By TED SILARY
Philadelphia Daily News
The fourth quarter had John Brennan's stamp all over it.
Hey, it's always that way when the guys from Ss. Neumann-Goretti High are playing basketball . . . from way ahead.
Unless you're an insider or otherwise pay great attention to this squad, we know what you're asking: John Brennan? Who the heck is that?
"The guys call me the captain of the second team," he said, smiling.
Pity the team that doesn't have a John Brennan. Or multiples. He's the kind of player who makes the high-school hoops experience enjoyable for everyone, mostly because "selfish" and "lazy" and "disgruntled" do not exist in his dictionary.
Neumann-Goretti showed last night why many folks consider it a strong favorite to claim a Class AAA state title in the Catholic League's first school year of full-fledged PIAA membership.
Before just short of a full house in Southern High's saunalike gymnasium, the Saints hammered Steelton-Highspire, 98-71, in a first-round lack of a contest.
The rotation guys rolled to a 26-12 lead in the first 8 minutes. They wound up shooting 15-for-30 from the floor, and 6-for-14 on treys, in the first half and the frolicking continued following intermission as five of the first seven shots were canned, mostly because they were easy layups off fastbreaks.
Soon, it was time for Brennan, a 6-4, 200-pound senior forward, to do his thing. Along with the likes of other bench brigaders such as classmate Bradford King and youngsters Billy Shank, Will Huff, Mark Squilla, Justin Smith and Najee Verdell.
Loads of fun was had by all. Nothing new for Brennan.
"I guess the most I played was against McDevitt," he said. "Almost the entire second half and even a little in the first half.
"I don't mind [being a deep sub]. I have a great time. I'm on a tremendous team and the starters appreciate what I do. "
Just then, star junior guard Tony Chennault, who has already committed to Wake Forest (25 points in this one), emerged from the locker room. As he walked past Brennan, he slapped him playfully in the chest and roared, "Yeah, John! I told you you'd be getting a story someday!"
Others were just as happy as they scrambled past.
Brennan finished with four rebounds, three assists and one steal - the stats he loves - and four points. Believe him when he says he could have done without those.
"Scoring's never important to me," he said. "I hardly ever shoot. I like seeing my teammates score. That gives me a great feeling. Why? I don't know. It just does. I love it."
Brennan said he was a starter early in his eighth-grade year at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in South Philly, but then was moved to the bench in part because of his reluctance to shoot.
"We won a region CYO championship," he said, proudly. "And I was there to watch Neumann win the championship that year and now, 4 years later, we won it again. Guess I'm lucky."
Brennan stuck with hoops in part to please his father, who's also named John and owns the Shamrock Pub, at 2nd and Reed.
"He said he wanted me to play because he always regretted not playing at Neumann," Brennan said. "I love being here. Every day in practice I get to go against guys who are going to be playing Division I basketball and even in the NBA . . . Probably three of them are going to do that."
Brennan's first bucket, making it 94-62, came on a layup with 1:56 left on a pass from Squilla. He then scored on a follow.
Soon, Verdell went to the line after being fouled while following his own miss. Every rotation member stood up along the bench, poised to celebrate wildly. He had not scored all season. Still hasn't. Both free throws missed. Smith, listed at 5-5 but nowhere near that, tallied the final basket on a pass from Huff.
Despite the mismatch, Jeff Davis was sensational for Steel-High, located near Harrisburg. He totaled 25 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three steals and seven of his baskets were damn-near-break-the-rim dunks.
Brennan, who lives near 2nd and Jackson, is awaiting acceptance word from several colleges. He's not sure what career he wants to pursue, "just as long as I don't have to work outdoors, because it's too cold."
Brennan does more than study in classrooms. "I'm the class clown," he claimed. "Know what, though? I don't have a demerit all year. I'm friends with everybody. And really tight with the principal." *