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Workman the hero as PJP makes history with PIAA 4A win over Central Catholic

Pope John Paul II’s Jaden Workman (4) dribbles the ball during Tuesday’s PIAA Class 4A win over Allentown Central Catholic. (Owen McCue - MediaNews Group)

SHILLINGTON >> Pope John Paul II sophomore Jaden Workman has not shied away from the big moments this season.

Though the young guard starts the game on the bench, the ball is often in his hands when the game is on the line.

“He just always makes good decisions, and he just seems to make shots in big moments, really tough shots too,” PJP coach Brendan Stanton said.

In the biggest game in the Golden Panthers’ history Tuesday at Governor Mifflin Intermediate School — a PIAA Class 4A second round game against District 11 champ Allentown Central Catholic — Workman hit the program’s biggest shot to date.

Workman’s tough take in the final seconds was followed by two missed free throws by Central Catholic on the other end as Pope John Paul claimed a 44-42 win and advanced to the PIAA quarterfinals for the first time in the program’s nine-year history.

“All my teammates have confidence in me, and they tell me to shoot the ball all the time,” Workman said. “They don’t care if I miss shots. They just want me to keep shooting.”

 

“It was kind of contested,” he added. “I got pushed a little bit and I just tried to float it up with my left hand. It went in and that’s all that matters.”

PJP (21-6) will play District 11 three seed Tamaqua, a 72-58 winner over District 3 four seed Susquehanna Township, in the quarterfinal round on Friday at time and site to be determined.

Pope John Paul II’s Kevin Green (1) eyes the rim as Allentown Central Catholic’s Christian Spugnardi (0) comes over to defend in Tuesday’s PIAA Class 4A game. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

Mr. Clutch >> The last shot was not the only big one for Workman, who didn’t have a point through the first three quarters. He scored seven of PJP’s final 10 points.

After Allentown Central Catholic took its first lead on a three by Eastern Pennsylvania Conference MVP Nick Filchner, Workman came right back down and knocked down a 3-point shot from the top of the key, giving PJP a 37-36 lead with about five minutes to play.

Filchner tied the game 40-40 with about two minutes left, but Workman drew a foul on the other end and knocked down a pair of free throws to put PJP in front, 42-40. Filchner again tied the game, and after both teams turned the ball over, Workman had the ball his hands with a tie score, less than a minute left and school history on the line.

 

Similar to his game-winner against Phoenixville earlier this season, Workman had a bigger player guarding him on the outside. He dribbled left past his man and into the lane, euro-stepped around the defender sliding in to help, absorbed a bump and floated the ball off the glass with his left hand. The eventual game-winning basket took one spin around the rim before falling through the hoop.

“He was made for this,” senior Drew McKeon said. “This is his stuff. He loves basketball. He’s a great one-one-one player, gets a lot of his baskets that way. The future of the program is in great hands with people like him.”

Balancing Act >> After junior Justin Green scored 20 points in PJP’s first round PIAA win, he scored just eight on Tuesday. The Golden Panthers opted for a more balanced scoring attack with five different players scoring seven-or-more points.

Junior Luke McCarthy scored nine of PJP’s first 16 points and finished with 12 to lead the way. McKeon had nine points, sophomore Kevin Green scored eight points and Workman finished with seven in the win.

“I knew tonight they were going to have a bigger kid on me,” McCarthy said. “I knew that if I could start scoring early it would kind of free things up. That happened to me early. I got the hot hand and then it kind of just got the flow of the offense going.”

 

McCarthy finished with 10 points in PJP’s opening-round win against John Bartram. He went a clutch 6-for-6 in the fourth quarter to help wrap up that victory.

The junior once again came through in the clutch for the Golden Panthers on Tuesday night. McCarthy’s lone three points of the second half came on a 3-point shot with three and a half left to put the Golden Panthers ahead 40-36.

“You always dream about these shots and these moments,” McCarthy said. “To do it on some of the biggest stages of state, it feels awesome.”

Pope John Paul II’s Luke McCarthy, right, shoots a layup as Allentown Central Catholic’s Tyson Thomas watches in Tuesday’s PIAA Class 4A game. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

Locked Down >> With Justin Green shadowing him for the majority of the contest, Filchner, who finished with 20 points in Central Catholic’s first-round win, didn’t score a point until a free throw with 43.2 seconds left in the first half.

His first field goal came on a transition 3 to give Central Catholic a 36-34 lead with 5:17 to play, its first lead since the opening minutes of the game. Filchner, a 6-foot-8 wing , got two more buckets in the final two and a half minutes to twice tie the game.

 

Filchner had the ball in his hands with a little more than a minute left and the game tied, 40-40. McKeon helped on the drive and Justin Green recovered to double team and force a turnover, giving PJP the ball with 49.2 seconds left and setting the stage for Workman’s heroics.

Sophomore forward Liam Joyce had 15, senior guard Jaylen Green had 10 and Filchner finished with eight for Central Catholic.

“It was honestly spontaneous,” McKeon said of the double team. “It just happened within the game. We were just out there playing basketball. I didn’t want him to get down hill going to the rack because he made a couple difficult shots going downhill. I knew I had to get out in front and cause some commotion. When he made the pass, my teammates just did their job,  rotated, stepped in and took it.”

Twice the Fun >> There were about eight seconds left when Workman’s bucket fell through the net. Allentown Central Catholic’s Tyson Thomas quickly advanced the ball up court and drew a foul right as the buzzer rang.

The Golden Panthers celebrated at the buzzer as their bench ran to join, but the officials awarded Thomas two free throws and put 0.2 seconds on the clock.

After Thomas missed the first and an intentional miss on the second went awry, the Golden Panthers inbounded the ball and celebrated once again — this time for real.

“It takes a lot of courage to be able to step to that foul line with your head up,” McKeon said. “I give him a lot of credit for that. But we knew our student section was going to be making noise. We tried to do what we could to distract him in his peripheral vision. We just got lucky in this one.”

“I still can’t comprehend what happened out there,” he added. “It was just unbelievable. It was a team effort. Defense, rebounding, it was everything. It took all five out there.”

NOTES >> The Pope John Paul II state playoff football team played Tamaqua in the PIAA playoff this fall at Owen J. Roberts High School, defeating the Golden Panthers, 47-21.

Pope John Paul II’s Dave Smrek, center, tries to shoot over Allentown Central Catholic’s Tyson Thomas in Tuesday’s PIAA Class 4A game. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

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