Bethlehem Catholic boys win first title since 2002
Coming into the District 11 4A boys championship game, the two teams involved have had a long dry spell of district gold. It had been since 2002 that Bethlehem Catholic last won districts, and even longer for their opponent, Jim Thorpe, which last won gold in 1972.
But something had to give.
The Olympians fan base made the long trek to Easton Area Middle School in high volume and made their voices heard in support of their team. But it was the Golden Hawks that quickly quieted the crowd, and hoisted the trophy for the first time in 15 years, beating Jim Thorpe 64-31 last Friday night.
“It means a lot,” said head coach Ray Barbosa. “These kids worked so hard for the last seven months, it’s unbelievable. They deserved this tonight.”
Jim Thorpe entered with upset on its mind. The Olympians first two district wins came when they were the lower seed, and they looked to continue those ways of winning.
But Becahi (21-6 overall) has been on a mission since losing to Allen three weeks ago in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference title game, a contest some of the players called “embarrassing.” They won their first two district games by 23 and 26-point margins, and then the 33-point win Friday.
“We wanted to keep up the intensity and push the ball and do whatever it took to win,” said sophomore guard Justin Paz. “The Allen game prepared us for this district run. That loss helped us get this title. We can go as far as we want. It all depends on us playing defense and playing as a team. If we make our shots, we can beat anyone.”
Paz led all scorers with a game-high 17 points, but it all started on the defensive end for the Golden Hawks.
The size and athleticism that Becahi held over Jim Thorpe was apparent, but the Hawks dug in and made every Olympian possession a challenge. They held Jim Thorpe to just five points in the opening quarter, and 10 in the second, leading 28-15 at halftime.
“We told the guys that if we defend, rebound, and share the basketball, we’ll be fine,” Barbosa said. “It was very important to get off to a good start tonight because they like to slow the ball. But we got out to a good start with our pressure defense. We struggled early with some shots, but we got into a rhythm once our defense picked up.”
It was more of the same in the second half.
Becahi held the Olympians to just 18 points by the time there were three minutes and 12 seconds remaining in the third quarter. By the end of the frame, they had opened up a 28-point lead that went on to become as large as 35 points in the fourth.
“Coach told us, we knew as a team as well, we can’t play around with any of these teams,” said Paz. “We had to get them out early.”
Ryan Young finished with six points and nine rebounds. Jordan Odle had eight points, Julian Thomas tallied seven, and Will Melson added six.
The Hawks will open the PIAA state tournament Saturday afternoon against District 2 three seed Greater Nanticoke at Freedom High School.