 61
  CL Playoffs  
71 Roman 58
76 La Salle 58
54 Carroll 46
 
POSTSEASON HONORS
 
Daily News All-City
  FIRST TEAM: Victor Thomas
  THIRD TEAM: James Fowler
Daily News All-Catholic
  FIRST TEAM: Victor Thomas
  FIRST TEAM: James Fowler
  SECOND TEAM: Devon Fowler
  THIRD TEAM: Mark Del Brocco
  FOURTH TEAM: Rashime Middleton
Coaches All-Catholic
  FIRST TEAM: Victor Thomas
  SECOND TEAM: James Fowler
  THIRD TEAM: Devon Fowler
  THIRD TEAM: Mark Del Brocco
 
CAPSULE
 

Coach

Tom Dougherty

Record

12-2, 25-3

Starters

  Victor Thomas
  James Fowler
  Mark Del Brocco
  Rashime Middleton
  Mark Moritz

Key Subs

  Devon Fowler
  Greg Robinson
  Wayne Jones
Tribute Page for SJ Neumann's
1996-97 Catholic League Champs

This story was written after the Pirates defeated Carroll, 54-46,
to win the school's first championship since 1985. Carroll
entered the game with a perfect record at 27-0. Just two years
earlier, Neumann had gone winless in Southern Division play.

By Ted Silary
  Long before Devon Fowler could bask in a shower of praise, he had to take a shower.
  It wasn't a matter of hygiene. It was a matter of health.
  Fowler, a 6-5 junior guard for St. John Neumann High's ever-intriguing basketball team, has been experiencing pain in his middle and lower back since Wednesday night, when he was low-bridged in a Catholic League semifinal against La Salle and fell hard to the floor.
  So, after he spent three days wincing and worrying and only watching practice, Fowler walked gingerly into the Palestra yesterday. He headed for the northeast locker room, peeled off his clothes, stepped into the shower and turned the dial as far toward ``H'' as he could without getting scalded.
  And there he stayed, for maybe 15 minutes.
  ``I've made two trips to the doctor these last few days,'' Fowler said. ``He was giving me electrical treatments, showing me stretching exercises. For this game, he said to get here early and take a long, hot shower. It would make my back feel better, he said.''
  Score one for the good doctor.
  Mostly free of pain, and mostly looking limber, Devon Fowler had the time of his basketball life before a sellout crowd of 8,100 at the Palestra.
Not only did he shoot 5-for-6 from the floor (two three-pointers) and 5-for-6 from the line for 17 points in 23 minutes off the bench. He also played outstanding second-half defense on star guard Martin Ingelsby in a surprisingly effective man-to-man.
  As the final seconds melted away, those factors and others meant Fowler could whip the basketball halfway to the rafters in unbridled ecstasy before disappearing in a mad stampede of Neumann's rooters.
  Neumann 54, Archbishop Carroll 46.
  The Pirates own their first CL championship since 1985. Carroll is coping with the profound ache of losing game No. 28 after storming through the first 27.
  Storming to what extent?
  ``All year,'' Carroll coach Tom Ingelsby said, ``we were never behind in the fourth quarter.''
  Time No. 1 occurred with 3 minutes, 59 seconds left, and it was Neumann's first lead of the game.
  With the score 43-43, senior swingman James Fowler, Devon's brother, drove hard down the right side of the lane and was a little too hard with a layup. La Salle signee Victor Thomas, a 6-7 senior forward, soared high above the rim, grabbed the ball after it skipped off the glass and rammed it back home with authority, not to mention flair, for a 45-43 lead.
  The Pirates remained ahead the rest of the way.
  ``That dunk shifted the momentum, picked up the pace,'' said Thomas, who finished with 10 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots. ``That meant Carroll had to play catch-up. That's what we wanted to see. Can they do it? ''
  For the Fowler brothers, Thursday, Friday and Saturday were extremely nerve-racking. And they provided both with a new experience.
  ``I gave him a couple rubdowns,'' James said.
  Ah, a budding masseur, eh?
  ``I'd only do that for him,'' he said, smiling. ``Just my brother. I'm not giving rubdowns to nobody else.
  ``Devon was worried he wasn't going to be able to play. But he's a warrior. By today he was saying, `I'm not going to miss this game. I don't care if my ankle is broken. ' ''
  Early, the Patriots looked poised and confident and Neumann looked shaky - witness three turnovers in the first 58 seconds. Through the first half, Carroll did such a workmanlike job against Neumann's 1-3-1 halfcourt trap that Neumann coach Tom Dougherty scrapped it for the third quarter in favor of man-to-man.
  All season Carroll had sliced and diced man-to-man with selflessness, headiness and backdoor cuts. But Dougherty threw in some wrinkles. He put Devon Fowler on the 6-foot Ingelsby and Thomas on role-player Mike Hartman instead of 6-8 William and Mary signee Bill Phillips. Largely, Thomas ignored Hartman and stayed close to the basket, improving his chances to block shots and snag rebounds.
  ``I had some trouble in the first half with Phillips,'' Thomas admitted. ``He's a good inside force. By not playing [Hartman], I was able to double down on Phillips. That was good strategy. ''
  Devon Fowler, meanwhile, used his height advantage to help force Ingelsby, the unanimous coaches' MVP of the Southern Division, to shoot 1-for-15 from three-point range and 5-for-19 overall en route to 11 points.
  ``I tried to play him close, not let him get open looks,'' Devon Fowler said. ``I tried to get into his head by staying real close and bumping him a little bit. Have to do it that way. That's basketball. ''
Said Dougherty: ``We knew we could play man-to-man defense. Maybe other people didn't, but we did. We decided at halftime, `Let's go play them! Let's suck it up! ' '' 
  Devon Fowler and Thomas were joined in double-figure scoring by senior wing guard Mark Del Brocco (13). James Fowler, hampered by foul trouble, was limited to three points, but he added seven rebounds and three assists. Junior point guard Rashime Middleton managed six points,

 
  continued right below . . .

--

five rebounds and three steals and senior center Mark Moritz had five points and seven rebounds.
  When Ingelsby flipped in a 5-footer on the right baseline with 2:06 left, the Patriots were within 47-46. They would score no more.
  A huge play occurred at 34.5. After making the first shot of a double bonus to make the score 51-46, Del Brocco missed the second shot. The rebound kicked long. Del Brocco hustled over, grabbed the ball and passed to Devon Fowler, who added two more free throws at 29.5.
  Del Brocco and Devon Fowler were starters two years ago, when Neumann went 0-14 in division play and 4-20 overall.
  ``I thought we'd make the playoffs before I left, but this, this is unbelievable,'' Del Brocco said.

--

GAME-BY-GAME RESULTS, LEADING SCORER(S)
Opponent Neum Leading Scorer(s) Pts
Chambersburg 63 Victor Thomas 21
DeMatha (MD) 72 Rashime Middleton 22
Xavier (NY) 72 J. Fowler/Thomas 18
Ryan 72 Victor Thomas 17
University City 78 Victor Thomas 18
Holy Cross (NY) 75 D. Fowler/J. Fowler 16
McNamara  75 Devon Fowler 20
Straw. Mansion 87 Victor Thomas 26
Central Bucks West 113 Devon Fowler 25
Mercersburg 68 Victor Thomas 21
Atlantic City 82 Victor Thomas 16
CL Regular Season      
West Catholic 83 James Fowler 19
Carroll 60 Mark Del Brocco 20
SJ Prep 71 Victor Thomas 21
Kennedy-Kenrick 65 James Fowler 15
Bonner 83 Victor Thomas 20
O'Hara 65 James Fowler 20
Roman 49 Victor Thomas 12
West Catholic 51 Victor Thomas 20
Carroll 58 Mark Del Brocco 25
SJ Prep 62 Mark Del Brocco 16
Kennedy-Kenrick 66 James Fowler 18
Bonner 67 D.Fowler/Thomas 15
O'Hara 60 James Fowler 16
Roman 77 Victor Thomas 19
CL Playoffs      
Roman 71 Victor Thomas 16
La Salle 76 Devon Fowler 19
Carroll 54 Devon Fowler 17

--

  This story was written after Victor Thomas powered the Pirates past La Salle in a semifinal . . .

By Ted Silary
  All Victor Thomas wanted was a chance to play basketball in a program that mattered. A program with a chance to win. A program with a chance to experience excitement.
  At Northeast High last season, Thomas finished second in Public League scoring with 29 points a game. But how many people came to the games, of which there were only 15? How many people in scholastic hoops circles noticed his accomplishments? How many people wondered whether he was a legitimate player?
  Last night, Victor Thomas addressed those subjects and more.
  He did so while standing outside the southwest locker room at the Palestra. All around, people were smiling from ear to ear and making noise that carried high into the rafters.
  ``This is what I came for,'' a beaming Thomas said, slowly.
  Thomas is a 6-7, 185-pound senior forward at St. John Neumann. As the Pirates dismantled La Salle, 76-58, in a Catholic League semifinal to earn a spot in the championship game for the first time since 1985 (and for only the fourth time since 1958), Thomas shot a perfect 8-for-8 from the floor en route to 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
  At Northeast, Thomas had the freedom to take eight shots per quarter. And there was a need for him to do it.
`  `It's not bad,'' he said, ``to walk on the court and know you have the permission to do pretty much what you want. I proved I could score. But there's more to the game than that. I wanted to play for a team where I could develop some other skills and be a complement for my teammates.
  ``On this team, all the guys are capable of scoring 25 points at any time. Big difference. ''
  In just three seasons, coach Tom Dougherty has lifted Neumann's program to elite status largely through the addition of transfers. Four of the five starters - Thomas, point guard Rashime Middleton (Southern), swingman James Fowler (West Philadelphia) and center Mark Moritz (Central, though he never played there) - began their high school years in Public League schools.
  The perception of many CL coaches, spoken mostly in off-the-record whispers, is that Neumann has sold its soul for basketball bums.
  Dougherty's reaction is always the same. He bristles and then laughs derisively.
  ``You might want to tell everyone that Vic has the highest grade-point average in the senior class this year through the midterm reports,'' Dougherty said. ``It's 96.5 and he's in the highest track. I have him in class for accounting, so I can tell you for sure how much of a student he is. He's intelligent and works hard. ''
  Said Thomas: ``I could never walk into a classroom and not do my work. That's not me. ''
  The La Salle-bound Thomas, who has scored 1,030 on the Scholastic Assessment Test, said he decided to attend Neumann because he was friendly with several of the players. He almost made the move as a junior, but opted to give Northeast one more chance because, after all, it wasn't as if he hated the place.
  ``I came to about five or six Neumann games last year, just to watch and check things out,'' said Thomas, who was outdone in scoring by junior Devon Fowler (19 points). For La Salle, Joe Meade had 15 to finish his career with 1,098.   ``All five starters were underclassmen. You think about the chemistry and whether you might come in and mess it up. I didn't think at all about how much less I'd score. I'd trade points for wins any day of the week.
  ``The first time I played in a summer league game for Neumann, it was great. It was like I'd been with them since freshman year. ''
  At several junctures, Thomas said he wanted to thank Neumann's coaches and players ``for letting me come here. ''
  They let him come?
  ``We took a vote on whether Vic should join us,'' Dougherty said. ``The result was `yes' from the first man to the last. The kids didn't worry about Vic disrupting what we had going. Other people had concerns about our chemistry. We didn't. From the very beginning, Vic has been a perfect fit. ''
  Said Thomas: ``Coming to Catholic League ball from Public League ball isn't easy. There's more discipline. There's a lot of switching and cutting. You have to make the adjustment or you'll get lost pretty fast. I've learned a lot this season and I'm a lot better overall player.'

--

SCORING IN CATHOLIC LEAGUE REGULAR SEASON AND PLAYOFFS
        Qtr Semis Final
Name GS Pts PPG RC La S Carr
Victor Thomas 14 212 15.1 16 18 10
James Fowler 14 192 13.7 14 5 3
Mark Del Brocco 14 167 11.9 11 7 13
Devon Fowler 14 146 10.4 12 19 17
Rashime Middleton 13 104 8.0 14 9 6
Mark Moritz 6 31 5.2 2 4 5
Greg Robinson 8 29 3.6   8  
Wayne Jones 8 22 2.8   2  
Chas Bailey 3 6 2.0 2 2  
Felix Bristow 1 5 5.0      
Al Greenman 1 2 2.0      
Anthony Natale 1 1 1.0   2  
  14 917 65.5 71 76 54

--

  This story was written after Mark Del Brocco silenced SJ Prep's fans with an impressive performance  . . .

By Ted Silary
  Mark Del Brocco hereby grants permission to call him names at full volume.
  If he misses a few shots in succession, feel free to bellow, ``Nice stroke, Del Bricko! '' Oh, and please mix in the occasional reference to his chunky frame.
  Aside from being a (usually) sweet-shooting, 6-foot senior wing guard on St. John Neumann High's basketball team, Del Brocco is very much a character.
  He enjoys making faces, complaining under his breath to officials, delivering the occasional after-the-whistle bump to opponents and, after making a big shot, pointing into the stands at fans who heckle him.
  It's who he is. It's what he does. Take it or leave it.
  ``In the neighborhood leagues, everybody hates me,'' Del Brocco said, smiling. ``Mostly at 16th and Jackson [in South Philadelphia]. I'm always running my mouth. They don't hate me afterward. Just while I'm playing. ''
  Yesterday, when he wasn't involved in extracurricular activities, Del Brocco shot 6-for-13 from the floor (4-for-7 on three-pointers) for 16 points and dished six assists as Neumann survived a 62-59 scare at St. Joseph's Prep in an emotional Catholic South game.
  Del Brocco's biggest field goal, a three from directly beyond the top of the arc, came with 1 minute, 10 seconds remaining and handed Neumann a 59-57 lead.
  It loomed large mostly because The Prep, having rallied from a 54-45 deficit with 5:21 left, had just seized the lead on Mike Pedicino's two foul shots.
  ``I knew that one was in right away,'' Del Brocco said.
  He didn't know what the outcome would be, though. He fouled out at 0:47 and could only agonize from the bench as The Prep inbounded the ball in its frontcourt at 0:14 looking for a tie. It didn't happen. After other players showed hesitation, sophomore Kasim Holloman (14 points) had to try to back up behind the arc for a left-corner three at the buzzer. The shot missed. Anyway, Holloman's foot was on the line.
  For Del Brocco, the razzing always serves as a motivating factor.
  ``I feed off it. That's the way I like it,'' he said. ``Like today, they were calling me `Fat Boy' and a few other names. That's nothing new.
  ``I like getting involved in games like this. It makes me play better. I love taking the big shots, knowing that they mean so much. This atmosphere brings out the best in everybody on our team. '' Pause. ``I do have to stop talking to the refs so much, though. All I usually do is ask them what I did. ''
  A four-year varsity performer, Del Brocco was little more than a stationary jump-shooter in his younger days. But he has truly blossomed this season into a player capable of making an overall dent. His passing is always adequate and sometimes impressive and he makes sure to drive at least a few times every game.
  ``My father [Lou] stays on me about doing that,'' Del Brocco said. ``He says it'll get people off me, give me room. I used to drive all the time in grade school. I was just so big, I'd use my body and score.
  ``Passing, I was never bad at that. It was just that we didn't have the same kind of inside players as we do now in Vic [La Salle signee Victor Thomas]. I like working a two-man game with him. ''
  Thomas finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and three blocks but was 1-for-8 at the line. James Fowler added 12 points, four assists and four steals. Aside from Holloman and Pedicino (nine points, five assists), St. Joe's was aided by Chris Hightower (14 points, nine rebounds).
  Del Brocco, who has an 85 classroom average, is hearing from a number of Division II and III colleges. Aside from a jumper, the school that gets him certainly will add feistiness. 

--

Recaps of Catholic League playoffs . . .

QUARTERFINAL
Neumann 71, Roman 58
  
Victor Thomas (16), James Fowler, Rashime Middleton (14 apiece), sub Devon Fowler (12, Jamesís brother) and Mark Del Brocco (11) scored in double figures as Neumann prevented Roman from advancing to the semis for the first time since 1985 and assured the Cahillites would not win 20 games for only the fourth time in 25 seasons. Rasual Butler (13) led Roman.
SEMIFINAL
At the Palestra
Neumann 76, La Salle 58
  
Victor Thomas shot 8-for-8 en route to 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds as the Pirates advanced to the final for the first time since 1985. James Fowler, Mark Del Brocco and Rashime Middleton had five assists each. Sub Devon Fowler drained four threes while reaching 19 points. La Salleís Joe Meade had 15 points, eight boards.
FINAL
At the Palestra
Neumann 54, Carroll 46
  
After taking a 15-minute hot shower before the game to ease back pain, sixth man Devon Fowler completed an impressive playoff run by shooting 5-for-6 and 5-for-6 for 17 points in 23 minutes as the Pirates sentenced Carroll to its first defeat of the season. Victor Thomas added 10 points, nine rebounds and four blocks and provided Neumann's first lead, 45-43, with 3:59 left when he grabbed a miss and scored on a slam dunk. Mark Del Brocco scored 13 points. For Carroll, which shot 2-for-21 on threes, Bill Phillips bagged 16 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks. 

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