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Shepherd scores 22, Archbishop Wood rolls past Pittston in PIAA-5A 2nd round

BETHLEHEM TWP. >> Archbishop Wood boys basketball coach John Mosco was looking for some energy from the Vikings in their second PIAA tournament game Tuesday night.

“We put so much effort – I don’t want to sound cocky but so much into the Catholic League that you’re fighting for that and then it’s a little bit of a letdown,” Mosco said. “So, last couple days in practice, we just talked about them getting ready and playing for 32 minutes.”

Daeshon Shepherd provided the early spark for Wood and after Pittston Area kept with Wood into the second quarter, the District 12 champs got to work and rolled to a 72-45 victory in the Class 5A second round at Freedom High School.

“I just had to get myself in the game, get myself involved in offense as I did today and it showed,” Shepherd said. “Picked my teammates head up, get everyone together, play hard and we came out with the W.”

Shepherd registered 10 points in the first quarter and was one of four Vikings to finish in double figures, scoring a game-high 22 points as Wood (22-5) advanced to the state quarterfinals for the second straight season and third time in the past four years.

“We ran the first couple plays for him, get him on the block, get him touches, try to get him going and get him engaged,” said Mosco of Shepherd. “When he doesn’t get engaged early he’ll stay around the 3-point line. He still plays defense but he just looks for the lobs. But he was engaged, attacking and attacking all night so it was good to see.”

Marcus Randolph had 14 points while Rahsool Diggins and Jaylen Stinson both added 13 points as the Vikings move on to face District 2 runner-up Dallas – a 78-51 winner over William Penn – Friday at a site and time to be announced.

“We got three more games, two more and you get to Hershey,” Mosco said. “Now I think tonight you get out of that first game you go away and the fans are against you that gets your adrenaline going and you start moving and playing with a lot of energy. Hopefully we can bring it on Friday night.”

JJ Walsh led Pittston with 15 points – 12 coming in the first half.

The Patriots, District 2’s third-place finisher, scored the last five points of the first quarter to pull within 17-13. Pittston cut the margin to two twice in the second quarter – the last time at 19-17 after a Walsh basket.

Pittston was still down just three at 22-19 before Wood ended the half on a 13-4 run, Diggins’ 3-pointer giving the Vikings a 35-23 advantage at the break.

“On our scouting report we were worried about Number 20 (Brennan Higgins) since he was the best ball-handler but we didn’t know that 13 (Walsh) was a shooter,” Shepherd said. “He was shooting the lights out cause in the scouting report it said that he couldn’t shoot. He came out and shot a lot of good shots. We just kind of adjusted to that and we were able to stop them in the second half from scoring a lot.”

Shepherd opened the third with fourth straight points – the first two on an alley-oop dunk – and the Vikings began the second half with a 12-3 burst to go up 47-26 after two Stinson free throws at 2:29.

Stinson’s two foul shots with no time left in the third made it 52-30 with Wood holding its biggest lead of the night when Stinson drained a three in the fourth to make it 69-40.

Shepherd scored six of Vikings’ first eight points – his three giving them an 8-2 edge before a Muneer Newton putback pushed the lead to 10-2. A Randolph 3-pointer had Wood up 15-5 but Walsh answered with a trey.

 After two Shepherd free throws at 1:15 put the Vikings ahead 17-8 Walsh connected on a three while Adam Penxa’s basket had Pittston down four at the end of the first eight minutes.

“They scared me because (Pittston coach Al Semenza is) a great coach, he’s coached for years and he was going to run his stuff,” Mosco said. “And he did and we just were able to defend them and we guarded for two minutes and then we went down and scored and just kept pressuring them.

“I think we wore them out in the first half and then the second half was easy once we were up. Once you get up, then they can’t hold the ball no more.”

Joe Cencetti scored and drew a foul at 6:36 in the second quarter to pull the Patriots within 19-17. Randolph responded with a jumper but two from Walsh made it 19-17. Newton’s three-point play at 5:50 put Wood up five.

A basket from Higgins had Pittston trailing 22-19 but Shepherd’s three and a free throw from Randolph pushed the Vikings lead to 26-19. After a Walsh bucket had Pittston within 26-21 Wood scored the next six for a 32-21 advantage.

Two from Walsh broke the run but Diggins knocked down a trey for a 12-point Vikings lead at the break.

After Shepherd posted the third quarter’s first four points, Pittston’ Mike George hit a three to make it 39-26 but Wood ripped off the next eight points – four from Stinson – to lead by 21.

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