BETHLEHEM >> In the first quarter, Archbishop Wood brought in the funk.
Once he got on the floor, Andrew Funk brought the noise. The Vikings junior guard caught fire and in about 90 seconds, was already in double figure scoring.
It was just the kind of start Wood was looking for and it let the Vikings play from ahead the entire night against Abington Heights. Playing with a lead is what Wood excels at and the Vikings never gave up their lead against a very good Comets team.
The end result was a 68-57 win over the Comets in a 5A PIAA semifinal and the program’s first trip to the state title game.
“We’ve been really good at doing that all year, we’ve been really good playing when we’re ahead,” Funk said. “The biggest thing was getting stops. Collin (Gillespie) said it too, we knew we could score, but they they kept coming right back. The biggest thing is when we pushed the lead, we got a score, stop, score, stop.”
Funk scored 17, with 11 of them coming in his first quarter shooting spree. Of course, there was an entire game that happened after that, but the final margin was 11 points, so Funk’s hot start certainly helped Wood along.
Like the team has done all season, once it saw Funk was hot, they kept going back to him. Funk stayed ready.
“I hit my first one in the corner from (Matt) Cerruti and after that, my teammates started finding me,” Funk said. “On this team, anybody can get hot at any time. Tyree (Pickron) showed it on Sunday when he went off for 30, I put my stretch together there and that’s what this team is all about.”
The Comets, who didn’t sub any players all game and were coming in off back-to-back double-overtime wins, never wilted against Wood. Senior big man Seth Maxwell, a 7-footer with no Divison I offers, gave the Vikings a lot of problems in the post.
Maxwell, who showed a nice shooting touch outside of the paint, scored 23 points and got Wood big man Seth Pinkney in early foul trouble.
“The big kid was a lot better than I thought and he gave us a lot of problems,” Wood coach John Mosco said. “Seth picked up two fouls and in the first half we were letting him settle and get good position and re-establish himself on the block. The second half, we got a lot better ball-pressure so the pass wasn’t coming in as easy.”
Funk’s first 3-pointer came with 1:51 left in the frame and he scored the last 11 of the quarter for Wood with two more threes and a driving take into the lane off a Karrington Wallace block.
No matter which guy is hot, or which five are on the floor, the Vikings all have a green light to shoot. The coaches don’t want them to hesitate so Funk said when he’s in a groove like that, he’s got his mind made up when the pass starts coming his way.
“That’s the biggest thing, we’re all shot-ready,” Funk said. “We have Collin getting in the lane, our game is so much drive and kick, so we’re always ready on the perimeter.”
Wood led by 10 after one, but the Comets cut the lead in half to start the second frame. Back-to-back baskets by Maxwell made it 26-23 Wood and the Vikings had to fight to keep the lead the rest of the way through the half.
A jumper by Gillespie with 2.9 left in the half staked Wood to a 34-29 edge at the break. While the first three rounds of the state tournament saw the Vikings win three blowout games, they had plenty of experience being in a tight game to fall back on.
“We knew we could score so that’s what they preached at halftime, get stops and the game will open up for us,” Gillespie said. “It’s what we’ve done all year. We’ve played in close games in the Catholic League, so it really helps us for now.”
Abington Heights continued to stick around in the third thanks to some yeoman work from its big three of Maxwell, Jackson Danzig and Trey Kohler, chopping the lead down to 43-41 with 2:26 left on a Danzig trey. Wood responded when Funk threw a pocket pass to Pinkney for a score, got a stop then Gillespie drew a foul and knocked down two at the line.
Gillespie had an all-around strong game with 18 points, eight assists and four steals, brushing off chants of “overrated” from the Abington Heights student section.
Funk gave his team an eight-point lead going into the final frame on a bizarre play. His jumper was blocked by Danzig, the ball went straight up and came down to Funk, who tossed it up and beat the buzzer.
“Collin kicked it to me on the wing, I had my shot blocked and it fell right into my hands,” Funk said. “It was one of those things where I probably had more time, but I just chucked it up and got lucky.”
Wood finally pulled away in the fourth with Pickron providing two huge scores on a three and a floating shot that gave the Vikings a 54-43 edge. The junior wing then found Gillespie to cap the 7-0 run. After a 5-0 Comets run, Gillespie hit a tough fallaway shot on the baseline with 3:34 left then he and Pickron combined for four foul shots and a 12-point edge.
Pickron’s freebies with 55.8 left put Wood up 66-53 and made it all but official.
“We knew we had the guys to do it, it was all about if we could put it together and play four quarters every day and compete,” Gillespie said. “We did it. We have eight or nine guys that play a lot of minutes. We share the ball really well, we make shots and we win games.”
The Vikings play for the 5A state title Friday night against Meadville.
“It’s been a long road,” Mosco said. “It’s over 70 practices and 30 games right now.”
Archbishop Wood 68, Abington Heights 57
ARCHBISHOP WOOD 24 10 15 19 – 68
ABINGTON HEIGHTS 14 15 12 16 – 57
Archbishop Wood (68): Collin Gillespie 5 8-9 18, Ty Pickron 5 4-4 16, Seth Pinkney 2 2-2 6, Matt Cerruti 4 0-0 11, Andrew Funk 7 0-0 17, Karrington Wallace 0 0-4 0. Nonscoring: Keith Otto, Julius Phillips, Shawn Thompson. Totals: 23 14-19 68
Abington Heights (57): George Tinsley 3 0-1 6, Jackson Danzig 5 1-1 13, Trey Kohler 6 0-0 15, Seth Maxwell 11 1-2 23. Totals: 25 2-4 57
3-pointers: AW – Funk 3, Pickron 3, Cerruti 2; AH – Kohler 3, Danzig 2