Hoggard leads Archbishop Carroll past Archbishop Wood, back to Palestra

RADNOR >> For a player like AJ Hoggard, the balance between taking over a game and starting to do too much is often razor-thin.

The Archbishop Carroll sophomore has been working all season to hone that instinct and use his wealth of skills to best help the Patriots when they need it. Friday night in the second half, Hoggard toed the line perfectly, seizing the moment in the fourth quarter to rally his team past Archbishop Wood.

Hoggard scored 23 points as Caroll topped Wood for the second time this week, claiming a 69-62 win in their PCL quarterfinal matchup.

“I felt like the second half had to be mine,” Hoggard said. “I had to get my team over the hump. I wasn’t going out again like we did last year, especially on our home court. I was going to do what I had to do for us to win.”

Archbishop Carroll’s Keyton Butler puts up a shot against Archbishop Wood during their PCL quarterfinal on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. (Adrianna Lynch/For Digital First Media)

The winningest senior class in Wood history needed to get one more win to keep its season alive, but couldn’t quite muster enough big shots down the stretch to do so. Wood shook off a slow start and battled back to take a lead into the half, with Julius Phillips and Andrew Funk carrying the load on offense.

On Monday, Carroll topped the Vikings 67-57 to secure the No. 4 seed and hand Wood the No. 5 spot, ensuring the defending PCL and 5A state champions had to make the trip back to Radnor on Friday. Even though they won, the Patriots watched film during the week and saw some things they needed to clean up.

Hoggard noted defense most of all and Carroll coach Paul Romanczuk had to walk his own fine line between over-thinking adjustments and just sticking with what worked the first time.

“You think because they’re a team that relies so much on (Tyree) Pickron and Funk, maybe you put in some triangle-and-two. You start second-guessing yourself,” Romanczuk said. “We ended up practicing it and go with it late in the game and I think that helped change the game a little bit. It’s tough, we had to beat them Monday and Friday, the defending champs with loads of talent.”

Wood got its first taste of playing at the Palestra last season but Carroll saw its eight-year run of trips to the famed arena snapped in a quarterfinal loss. That setback fueled the Patriots, as did an internal belief that very few outside the program were giving them a shot to be a top-four team in one of the most loaded leagues in the state.

Still, Wood wasn’t going down without a fight and Funk led a charge out of the halftime break that for a little while seemed to signify the title wasn’t changing hands just yet. The senior guard hit back-to-back 3-pointers, then assisted a Seth Pinkney dunk for a 39-32 lead with 4:49 to go in the third.

“We didn’t hit a couple shots we really needed and that’s a game that comes down to a couple possessions,” Funk said. “We played really hard, I’m really proud of our guys and this team. It’s not the way we wanted to go out but it is what it is.”

Funk’s older brother Tommy, now the starting point guard at Army, also saw his Wood career end at Carroll in the quarterfinals two years ago. The younger Funk, committed to Bucknell, was a key piece of last season’s championship team and assumed the role of a leader for this group.

Archbishop Wood’s Seth Pinkney dunks on Archbishop Carroll during their PCL semifinal on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. (Adrianna Lynch/For Digital First Media)

He scored 18 in his final high school game to lead Wood and despite the Vikings losing him and five other seniors, believes the program is in a better place than when he arrived four years ago.

“The program’s in great shape,” Funk said. “With the coaches here, it’s in good hands and there’s a lot of good young players. I think we’ve established a good culture here and hopefully they’ll be able to keep it going.”

Wood led 44-38 with 1:44 left in the third before Carroll started chipping away. Hoggard was relentless all second half and his free throws with 5.3 left in the third cut the lead down to 46-44 going into the final stanza.

The Vikings hurt themselves at the foul line, missing nine straight free throws spanning the second to fourth quarter, so Carroll was able to keep chipping away. A three-point play by Keyon Butler cut the Wood lead to 50-47 in the fourth and after a pair of missed Vikings foul shots, Hoggard buried a long 3-pointer to knot the game at 50-50 with 6:26 to play.

“I knew we were going to win after I hit that shot,” Hoggard, who netted 18 of his 23 after halftime, said. “I was already in my bag. It was going uphill, everybody was giving contributions and we got help from everybody. It wasn’t just me.”

As a good way to back up Hoggard’s statement, Devon Ferraro connected on two crucial 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. The forward, who spent most of the game saddled with foul trouble, managed two blocks in the first half and his treys gave Carroll leads of 54-50 and 61-53.

“The game had Wood written all over it the way they were playing but I’m proud of how together we stayed and how resilient we’ve been all season,” Romanczuk said. “We showed that tonight.”

It was a tough ending for Wood coach John Mosco as well, given how much this group of seniors meant to him. Funk said this season and the adversity it brought helped them all grow as people and he thanked the coaches for all they did for him.

Pickron leaves Wood as the program’s all-time leading scorer and he, Funk, Pinkney and Wallace will all be playing college basketball next year. It was a trying year for Mosco as well after losing his wife Diane to cancer and his players were a constant source of support.

“Everybody is gunning for you, it was a different perspective for them where you’re everybody’s Super Bowl, we grew up a lot” Mosco said. “With all the adversity I went through with my wife, all those kids were there for me from Day One, helping me through it. My son was freshman this year and all the seniors took care of him, so I’m proud of all six of the seniors for what they’ve done.”

ARCHBISHOP WOOD 14 15 17 16 – 62
ARCHBISHOP CARROLL 15 13 16 25 – 69
AW: Andrew Funk 6 4-4 18, Rahsool Diggins 3 3-3 10, Tyree Pickron 1 6-10 8, Seth Pinkney 3 0-2 6, Julius Phillips 6 0-2 13, Karrington Wallace 1 0-0 2, Daeshon Shepherd 1 0-0 2, Kyle McNamee 1 0-0 3. Totals: 22 12-21 62.
AC: AJ Hoggard 5 11-12 23, Keyon Butler 7 3-4 17, Devon Ferraro 3 0-0 8, Justin Anderson 3 3-3 9, Luke House 3 1-2 8, Tairi Ketner 2 0-0 4. Totals: 23 18-20 69.
3-pointers: AC – Hoggard 2, Ferraro 2, House; AW – Funk 2, Diggins 2, Phillips.

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