Archbishop Carroll coach Paul Romanczuk has seen plenty of Philadelphia Electrical and Technology Charter over the last few years, both scheduled and in the postseason.
But Romanczuk has enough expertise to know what he didn't know about the Chargers this week as he prepares for an all-District 12 battle in the quarterfinals of the PIAA Class AAA Tournament. Tipoff Friday night is at 7:30 at Archbishop Ryan High School.
"We're pretty familiar with their philosophy and how they want to play," Romanczuk said. "They've had a bunch of transfers, but so have we."
The Patriots (23-4) met the Chargers in the District 12 third-place game last year and the year before. PET got the better of Carroll last year, confining the Patriots to a westerly trip through states that led to the PIAA final.
But both teams are certainly different this year, thanks in large part to former AAU teammates. Carroll's Austin Tilghman, a transfer from Delaware's St. Andrews, used to play AAU ball with PET guard Larenz Thurman, a transfer from Wilmington Friends.
That's not the only challenge presented by PET Charter, whose 18-12 record is a testament to the difficulty of its schedule. Its losses read like a who's who of recent state finalists from Philadelphia: Twice to Neumann-Goretti, a favorite in Class AAA; twice to reigning (but since eliminated) AAA state champ Imhotep; Public League champ and AAAA contender Martin Luther King; plus Constitution and Math, Civics & Sciences, front-runners in Class AA and A, respectively.
Among PET's wins: Great Valley, once the third seed in the District One AAAA tournament; Penn Wood; and PIAA Class AAAA quarterfinalist Rustin. That's not a bad track record.
It gets solid backcourt play from Thurman and Devante Truitt, plus has an athletic big in James Suber. PET Charter narrowly survived its round-of-16 skirmish with Holy Ghost Prep, needing overtime to outlast the Firebirds, 53-52.
Carroll, meanwhile, is coming off a similarly emotional game against Abington Heights, requiring a late rally to win 59-55 in a raucous atmosphere at Parkland High School. So taxing was that effort that Romanczuk deviated from his normal practice routine to give the Patriots days to recover, knowing they'll have to supply a similar amount of intensity.
"That game the other day emotionally and physically really took a toll on us," he said. "... We know there's no room for a letdown. This is the state tournament."
Neither team wants to get caught looking ahead. Both teams have plenty of reason to want another shot at Neumann-Goretti, the reigning six-time Catholic League champ, which could be looming in the semifinals.
The Saints will face a tough test from an undefeated Allentown Central Catholic team Friday. But that's not Carroll's concern just yet.
"We truly are just going game by game and day by day basically and keep our focus on the next game ahead of us," Romanczuk said. "Listen, our kids are smart. They see the brackets. They know what could happen. It's just human nature to look ahead and then the mind starts to wander. But we are trying our best to keep our focus on this game."