One of the state's smallest schools has been making some big noise in high school hoops action the past few seasons.
The St. John Neumann Regional Academy Golden Knights, wow that's a pen full, have put up some impressive numbers the past three years.
Currently Head Coach Paul Petcavage has the Knights riding a 43 game regular-season win streak. Twenty-one in a row this year heading into the Heartland Conference Tournament as our press time approached.
Over the past three seasons SJN has won a total of 75 games, losing only three times. Coach Petcavage’s troops are looking for a District IV threepeat as champions at the class “A” level. They made a run deep into the State Tournament last season and with a little luck could find themselves playing some big games in March again this year.
I had a chance to break bread and have a hot bowl of soup with Coach on a cold winter’s day this past week. Of course the subject was basketball and he provided me a little insight into the SJN program and their recent run of excellence.
First a little background info. Coach Petcavage was a member of the 1972 Pennsylvania Catholic League State Championship team at then Bishop Neumann High School. I've played against Paul years ago. He has brought his competitive fire and desire to win along with his hard-working and goal oriented approach to teach basketball at SJN. He was exactly what they were looking for about five years ago when the position became open.
"I was an assistant the year previous and had an opportunity to become the head man at my alma mater. Those opportunities don't present themselves very often; I was blessed to be selected head coach."
I asked the coach what his goals are each year for his Cathletic Knights and if they have changed with recent success.
"At the beginning of each year the goals are the same, a Heartland and Mid Penn Conference Title, a District Championship and last a State Championship. The last one is obviously the toughest one, but you must set your goals high to reach your team’s full potential."
I agree with Coach and he was knocking on that State Championship door in only his fourth season at the helm.
I then asked Coach to tell me about his "team", the coaches and players that make SJN run, gun and defend. I don't have enough paper for all his praises but here is the shortened version. Coach Petcavage is a very proud man and had a sparkle in his eye when talking about his program.
Coach Joe Clark – "Epitomizes enthusiasm and hard work, played on the ‘72 State Title Team, brings his toughness to our team. Has taken over our defense and he's doing a great job. Would make a great head coach."
Coach Leroy Baer - "Don't know what I would do without him. He is my speed, fitness and agility coach. Every practice we do "Baer Work" he motivates more effort with his “Baer Work” and also rewards those for their hard work with less Baer Work.”
“Both Joe and Leroy are true gentleman and great role models, I'm fortunate to have them.”
Senior Nasza Short - "Proud of him as a young man. Has become team leader and a better student. Very pleased with his development as a person more so than basketball. Has had a great career for me."
Senior Ryan Reid - "A team player. Will do whatever is asked. Always solid off the bench and versatile, has been a contributor to our success. You want him on your team."
Junior Otis Anderson - "Otis has a great personality. He may not be the biggest guy but he'll mix it up with anyone great quickness and ability to defend. He's handled the ball at point for us and done a fine job. It's fine young man."
Sophomore Kevin Anderson - "Excellent shooter, great defender. A heady ballplayer. He can step in at point guard if needed. Is a scorer and a fine young man. Has a great future ahead."
Junior Ra-Quan Mars - "Plays very hard. Good defender, quick and aggressive. Creates havoc. Becoming a good passer. He is very personable."
Junior Isaac Beiter – “Is our center and has come a long way on being aggressive. Has improved his inside game. Is a solid ballplayer and good kid."
Junior Andrew Roman - "Crunch as most know him. Smart, hard worker, has improved his strength and offensive skills. No fear, wants to contribute."
Freshman Jaiden Lynch - "Offensively skilled, working hard on his defensive. Finding his way at the varsity level. Great days ahead."
Junior Dominick Marrazzo - "Good kid and hard worker. Good shooter and quality student."
Freshman Noah Persun - "Bright future ahead. Good work ethic and aggressiveness."
Junior Phil Henderson - "Hard worker, great young man, overcomes adversity each day. Great to have him on the team."
Freshman Dalton Gough - "Good ball handler and shooter. Hard worker with a bright future."
Sophomore Brady Romano - "Good spot up shooter. If he's open he can knock it down."
Thanks Coach for the rundown on your Neumann Knights. The last question I asked was what was your favorite moment of the season to date?
Coach Petcavage’s thoughts immediately went to Phil Henderson. If you remember he referenced how Phil overcomes adversity each day. I had the pleasure of coaching Phil in football. Unfortunately Phil is legally blind. He can see just well enough to participate in athletics and never lets that slow him down.
"It was special when Phil scored his first basket against Muncy. The way the team embraced him, the bench stood up and cheered, the fans cheered. It was a great moment."
Coach also asked me to give a tip of the cap to all SJN fans, former players and alumni for the support the team receives. It has made him so very proud to be their coach the past five seasons.
Good luck to Coach Petcavage and his Knights during their playoff run.