Archbishop Wood uses defense to fuel offense, runs by La Salle

CHELTENHAM >> La Salle entered Friday night’s game against Archbishop Wood determined to slow down the Vikings.

That plan was accomplished in the first quarter as the Explorers took plenty of time on offense and were quite deliberate in what they were trying to do. The second, third and fourth quarters however, did not see quite the same results.

Wood did what Wood has been doing, got rolling on offense and handed La Salle a 75-45 win at Arcadia University on Friday.

“We focused on defense, we know everybody on our team can shoot, everybody finds each other, so we just let the offense flow,” Wood wing Tyree Pickron said. “We know we’re going to get the ball to the right players so we just focus down on defense and let the offense come to us.”

Wood’s defense was quite good on Friday, and the Vikings were also all-in on cleaning up the glass, which led to them getting out in transition, scoring buckets and forcing La Salle to pick up its pace. Senior Collin Gillespie led Wood with 20 points, Pickron scored 14 and Matt Cerruti put in 11 as part of a balanced and involved offensive effort.

The Vikings’ trio of big men, Karrington Wallace, Julius Philips and Seth Pinkney, combined for just 13 points but played a huge part in the win as they held La Salle’s talented sophomore forward tandem of Zach Crisler and Konrad Kiszka to a combined four points.

“Our bigs stayed in the lane, they’re coming along and all getting better,” Wood coach John Mosco said. “Seth Pinkney and Karrington are getting better at playing with their hands straight up, they didn’t go for the pump-fakes and made it harder for (La Salle) to score over them.”

Cerruti said he’s noticed the big guys have gotten much better at challenging shots since the start of the season, along with their drive to go up and get every rebound possible. Philips threw down a fourth-quarter dunk and Cerruti said the guys who handle the ball most are always looking to hit the bigs for some baskets to reward all the hard work they do.

With Gillespie, Pickron and Keith Otto, all knockdown 3-point shooters, in the starting lineup, Cerruti has found a niche in the midrange game. The senior is a complete guard, he can knock down 3s and drive and finish around the rim, but with teams paying so much attention to Wood on the perimeter and at the dish, there’s space to exploit in the middle ground.

“It’s helped on drive-and-kicks,” Cerruti said. “People are flying at me because they know I’m going to try and take a 3, so now it’s a pump fake and take a dribble into a jumpshot or get into the lane.”

Wood led just 10-9 after one but really opened things up in the second quarter. The Vikings scored the first eight points of the frame and overall had a 13-2 spurt over the first four minutes to build a 23-11 edge.

Wood scored 21, 22 and 22 points in the final three quarters as the ball kept moving and guys kept knocking down their chances. The Vikings had 13 assists and it seemed like every time La Salle scored, Wood had one or two baskets as a response.

“Teams throughout the season have come out and tried to throw different stuff at us but our coaches have been doing a really good job of showing us different things in practice,” Pickron said. “We’re good at adjusting.”

The game was supposed to be at Wood, but a wall collapse in the boys’ gym at the school a few weeks ago prompted emergency renovations and put the Vikings out on the road the rest of the season. Cerruti said that’s something the team can use as advantage for its upcoming road games, plus the postseason.

With a sizable contingent of fans from both teams in the house at Arcadia, it was loud and Cerruti said it was tough to hear the coaches at times. The senior added it’s that type of thing that builds team chemistry and with Wood having played plenty of games like that this year, it’s becoming second nature.

No matter what five guys the Vikings had on the floor, they clicked on Friday. When one guy hits, everyone wants a piece of what he’s having.

“That’s exactly what it is,” Pickron said. “When I see Matt or Collin make one, then I’m confident in my next one.”

“It starts at practice then once we get into a game and someone gets going, it’s a battle to top the other guys in shooting,” Cerruti said. “It’s always a competition, which helps.”

With so many marksmen, who’s the best shooter on the team?

“Me,” Cerruti said with a laugh. “But, really, everyone is a good shooter. We’re OK with sharing it and usually, the ball finds the hot hand, so we trust what our coaches are saying and ‘Trust The Process’ quote-unquote.”

Wood travels to Cardinal O’Hara on Monday to start next week before the big one next Thursday when it faces Neumann-Goretti, with the game being held at Archbishop Ryan. The battle between Gillespie and Saints senior Quade Green, a Kentucky recruit, is the headliner, but it’ll be a game decided by whichever team plays best as a group.

Since losing to Father Judge on Jan. 3, there aren’t many teams around playing better than Wood.

“It’s our chemistry,” Pickron said. “I trust Karrington, Seth and Julius. I trust Collin. I trust everybody on the team that if I get beat, they’re going to be there and for them, I’ll be there. The chemistry is the big thing.”

Archbishop Wood 75, La Salle 45
La Salle 9 7 16 13 – 45
Archbishop Wood 10 21 22 22 – 75
La Salle (45): Jarrod Stukes 2 5-7 9, Konrad Kiszka 0 3-4 3, Zach Crisler 0 1-2 1, Sean Simon 5 0-0 12, Allen Powell 2 0-0 6, Dan Solecki 2 1-1 5, Matt McMahon 1 0-0 3, Jack Rothenburg 1 1-2 3, Brett Werner 1 0-0 2, Isaiah Snead 0 1-2 1. Nonscoring: Mallee, Hoffman. Totals: 14 12-18 45
Archbishop Wood (75): Collin Gillespie 8 0-0 20, Keith Otto 2 0-0 6, Tyree Pickron 5 3-3 14, Seth Pinkney 1 1-2 3, Matt Cerruti 5 0-0 11, Andrew Funk 3 0-0 6, Karrington Wallace 1 0-2 2, Julius Philips 4 0-0 8, Chris Garland 1 0-0 3, J Wade 1 0-0 2. Nonscoring: Thompson, Harrison, McNamee, Stock. Totals: 31 4-7 75
3-pointers: L – Powell 2, Simon 2, McMahon; AW – Gillepsie 4, Otto 2, Pickron, Cerruti, Garland

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