By David Cordova
Every year in Philadelphia, there is one event that brings out a large contingent of people, an event in which players cement their legacy. The Philadelphia Catholic League playoffs, which start in February, leads to the semifinals and championship game at the Palestra, the historic basketball gymnasium on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, the Ivy League institution.
Every year, there is a team from the suburbs and the city. This year, the championship game would be a matchup of two teams from different sides of the tracks. Archbishop Wood, from Warminster, which is located three miles from the city, came into the game with a 21-3 record. Their counterparts, Neumann-Goretti, a national powerhouse from South Philadelphia, came into the game with an 18-6 record.
Both teams had players that were ready not just to compete, but also to battle it out for 32 minutes until the final buzzer sounded. The two teams already played each other on January 26th at Archbishop Ryan High School, in which the Vikings would win 82-73. What would the outcome be the second time around?
Archbishop Wood 65, Neumann-Goretti 58
From the beginning of the game, Neumann-Goretti came out in attack mode, leading 9-2, with over 5:21 to go in the first quarter, behind five points from senior Mike Milsip. Archbishop Wood struggled early on most of the half, due to their poor shooting. But the Vikings would start to wake up from their slump, by cutting their deficit to six, 17-11, with 1:03 to go.
In the second quarter, the Vikings would come storming out and cut their deficit to four, 19-15. But then the Saints, led by Kentucky-bound senior Quade Green, would build the lead up to ten, 25-15, with 4:21 to go. The game would continue to be in favor of the Saints, as they would lead at the half by thirteen, 31-18.
The third quarter would start off with Archbishop Wood as the aggressor, trailing by five, 36-31, with 5:22 to go behind the scoring of junior Tyree Pickron and senior Matt Cerruti. Their good ball movement would bring them within one, 41-40, with 1:57 to go in the quarter. The Vikings would finally take the lead on a basket by Villanova commit Collin Gillespie with fifteen seconds left to take a two-point lead, 43-41.
The final quarter would be a battle to the finish, as both teams kept it close. Gillespie would hit another a clutch three-pointer to give the Vikings a 49-47 lead in the fourth, with 4:15 left. But on the other end, Green would make a three-point play to give the Saints a one-point lead, 50-49, with 4:02 left. But Wood would not be done as they would take a five-point lead, 55-50, with 2:23 to go after a layup by junior Seth Pinkney. The Saints would try to make a run, but the Vikings would not relinquish the lead as they would take home the crown.
Gillespie led Wood with 24 points, Cerruti added 15 points and Pickron contributed 13 points. For Neumann-Goretti, Green led with 18 points, junior Noah Warren added 13 points and Milsip added 11 points in the loss.