WEST NORRITON >> In the midst of a highly-charged atmosphere – actually more on the court than in the stands — Archbishop Wood kept its composure long enough in the second half to pull away from Coatesville, 78-64, in boys quarterfinal action of the PIAA Class 6A Basketball Playoffs on Saturday afternoon.
“We were trying to get a knockout blow early, and we kept reaching instead of just playing through it,” Vikings’ head coach John Mosco said.
“In the first half we were too worried about calls and all that,” added Wood senior forward Carson Howard. “At halftime we talked about just playing basketball.”
The Raiders – seeded ninth in District 1 — never backed down, but Wood was the better team, particularly in the second half. The Vikings (19-8 overall) turned a bitter battle into a breeze thanks to a dominating 24-10 edge in the third quarter. The Vikings advance to the state semifinals where they will play the Roman Catholic on Tuesday. At stake: a berth into the final.
“(Wood) scored too many in the third – you can’t give up that many points,” said Coatesville head coach John Allen. “They have guys that made shots. Our kids played hard, but this is basketball and there is no sympathy out there.”
The third seed from District 12, Wood staged several back-breaking runs after the intermission, keyed by the inside-outside duo of the 6-foot-8 Howard and 6-4 junior guard Jalil Bethea. Howard scored 14 of his 21 points in the second half and Bethea poured in 20 of his game-high 31 in the final 16 minutes.
“(At the half) I just said that we have to settle down,” Mosco recalled. “We were playing too much into (Coatesville’s) hands, getting too emotional with all of the pushing and the chirping. I just wanted them to settle down and play basketball and focus on our game plan, and that’s what we did.”
There was a lot of trash-talking early, and it cost Wood when Bethea was whistled for a technical. The Raiders turned it into a five-point possession, which in turn led to a 14-5 rally and a 19-15 lead early the second quarter.
The Vikings, however, clawed back with a 16-6 run late in the first half and early in the second to grab the lead for good. And then Howard and Bethea took over, sparking a 15-4 surge to finish the third quarter, which ended any intrigue.
“The second half we really came out strong, and I hope this carries over to the next game,” Howard said.
“(Coatesville) was just trying to get into our heads,” Bethea added. “In the first half, we let them do it. At halftime, we talked about it and in the second half we just played together.”
Coatesville’s season ends with a 20-10 mark. The Raiders have just one senior in the playing rotation, and in the early going, 6-2 Jeremiah Marshall performed like a guy playing in his final high school game by scoring 14 of his 18 in the first half.
Junior point guard Zuri Harris paced Coatesville with 19 points, but three of the team’s starters didn’t manage to register a bucket from the field. Junior Marquis Peoples chipped in 15 off the bench, but 14 came late when the outcome wasn’t in doubt.
“We didn’t get scoring that we usually get from some guys, and that it always going to hurt you,” Allen said.
“We played solid defense,” Mosco added. “We drew a line in the sand and didn’t let (Coatesville) get to where they wanted to go.”
Bethea came close to a triple double, with 10 rebounds and eight assists. And Howard was the recipient for most of Bethea’s dishes down the stretch.
“Carson is a big-time senior and he’s been through the wars,” Mosco said.
“Jalil got a little cranky today instead of just playing. He is a very, very good player – the sky is the limit. (Coatesville) tried to knock him off his game. I tried to tell him that you have to be smarter than that. It’s hard for (Coatesville) to stop you so they are trying to chirp and get into your head. He bought into that, but then he settled down.”
In all, Wood was assessed three technical fouls on the afternoon, and the Raiders were whistled for an intentional foul.
“Our young guys were getting too emotional, getting into foul trouble,” Mosco explained. “We had too many technicals. I don’t understand why we were the only ones to get them, but I’m not saying we didn’t deserve them. (Coatesville) was playing chippy.”
When asked about the aggressive play, Allen shot down any notion that his team lost its composure.
“We saw on video that (Wood) was physical, and we don’t back down from anybody,” he pointed out. “I thought it was just basketball – the kids shook hands afterwards, so it was alright.
“We are not hanging our heads,” he added. “We want more – we want to be the best team in the state, and to do that you have to win games like this.
“You never know when you are going to get back, so we have to take advantage of our opportunities. But I am really proud of our kids – we came out and represented our community the best we could.”
Archbishop Wood 78, Coatesville 64
Coatesville 16 15 10 23 — 64
Archbishop Wood 15 18 24 21 — 78
COATESVILLE – Harris 5 7-9 19; Kennedy 0 3-4 3; Peoples 5 1-2 15; Brown 0 0-2 0; Marshall 5 8-10 18; A. Fowlkes 2 0-0 5; Lynch 1 0-0 2; Proctor 0 2-4 2. Totals 18 21-31 64.
ARCHBISHOP WOOD – Bethea 10 8-9 31; Green 1 2-2 5; Dean 1 1-3 3; Reed 0 2-4 2; Howard 8 5-6 21; Salem 3 0-0 8; Maxey 3 2-2 8. Totals 26 20-26 78.
Three-pointers: Harris 2, Peoples 4, A. Fowlkes, Bethea 3, Green, Salem 2.