Xzayvier Brown takes over in 4th, leads Roman Catholic past Archbishop Wood for 3rd time in PIAA-6A semfinals

BENSALEM >> It’s tough to beat a team three times and for three quarters Tuesday night, Roman Catholic had its hands full trying to complete the season sweep of Philadelphia Catholic League rival Archbishop Wood.

In the fourth quarter, however, Roman guard Xzayvier Brown took over. The Saint Joseph’s commit scored 15 of his game-high 29 points in the final frame to lead the Cahillites to a 66-56 win over the Vikings in the PIAA-6A semifinals at Bensalem High School.

Brown, a Mt. Airy native, scored Roman’s first 11 points of the fourth quarter. He made four baskets and went 3-for-4 from the free-throw line to turn a 42-40 lead at the start of the fourth into a 53-42 lead with 3:02 remaining.

“I just wasn’t trying to get sent home, honestly,” Brown said. “I know what’s at stake. This could have been my last high school game. I didn’t want that to happen.

“I’ve worked on being more aggressive, but I never think ‘take over.’ I just try to do what my team needs. Sometimes that just happens. I guess that happened tonight.”

Archbishop Wood’s Jalil Bethea (1) puts up a shot against Roman Catholic during their PIAA-6A semifinal on Tuesday, March 21, 2023 at Bensalem High School. (Mike Cabrey/MediaNews Group)

“We couldn’t stop him,” Wood coach John Mosco said. “We put in stuff to do. At the end of the game we just stopped doing it. They had their lane crowded and we couldn’t make any shots. We wanted to have the lane crowded and didn’t do it.”

Wood was able to get its deficit to eight a couple times in the final minutes, but that’s as close as the Vikings would get. The Cahillites went 16-for-23 from the free-throw line in the fourth to seal the win and punch their ticket to Saturday’s state final against Reading at 8 p.m. at the Giant Center in Hershey.

The Vikings struggled offensively in the fourth, only scoring two points on a pair of Gus Salem free throws for the first five minutes of the final quarter. Jalil Bethea scored seven of his team-high 23 points in the fourth, but his first fourth-quarter basket made it 57-47 with 1:51 left.

Archbishop Wood’s Josh Reed (5) tries to contests a shot by Roman Catholic’s Xzayvier Brown (1) during their PIAA-6A semifinal on Tuesday, March 21, 2023 at Bensalem High School. (Mike Cabrey/MediaNews Group)

“I thought Jalil wasn’t able to play freely,” Mosco said. “They were holding and grabbing him all night. I don’t even know if he went to the foul line – maybe on the technicals, that’s about it. I thought a couple calls here and there and it just slipped away. (Roman was) breaking, getting loose balls. They were a lot tougher than we were. They ended up spreading the lead out and we couldn’t make shots.”

Brown played all 32 minutes for Roman and was not only tasked with leading his team offensively, but he guarded Bethea, the PCL MVP, most of the night.

“When I was younger I was a better defensive player,” Brown said. “Now, things change, but I always try to take pride in it. I try to do whatever it takes for my team to win.”

Archbishop Wood’s Josh Reed (5) looks to drive between Roman Catholic’s Robert Cottrell (3) and Anthony Finkley (5) during their PIAA-6A semifinal on Tuesday, March 21, 2023 at Bensalem High School. (Mike Cabrey/MediaNews Group)

It was a tight game between the teams who played for the Class 6A state championship last year before the defending champs pulled away in the fourth. Roman led by three, 15-12, after the first quarter and Wood was up by two, 29-27, at the half.

The rivals traded leads multiple times in the third quarter. Roman’s Shareef Jackson completed a three-point play 21 seconds after the break to put Roman ahead 30-29, but a Milan Dean three-pointer gave Wood a 35-32 lead. Roman’s Anthony Finkley scored four straight points to put his side up 36-35, but Bethea knocked down a triple for a 38-36 Wood advantage.

Finkley tied the game at 38 with a dunk, but was assessed a technical foul. Bethea hit both free throws to give Wood its final lead of the night, 40-38. Roman ended the third ahead, 42-40, and the 15-2 run into the fourth made it 53-42 with 3:02 left.

Archbishop Wood’s Jalil Bethea (1) heads to the Vikings’ bench during the fourth quarter against Roman Catholic during their PIAA-6A semifinal on Tuesday, March 21, 2023 at Bensalem High School. (Mike Cabrey/MediaNews Group)

Robert Cottrell and Finkley joined Brown in double figures for Roman, scoring 15 and 12 points, respectively.

Dean joined Bethea in double figures for Wood with 11 points and Josh Reed added nine.

Roman Catholic 66, Archbishop Wood 56
Roman Catholic 15 12 15 24 – 66
Archbishop Wood 12 17 11 16 – 56
Roman Catholic: Xzayvier Brown 10 9-11 29, Shareef Jackson 2 4-7 8, William Felder 1 0-0 2, Anthony Finkley 4 3-5 12, Robert Cottrell 2 10-12 15. Total 19 26-35 66.
Archbishop Wood: Jalil Bethea 8 3-3 23, Milan Dean 4 0-0 11, Deuce Maxey 1 0-0 3, Josh Reed 4 0-0 9, Eric Garner 1 0-1 2, Carson Howard 2 2-4 6, Gus Salem 0 2-2 2. Total 20 7-10 56.
3-point goals: RC: Anthony Finkley, Robert Cottrell. AW: Jalil Bethea 4, Milan Dean 3, Deuce Maxey, Josh Reed.

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