Red-hot Archbishop Wood routs Martin Luther King for District 12-5A title

PHILADELPHIA >> Judging solely on his warm-up, Archbishop Wood senior guard Keith Otto had no idea what was coming from his team.

Then the whistle blew, the ball went up and with 6:57 left in the first quarter, Otto buried his first shot, a 3-pointer assisted by Collin Gillespie. Over the next 1:47, Wood’s other three starting guards all buried a trey and big man Seth Pinkney put back a miss. In a blink, they led Martin Luther King 16-2.

The Vikings only kept going from there. A scorching hot team performance led Wood to an 87-51 win over MLK in the District 12-5A championship game Friday night at Father Judge in Northeast Philly.

“I missed my first six 3s honestly,” Otto said of his warm-up. “But I was able to make the first one in the game and we all came out firing. All four of the guards made a 3 in the beginning, which is crazy. We’re shooters, it’s what we do. It felt good to hit, we hadn’t been hitting well all throughout the Catholic League playoffs.”

Otto and the other three starting guards, Gillespie, Matt Cerruti and Ty Pickron, all scored in double figures with Cerruti pouring in a team-high 20. Pinkney had nine, but also blocked five shots so he certainly did his job.

Gillespie, the Villanova recruit, nearly posted a triple-double, scoring 14 points, pulling in nine rebounds and dishing 11 assists. He also added a block and two steals and was the guy getting that blistering start going with six of his helpers coming in the first quarter.

In a way, it was Wood picking up right where it had left off at the Palestra on Monday.

“It’s another game, so we try to take the same approach, never too high, never too low,” Cerruti said. “It’s the same thing we’ve been saying all year. We want to approach every game the same way, whether it’s the Catholic League championship, district championship or preseason game.”

Wood led 16-2 after that initial barrage and took a 28-14 lead into the second quarter. By then, Pickron and Cerruti had each hit a pair of 3s and reserve big man Julius Phillips had thrown down a vicious put-back dunk.

With both teams already in the state tournament, it was possible to look at the district title as an afterthought, especially with the Vikings having already made history by winning the program’s first-ever PCL title. But to Otto, who started at Wood at the end of the Vikings’ lean years, it was a title worth having.

“We had four goals on our board at the beginning of the year. Get to the Palestra, win a Catholic League title, win a district title and win a state title,” Otto said. “We have all these banners in our gym, well used to have all these banners because our gym fell down, but none of them were for basketball. That was our mindset in the beginning, let’s get some up there for basketball.”

In the second quarter, Wood took a 35-20 lead on MLK on a pair of Cerruti free throws. It was significant because the Vikings trailed by 15 in the PCL final before staging the largest comeback in the storied history of the championship game to topple Neumann-Goretti.

Having been on the rallying end of a comeback already this week, the Vikings weren’t looking to be on the receiving end of one too. Not that the Saints let up on Monday, but Wood just kept going, getting to the line when its 3-pointers stopped falling at such a high rate and not letting up on the defensive end.

Wood still managed a 10-of-22 performance from 3-point territory and hit on 15-of-18 at the foul line.

“That’s what I told them, we were down like this the other night and they’re not going to stop coming,” Wood coach John Mosco said. “I said they’re going to start pressuring us, and they did, but we just kept playing.”

Wood led 44-22 at the break and all but put the game away in the third quarter. Cerruti drilled two more 3-pointers in the frame while Otto had two buckets and an assist and Gillespie and Pickron each scored four points. Pickron ended his night with 15 points and five rebounds.

“We usually like to think we’re going to be that hot,” Cerruti said. “Tonight it was falling for everybody and we hope it stays like that. I think (Monday) we were kind of taking it in that we were there, we were a little blow away by it, or I was at least. We got that one so coming out here we felt under control and like we could do some big things.”

The starters stayed in to open up the fourth, but slowly got pulled as the lead continued to swell. Otto, fittingly as the guy who started the whole thing, had the last hoop from a starting player when he scored off an Andrew Funk assist with 4:50 left.

Senior Shawn Thompson, Wood’s standout running back on the football field, scored a layup with 3:39 left that sent the Vikings bench into a frenzy. Otto said he was happier to see Thompson score than he was to hit any of his shots.

It’s an attitude shared by the whole team. The players make it easy to play together and it’s why they’re enjoying this ride they’re on right now so much.

“For three years we couldn’t win anything,” Otto said. “We won maybe a tournament thing over Christmas break that was the highest-level thing we had won. We wanted to make sure we had our eye on a goal the entire season.”

Archbishop Wood 87, Martin Luther King 51
Archbishop Wood 28 16 23 20 – 87
Martin Luther King 14 8 17 12 – 51
Archbishop Wood: Collin Gillespie 4 4-4 14, Keith Otto 5 1-1 12, Ty Pickron 5 2-2 15, Seth Pinkney 3 3-4 9, Matt Cerruti 7 2-2 20, Andrew Funk 2 2-2 6, Karrington Wallace 0 1-2 1, Julius Phillips 3 0-0 6, Shawn Thompson 1 0-0 2, Bryce Stock 1 0-0 2, Wade 0 0-1 0. Nonscoring: Harrison, Garland, McNamee. Totals: 32 15-18 87.
Martin Luther King: Burgess 4 0-0 11, Kiah-El 4 1-3 9, Holly 4 0-0 9, Robinson 2 0-0 5, McNair 3 0-0 6, Monteiro III 1 0-0 3, Watson 0 1-4 1, Andrews-Fulton 1 0-0 2, Morris 1 0-0 3. Totals: 20 2-7 51.
3-pointers: AW – Cerruti 4, Pickron 3, Gillespie 2, Otto. MLK – Burgess 3, Holly, Robinson, Monteiro III.

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