TRE HARVEY AND WILL TAYLOR led the Nazareth Prep Saints to its first WPIAL championship. THE NAZARETH PREP CHEERLEADERS NAZARETH PREP’S WILLIAM TAYLOR hoists the WPIAL Class 1A Championship trophy, after the Saints defeated Vincentian, 69-62, on Feb. 28, to claim the school’s first WPIAL championship. (Photos by Courier photographer Will McBride)It was Jan. 18, and Nazareth Prep’s little-known basketball team was making some waves. The small school in Emsworth was 9-1 in WPIAL Class 1A and had all the confidence in the world heading into Cornell High School’s gym in Coraopolis against a tough, 12-2 Raiders squad.Nazareth Prep was outplayed and suffered an 18-point loss.Four nights later, Nazareth Prep returned home to host Vincentian Academy, another tough team whom the Saints had already lost to earlier in the season. Nazareth Prep lost again, 69-65.It’s been nearly two months and 10 games, and the Nazareth Prep Saints haven’t lost since.With a renewed focus, a heightened sense of urgency, and the plain old ability to knock down open shots, the Saints stormed through the end of the regular season and into the WPIAL playoffs, eventually hoisting their first WPIAL 1A Championship trophy by beating nemesis Vincentian at the Petersen Events Center, 69-62, on Feb. 28. SAINTS HEAD COACH NEHEMIAH BRAZIL Like us at https://www.facebook.com/pages/New-Pittsburgh-Courier/143866755628836?ref=hlFollow @NewPghCourier on Twitter https://twitter.com/NewPghCourier “One of the things we had to learn was that we were doing a lot of good things, but it was based off our talent and ability,” Saints head coach Nehemiah Brazil told the New Pittsburgh Courier after the WPIAL title game. “After we lost to Cornell and Vincentian, we had a heart-to-heart and I explained to the guys, your talent and your ability can only take you so far, but if we want to be champs, we gotta commit to defense, we gotta commit to selling out and giving everything on every possession, and making it as difficult as possible (for the opponent) and doing it as a unit.”Consider those adjustments done, done and done.From the opening tip, Nazareth Prep looked like a completely different squad than the team that suffered those back-to-back losses in mid-January. Their on-ball defense was splendid, featuring double-teams that forced Vincentian into early turnovers. Tre Harvey, a senior, was Steph Curry-esque, knocking down 9 of 12 field goals, along with 8 of 8 free throws for 31 points. Junior Will Taylor is a player who has enough respect from defenders to knock down a mid-range jumper—thus, when the defender comes out to the perimeter, Taylor easily takes the ball to the rim for a layup. He finished with 13 points.The Saints held a 28-16 lead at halftime, and extended the advantage to 47-30 after three quarters.Vincentian’s points seemed hard to come by, though Ethan Embleton and Angelo Reeves totaled 32 points. Vincentian mounted a comeback in the fourth quarter, scoring 32 points (they only scored 30 in the first three quarters), but Nazareth Prep’s hustle plays helped secure the victory.In one instance, with 4:30 remaining in the game and Vincentian down, 55-40, Taylor missed a free throw, but senior guard Hassan Ismaeli chased down the rebound, and as he went out of bounds, Ismaeli fired the ball off a nearby Vincentian player, causing the ball to be awarded to Nazareth Prep.Brazil gave his players’ performance a grade of “A-plus.”“I have to, those guys, they played their butts off,” he told the Courier.Harvey, the game’s leading scorer, said he knew he had the magic touch “in warmups. I was real confident, I knew we wasn’t going to lose.”Brazil noted that last year at this time, his Saints were at home while others were competing for a WPIAL title. The Saints made the WPIAL 1A playoffs last year but lost in the opening round.“A loss isn’t a loss unless you don’t learn from it,” Brazil said. “If you learn from it, it’s not a loss. You take what you learned from it and you apply it and get better. Those guys have really done that.”And now, Nazareth Prep boys basketball is officially on the map.“It’s definitely out there now,” Harvey said.“I hope so,” Brazil said. “I hope this is enough to say that.” TRE HARVEY led all scorers with 31 points.