Jerome Taylor (@ThatGuy_Rome)
WARMINSTER – Archbishop Wood fended off Roman Catholic's revenge bid in a rematch of the 2021 Philadelphia Catholic League Championship.
Behind senior Justin Moore and junior Bahsil Laster, the Vikings proved that they are still a team worthy of championship consideration even after graduating four Division I players last year.
In Wednesday’s contest, the Vikings needed every second of regulation to earn a 64-61 victory over the Cahillites.
Justin Moore (above, in Dec.) and Archbishop Wood beat Roman Catholic in a rematch of the 2021 PCL title game. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
“Another great Catholic League game, usually it’s on a Sunday night or Friday night,” Archbishop Wood John Mosco said. “They’re a great program. It’s a war every time you play them.”
And even though this game was a rematch from last year’s final, there were a lot of new faces.
Rahsool Diggins (UConn), Jaylen Stinson (James Madison), Daeshon Shepherd (La Salle), Marcus Randolph (Richmond), and Muneer Newton (NAIA powerhouse William Penn) all graduated from Wood last year. Plus, Roman has a new (but not so new) head coach in Chris McNesby, who replaced Matt Griffin, who took an assistant coaching job at Albany.
“Everybody looks at us as a young team, inexperienced. They want to tell me that we lost four 1,000-point scorers. But in the nine years I’ve tried to build it as a program,” Mosco said about his roster turnover. “It’s not a one and done… Those guys come back and talk to these guys and tell them how to win.”
In the final four seconds of regulation, Mosco strategically used the inbounding rule that allows you to move along the baseline before inbounding the basketball to counter an anticipated trap. Instead of one player running along the baseline to find an opening in Roman’s full-court defense, Wood simply had two inbounders.
The first inbounder starts the play by passing to the second inbounder, who comes from the court to the opposite corner of the end line. This quick ball reversal gave the second inbounder a cleaner passing lane to get the ball to Laster, who essentially iced the game with two free throws with 1.4 seconds left.
“I’m old,” Mosco joked about knowing the inbounding rules, “After a basket you can run the baseline, once you can run the baseline you can throw the ball out of bounds.”
“I thought they were going to trap real hard in the corner, so I wanted to get some action (in the opposite corner) to make sure we got in.”
Laster’s two free throws capped a nine-point fourth quarter for the junior, who finished with 18 points.
Bahsil Laster (above) had 18 points in Wood's win. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
“I feel like the situation in the game called [for my scoring] at the time. I just want to contribute to the team and make sure we got the win,” Laster said about his late-game scoring.
For most of the evening, Wood (6-3, 2-0 PCL) trailed Roman (6-3, 2-1 PCL). Cincinnati-bound Daniel Skillings led the Cahillites to a hot start, dropping 15 points in the first half (23 overall) and added 10 rebounds and four blocks to round out a stuffed box score.
Skillings’ tenacity on the boards was the biggest concern for the Vikings coming into the game, and they didn’t find a remedy for it until the second half, once Skillings cooled off.
In the second half, Wood refocused on the boards. Junior forward Carson Howard was a significant part of that, finishing with an 11-point, 13-rebound double-double.
“We knew that Dan Skillings got most of his points off rebounds, putbacks, so we put emphasis moorin practice on boxing out, and Carson did what he was supposed to do, get rebounds,” Laster said.
Before refocusing on the boards in the second half, Wood stayed in the game on the back of Moore. The McDevitt transfer and Drexel commit made one timely basket after another, eventually finishing with 21 points (including 13 first-half points).
“He means everything,” Mosco said. “He’s a calming influence, he settles all the sophomores down; he tells them how to play and what to do.”
“As a senior, I’m just trying to instill in the freshmen and sophomores that this is how it’s going to be every night,” Moore said. “There’s no easy games. From the top to the bottom of the league, it’s going to be hard games every night.”
By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the teams were exchanging the lead, but Wood was in the driver’s seat with under one minute left after Laster hit a deep three to give the Vikings a 60-57 lead with 48 seconds remaining.
“I was looking at how close the game was and just didn’t like how it was going,” Laster said.
Wood kept Roman at bay until the four-second mark when Hofstra commit Khalil Farmer drew a foul on a three-point shot. The senior went to the free-throw line with an opportunity to tie the game at 62. He swished the first shot, missed the second and drained the third.
Once the third free throw fell, Wood’s inbounding strategy sealed the deal as Laster had enough space to catch the inbound pass cleanly and tick precious seconds off the clock before draining both free throws.
With Catholic League play in full gear, Roman has a quick turnaround as they’ll try and get back in the win column when they take on Archbishop Ryan on Friday.
The Vikings take on Devon Prep on Friday and will try and further cement their standing at the top of the PCL to prove pre-season doubters wrong.
“[This win] means a lot, especially with the rankings, and we talk about how much people doubt us, and we just wanted to come out against a good team and get a win and show everybody just because we lost all of those division-1 players, doesn’t mean anything,” Laster said.
Archbishop Wood: 11 | 22 | 12 | 19 || 64
Roman Catholic: 19 | 19 | 8 | 15 || 61
Archbishop Wood: Moore 21, Laster 18, Howard 11, Bethea 9, Allen 3, Knouse 2
Roman Catholic: Skillings 23, Farmer 18, X. Brown 11, Oskowu 7, Jackson 2