WARMINSTER >> Jalil Bethea had just three points – all coming from the foul line – in an opening half that ended with the Archbishop Wood boys basketball team trailing visiting La Salle 30-29.
“The first half was a bit frustrating,” he said. “But I didn’t let that get to me. I just kept playing.”
Bethea finally broke through from the field 70 seconds into the third quarter, converting in transition and drawing a foul and from there points piled up the Vikings standout junior guard.
“I feel like they thought I was just having an off night,” he said. “So I just basically proved them wrong.”
Bethea scored a dozen in the third then 13 more in the fourth to total 25 after the break, finishing with game-high 28 points as Archbishop Wood pulled away in the final quarter to win a tough Philadelphia Catholic League contest with the Explorers 72-62 Friday night.
“Just staying calm,” Bethea said. “Staying cool, calm and collected and just play basketball. Just doing what I love. I don’t want to get mad at something that I love. So I just keep calm and I just love playing basketball.”
Milan Dean added 17 points – 10 of those in the first half – as the Vikings (11-6, 6-3 PCL) picked up a third consecutive victory and has now won eight of its last nine.
“They gave us a war but that’s the Catholic League every night,” Wood coach John Mosco said. “There’s a war or somebody new coming. Nobody wants to get embarrassed. They’re well coached and that’s what I told our guys and we played their pace in the first half, not sharing the ball against the zone and then made the adjustment and put the ball in (Bethea’s) hands more in the second half.”
La Salle senior Horace Simmons scored the game’s first five points and had 14 before halftime – knocking down a 3-pointer in front of Wood’s student section to give the Explorers a one-point lead at the break. The Drexel commit ended the night with a team-high 27 points. Kasey Fleming chipped in 14 points as La Salle (9-10, 2-8) lost its fifth straight.
“He’s a tough guard,” said Mosco of Simmons. “I don’t know what he finished with but I thought we were there every time he took a shot. Sometimes you got to give him credit, he made some good shots.”
Tied at 39 in the third, the Vikings took control with a 15-6 burst that stretched into the fourth with Bethea having a hand in the last seven points of the run.
Bethea ended the third banking in a shot from the right wing and drawing a foul, completing the 3-point play at 1:04 to put Wood up 50-45.
“When I’m at practice and when I’m working out by myself I practice those type of difficult shots,” he said. “Cause you never know when you’re going to need it at the end of the day.”
Bethea started the fourth getting a jumper to fall then tossed an alley-oop to Dean for a slam and a 54-45 advantage.
“I seen him putting his finger up in the sky and just knew to throw it up” Bethea said.
The Explorers pulled within 56-52 after Mick McKee basket before Wood scored the next eight, Bethea’s two free throws at 2:47 putting the hosts up 64-52.
A Simmons three and Fleming transition basket had the margin at 64-57 but the Vikings responded with six straight – the first four from the foul line then Bethea making it 70-57 with his breakaway two-handed slam.
“The dunk felt great,” Bethea said. Man, I definitely needed that to get me going and the whole team going.”
Bethea’s final basket gave Wood its largest lead to 72-58.
The Vikings face host Parkland Sunday at 1:40 p.m. in the Lehigh Valley Hoop Group Showcase. Wood returns to PCL play Monday visiting St. Joseph’s Prep at 7 p.m. The Vikings sit in fifth place, a game back of both Prep and Archbishop Ryan, who are tied for fourth at 8-2
“I think it’s starting to come together,” Mosco said. “Mike (Green), Mirr (Dean), Deuce (Maxey) they’re sophomores but now they’re juniors. Josh (Reed) and Jalil are like seniors so hopefully we’re peaking at the right time.”
La Salle visits Roman Catholic 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Jefferson University. The Explorers and Bonner & Prendergast are both a game behind Devon Prep for the 10th and final spot in the Catholic League playoffs.
In the first quarter, La Salle jumped out to an 8-2 lead following a Hayes Altomare 3-pointer but Wood scored nine of the next 11, going ahead 11-10 on a Reed basket. Green’s 3-pointer sent the Vikings to the second quarter with a 17-14 lead.
Four straight points from Simmons gave the Explorers a 23-22 edge before a Bethea free throw after a technical and Carson Howard scoring off an offensive rebound had Wood back up 25-23.
Simmons’ two at the line after a technical at 1:31 knotted things at 27 but Reed made a steal, threw down a one-handed dunk and drew a foul at 1:41. Simmons, however, connected on a three for a 30-29 La Salle halftime lead.
“We weren’t playing defense as we should’ve and when we’re not playing defense we can’t get the rebounds and break,” Mosco said. “When we made them miss shots, we’re able to move and get the ball in the open floor.”
A Dean triple then Bethea’s 3-point play had Wood up 35-30 1:10 into the third. After two Simmons free throws at 6:33, Bethea buried a trey for a 38-32 lead.
Simmons’ 3-point play off a jumper at 4:30 had La Salle down 39-37 while a Fleming basket tied the game at 39. But a Howard 3-point play after he scored inside at 3:22 then Bethea draining a trey put Wood up 45-39.
Simmons knocked down a three before the Vikings made it 47-42 on a long Green two. A Fleming bucket and McKee free throw had the Explorers within two at 47-45. Bethea, however, ended the third with a 3-point play then began the fourth with a jumper then connected with Dean for an alley-oop dunk.
La Salle trailed 56-52 after McKee’s basket but a Bethea two then six straight free throws had Wood up 12.
Archbishop Wood 72, La Salle 62
La Salle 14 16 15 17 – 62
Archbishop Wood 17 12 21 22 – 72
La Salle: Horace Simmons 9 5-5 27; Kasey Fleming 6 2-4 14; Ryan Warren 2 2-2 6; Hayes Altomare 1 0-0 3; Mick McKee 1 1-2 3; Ryan Sorge 1 0-0 3; James Bartchak 1 0-0 2; Tim Jennings 1 0-0 2; Nick Parisi 0 2-2 2; Totals 22 12-15 62.
Archbishop Wood: Jalil Bethea 8 10-12 28; Milan Dean 6 3-3 17; Carson Howard 2 5-7 9; Mike Green 3 0-0 8; Josh Reed 3 0-3 6; Deuce Maxey 1 2-2 4; Totals 23 20-27 72
3-pointers: L-Simmons 4, Altomare, Sorge; AW-Bethea 2, Dean 2, Green 2.
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