READING >> Ty Pickron was cold.
Cold in a strictly physical sense. After all, he and his teammates were playing on a court resting over a hockey rink. His shooting however, was anything but cold.
In the first half of Sunday night’s game against Spring Grove, most of Archbishop Wood was in a funk. There didn’t seem to be a lot of energy, shots weren’t falling, Spring Grove was sticking around and for the most part, Wood seemed to be coasting.
All except Pickron.
The junior wing came out, buried his first three shots and never really cooled off as he erupted for 32 points as the Vikings perked up in the second half for a 71-46 win in the 5A quarterfinals at Santander Arena.
“After I hit a couple, they started to find me,” Pickron said. “Every time somebody gets hot on our team, that’s what we do. We find each other. That’s how it’s been all season.”
Pickron was electric all night, shooting 13-of-17 from the floor, hitting four 3-pointers and slamming down a pair of dunks. He scored 23 points in the first half as Wood (26-3) scrapped to a 33-24 lead with the rest of the team not quite ready to catch up.
“It was quiet, cold,” Pickron said. “I felt it. It was different, but then again, it’s been different all season. We haven’t played a home game most of the season, we’re used to it.”
The Rockets presented a big challenge in senior guard Eli Brooks, a Michigan recruit with the talent to keep his team in the game by himself. As usual, Wood threw several different looks at Brooks, with senior Matt Cerruti getting most of the work. Brooks scored 16 points, but shot just 6-of-26 from the floor, although he did have 13 boards and three assists.
Still, when Brooks beat the halftime buzzer, it was just a nine-point game.
“It’s hard playing in this big arena, you’re on top of ice, there’s not a lot of fans, it took them a while to get settled in,” Wood coach John Mosco said. “Tyree brought it from the beginning and kept us active. Our defense was a lot better in the second half, more communication and Seth decided to play.”
Seth being junior center Seth Pinkney, the 6-foot-11 tower with nearly endless arms. He was quiet in the first half, admittedly frustrated by a few late whistles and having to chase Spring Grove’s smaller guards and shooters around. So, the big man knew he had to shape up in the second half.
He did in a big way. Pinkney ended up blocking 10 shots on the night, none more emphatic than a fourth-quarter rejection of a driving Brooks that led to a Collin Gillespie runout and Pickron dunk on the other end.
“When I came out at halftime, I realized I wasn’t doing so good in the first half,” Pinkney said. “I got my mind right, playing defense and earning my stuff on defense. I wasn’t playing my hands up a lot, I wasn’t moving my feet.”
Shooters get hot. Everybody knows that and Pickron proved it with his dazzling first half display.
It’s also possible for shot blockers to get hot, as Pinkney showed in the third. he blocked five shots in the period, most in quick succession and each seemed to collect more and more kinetic energy for the next.
“It’s the same type of energy that comes off of shooting when I get blocks,” Pinkney said.
Santander’s seats are way behind the basket and what crowd was there was consolidated in the middle sections, so it was hard for Wood’s shooters to gauge their shots early. Expect, again, for Pickron. But the wing, who has interest from Drexel and a few other small Division I schools, had an extra motivation.
He needed just 14 points to reach his 1,000th, so he wanted to make sure he left the building with the milestone set.
“That was a momentum thing too,” Pickron said with a laugh. “I’d been keeping track
“My dad always tells me I’m a shooter first and let my shooting open up my driving and I could be a great player like that. I try to listen to him and it works for me.”
That’s the thing Pickron has most improved this season, attacking defenses off the bounce. After hitting four of his first five threes, Pickron started to go at the rim more and more. It’s not just a courtesy drive either, he’s going in hard and strong looking to finish and draw a foul.
His shooting is a weapon, but so is his athelticism.
“He’s taking it to the rim more forceful and finishing better in traffic,” Mosco said. “His pull-up is a lot better. He’s working on all aspects of his game.”
Because basketball is weird, Pickron only scored one point in the third quarter when Wood outscored the Rockets 15-8 to take a 16-point lead. But he was back at in the fourth, scoring eight points as Wood finally blew the doors off in a 23-point frame.
Wood led 58-41 with 4:30 left in the game when Pinkney started the game-deciding run with an and-1 off an offensive rebound and putback. He then threw down a dunk off a Cerruti assist before his block led to Pickron’s slam.
Wood then used another 6-0 blitz generated off three straight steals to turn a 68-44 edge into a 71-44 lead.
Wood will face Abington Heights, a two-OT winner over Chester, in Tuesday’s semifinals.
“We approach every game like it’s a regular game,” Pinkney said. “Whether it’s states, the city championship, anything else, we’re going to keep approaching it with the same type of energy.”
Archbishop Wood 71, Spring Grove 46
ARCHBISHOP WOOD 15 17 15 23 – 71
SPRING GROVE 8 16 8 12 – 46
Archbishop Wood (71): Ty Pickron 13 2-4 32, Collin Gillespie 5 1-2 14, Keith Otto 1 0-0 2, Seth Pinkney 2 3-4 7, Matt Cerruti 4 2-3 11, Andrew Funk 1 0-0 2, Shawn Thompson 1 0-0 2, Julius Phillips 1 0-0 2. Nonscoring: Wallace, Harrison, Garland, McNamee, Wade, Stock. Totals: 28 8-13 71
Spring Grove (46): Eli Brooks 6 3-4 16, Austin Painter 6 5-9 17, Jacob Messersmith 1 0-0 3, Drew Gordon 1 0-2 3, Jonathan Sager 2 0-0 4, Grant Sterner 1 0-1 3. Totals: 17 8-16 46
3-pointers: AW – Pickron 4, Gillespie 3, Cerruti; SG – Brooks, Messersmith, Gordon, Sterner