Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
NORTHEAST — The crowd at Archbishop Ryan High School drowned out the sound of the final buzzer. Archbishop Wood’s Josh Reed got off one final shot attempt; one squad saw it go up before the horn, the other swore it was after.
After pleading their respective cases, players and coaches from the host Raiders and visiting VIkings were ushered to their benches (somewhat obliging) to let the officials convene and come to a decision: Basket no good.
A quick wave of the hands sent Ryan’s players dashing to the other end of the court to celebrate a 55-54 win with their student section, partly responsible for the end-game chaos.
“We were sure. We boxed out and everything. We knew that wasn’t good,” said Ryan senior Michael Zaire Paris, whose layup with about nine seconds left ended up being the game-winner.
“It was a great environment, but our team stayed poised through the whole thing,” he added. “We did great at the end.”
Archbishop Ryan senior Zaire Paris, bottom, watches his game winning shot go in off the backboard Monday against Archbishop Wood. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Paris had six of his 12 in the fourth quarter and junior Darren Williams had 15 for Ryan. Junior forward Thomas Sorber powered his way to 19 points to lead the Raiders despite foul trouble and received an offer from Villanova, who had head coach Kyle Neptune and two assistants in attendance, after the win.
Wood senior forward Carson Howard matched Sorber with 19 points, while junior Jalil Bethea finished with 18 points, 17 of them coming in the second half.
The two teams traded the lead four times in the final minute and a half. Bethea’s free throws gave Wood a 54-53 with 44.8 seconds left before Paris drove to the hoop and put Ryan back ahead.
The Vikings inbounded to Bethea with 6.2 seconds and he beelined toward the hoop. Williams’ defense forced a tough look on the left side of the basket and while Reed corralled the offensive board and went back up, his shot left his fingertips just a tenth of a second or two too late.
“I didn’t hear it,” Williams said. “It was so loud. The energy was electric in the gym. I know he’s a great scorer. I knew I had to play my best defense, slide my feet without fouling and contest and make them shoot a very tough shot. We got that. Thomas came up. He was able to shoot a tough shot. (The buzzer) went off and we just got the win.”
Archbishop Ryan (9-7 , 5-2 PCL) didn’t lead until a free throw by Sorber with 5:20 left in the fourth quarter. He picked up his second foul with 2:47 left in the first quarter and third with 4:45 left in the second that sent him to the pine for all but a few seconds before halftime.
Howard, an East Stroudsburg commit, took advantage with 15 first-half points to put Archbishop Wood (8-6, 4-3) ahead 25-19 at the break.
“It was all toughness really. Jaden (Murray) came up with I think six of his eight rebounds in the second half,” Ryan coach Joe Zeglinski said. “We just challenged the guys at halftime, ‘Don’t get out-toughed, especially by Carson Howard, who had a monster game in the first half and he continued, but I thought we played a lot tougher, snapping down harder and it was a real toughness win. We had to grind one out without Thomas for a good amount of time in the second half.”
Archbishop Wood senior Carson Howard scored 19 points Monday against Ryan. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Sorber dominated for stretches of the third quarter, when he had eight points, but picked up his fourth foul with 5:33 left in the period forcing him in and out for the rest of the game. Meanwhile, his Team Final teammate Bethea, who also has a Villanova offer, got cooking in the period, scoring 10 points in the third after Williams helped hold him to one in the first.
The Raiders are no stranger to playing without their big man, however. They nearly knocked off Bishop McNamara (Md.) in four overtimes earlier this season after he fouled out. Others stepped up, including Williams who had nine in the third period and pulled Ryan within one, 41-40, heading to the fourth.
“Second half, we came out like, ‘It’s our house,’” Williams said. “We gotta take over the second half and be together, rebound and play defense most importantly.”
“We know when Thomas is out we gotta step up it even more,” he added. “We can’t rely on him so much to block shots, grab rebounds, so we gotta fight four times, five times harder to grab every rebound, box out and be physical as much as we can.”
Sorber put Ryan ahead 45-44 for its first lead of the game and another pair extended that advantage to 49-45 with 3:19 to play. Bethea freed himself for a three to pull Wood within one, 49-48, with 2:57 left.
Williams scored. Howard answered. Bethea stole the ball and went coast-to-coast to give the Vikings a 52-51 lead with 1:23 to play. It looked like Wood got a stop on the next possession, but Ryan sophomore Jaden Murray fought for a board and found Williams for a layup — 53-52 Ryan with 58.7 seconds left.
Bethea’s free throws with 44.8 ticks left gave Wood its final lead of the game. Ryan took a time out with 28.2 seconds to go and drew up a play for Sorber. Instead the left side of the lane opened for the lefty Paris, who made the tough finish to put the Raiders back ahead.
“It was a play for Thomas, but they were all focused on Thomas, so it opened up for me and I just took the easy layup,” Paris said.
“Zaire, he’s a great point guard,” Williams said. “He sees the floor well, but he saw an opening and he can also get to the rack and finish.”
Archbishop Ryan's Darren Williams throws down a dunk at the end of he third quarter. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Wood came in red-hot with a five-game winning streak, including a victory at Neumann-Goretti last week. Bethea, the league’s second leading scorer (21.2 ppg) has had some big outings during the five-game stretch.
Williams made sure everything was difficult on Monday, including the final drive of the game.
“He did a great job guarding him,” Zeglinski said. “(Bethea)’s so good, give him a little space and it’s usually going in. He’s been on such a roll, you can’t ask for much more. You hold that team to under 60, and I thought we had a chance. We wanted to slow them down and go inside out. Even with Darren not making shots, his defense was unbelievable. That’s what really kept us in it with Thomas out.”
The Vikings took down Wood by one on the road last season in the PCL quarterfinals and celebrated on the floor with their student section. Williams said Monday’s victory didn’t quite match that one given the stakes last season, but he and the Raiders are hoping there are a few more big Ws to celebrate moving forward.
“We want to do that a lot more times, we want to get to the Palestra, get that playoff win, get to the championship, right back where we were last year and celebrate that big win and mark one of those boxes for the championship,” Williams said.
Archbishop Wood: 13 | 12 | 16 | 13 || 54
Archbishop Ryan: 7 | 12 | 21 | 15 || 55
Archbishop Wood: Carson Howard 19, Jalil Bethea 18, Josh Reed 6, Gus Salem 6, Milan Dean 3, Deuce Maxey 2
Archbishop Ryan: Thomas Sorber 19, Darren Williams 15, Zaire Paris 12, Rocco Morabito 5, Jaden Murray 4