Kevin Cooney (@KevinCooney)
The building was rocking like the old days with fans hanging over the balcony at the East end of Fox Gymnasium and the stands cheek to jowl with fans who had to pre-buy tickets before the Christmas holiday.
And after Father Judge had come out to start on a 28-8 rush thanks to six 3-pointers in the first eight minutes, Luke Boyd looked around and didn’t blink.
Luke Boyd (above, in Dec.) and Archbishop Ryan overcame an early 20-point deficit to top Father Judge. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
After all, the senior guard for Archbishop Ryan had been around this game – the Northeast’s version of the Holy War — long enough to know that things tend to flip in a hurry.
“We’ve lost 20-point leads early in the past,” Boyd said. “It was all about staying composed. We’re down 20 in the first quarter? Who cares. I didn’t get phased by it. And we had the confidence that we could fire things up and get back into it.”
Boyd and the Raiders did just that, locking the Crusaders down on the defensive end while getting a huge offensive surge going in the second and fourth quarters as Ryan won the Philadelphia Catholic League opener by a 69-59 score Monday night on Solly Ave.
Boyd had 30 on the night – including a pair of huge 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as the Raiders began to pull away. And with every basket he made, Boyd seemed to stare daggers at the Crusaders’ student section behind the bench.
“I loved the energy,” Boyd said. “I feed off the energy – I bring it every single day, in every single practice, and in every single game. I want to get the energy going and get our guys focused and ready to play.”
Yes, it is the first game of what can be a very grueling season. That’s perhaps why the win was so important to a Ryan team that could once again make a deep run like it did reaching the PIAA finals last year.
To win a state, you have to win the neighborhood.
“It means everything,” Ryan coach Joe Zeglinski said. “It’s early in the season, which we are not used to. But this was a game that you had to be ready to go — the first PCL game after the New Year. Give them credit that they were ready to go and made shots. But the rivalry is still the same and this is something they are going to remember forever. I always have. And this is the game that everyone that’s played for me the last seven years always comes back for.”
Boyd had been around the rivalry as well. Growing up in nearby Somerton, Boyd had made the Judge-Ryan game — once made up of two contests per year in the old Northern Division, then altered to a single game per year under the current PCL structure — every year since he was in fifth grade.
“I remember sitting in that crowd and thinking how much I wanted to play in this game,” Boyd said. “And that was in the back of my head the entire time.”
The first half belonged to Crusaders junior guard Kyle Jones, who scored 22 on the night and came out with four 3-pointers in the first half. But Ryan did a good job of pushing the Crusaders off their marks after the first quarter, forcing a lot of off-balance shots that funneled towards the corners and into imposing 6-9 sophomore big man Thomas Sorber.
“We didn’t want to get too anxious on the defensive end where we were going for steals and getting open looks,” Zeglinski said. “They just hit a lot of really good shots in the first half. But we knew all we could do is just keep chipping away.”
Boyd and sophomore guard Darren Williams (18 points, 16 coming in the second half) did just that. A 22-7 second quarter cut the Judge lead to 35-30 at intermission. After a sloppy and tough to watch offensive set in the third, Boyd and Williams kept finding open spots to get Ryan a lead they would never relinquish.
For Boyd, the confidence is there and in full effect. He’s getting Division II looks from West Chester, East Stroudsburg, and Holy Family. And yet, that confidence is strong that he could thrive at a higher level if given the chance.
“It’s all about connections,” Boyd said. “I don’t know anybody. I’m from the neighborhood. Other guys have gone to Atlanta and all these other places. I’m just a guy from the neighborhood and I’m just looking to get my name out there.”