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PIAA 5A: Archbishop Ryan turns on the press to get past West Chester East

03/15/2023, 1:00am EDT
By Zak Wolf

Zak Wolf (@ZakWolf22)

Winning at this point in the season doesn’t have to be pretty. As the famous saying goes, “survive and advance.”

Sometimes to win games this deep into the season, teams have to switch things up and take risks, even if they don’t have much experience with it. Mid-game adjustments from coaches can be the difference between advancing to the next round and the season being over. 

Archbishop Ryan found itself in a tough position on Tuesday. The Raiders weren’t playing great basketball, struggling to generate points in the halfcourt. With West Chester East heating up and gaining confidence, head coach Joe Zeglinski flipped his defense, applying full court pressure. Instead of sitting back in a man-to-man, the Raiders sped the Vikings up, generating easy points of turnovers. 

Thomas Sorber (above) had 21 points as Ryan advance into the PIAA 5A quarterfinals. (Photo: Zak Wolf/CoBL)

The adjustment from Zeglinski turned the game on its head, helping Archbishop Ryan defeat West Chester East 59-46. 

“We were a little stagnant before that,” Zeglinski said. “It really got us going with our energy and our being more aggressive attacking and that's what I want us to do from the jump is really attack those guys in the paint.”

Zeglinski mentioned that he’s used that press at times throughout the season, but never consistently. He’s changed that in the past few games. Zeglinski said he goes to it when his team needs a spark, trying to prevent good shooting teams like West Chester East from getting hot. 

Taking risks is crucial this deep into the season and it paid off for Ryan. Having confidence in players to step up and execute the game plan goes a long way. Without junior guards Rocco Morabito and Chrstian Durham available in the backcourt, both having to sit the PIAA playoffs out after transferring to the school last offseason, Zeglinski needed other players to make an impact. 

The Raiders trailed the Vikings by two points at halftime; Zeglinski said to his team to make sure this wasn’t the last 16 minutes of their season, and they responded. 

With Ryan switching to the zone, freshman Matt Johnson came off the bench to make an impact, while starting wing Jaden Murray stepped up as well with his offensive rebounding and defense. 

When in full-court pressure, Ryan big man Thomas Sorber was put on the ball trying to disrupt the in-bounds. Zeglinski put Murray at mid-court to stop guards if they got past the first line of pressure utilizing his length to disrupt play. West Chester East struggled to even get past Murray, with guards like Darren Williams and Michael Zaire Paris pressuring the ball. 

“I try to force the inbounder into the corner because the baseline and sidelines is like an extra defender,” Sorber said. ”That's my game plan to try and force turnovers, allowing us to try to score on the other side.”

The big man finished with 21 points, with 15 coming in the second half as he imposed his will on the inside. East slowed the junior down in the first half using a box-and-one, but Sorber found ways to break down the defense in the second half. 

A back and forth third quarter had East up 39-34, but the Raiders pressure sparked a run, scoring seven straight to wrap up the third quarter in style. Ryan added six more to the total to start the fourth, giving them a lead they wouldn’t give up the rest of the way. 

The defense in the fourth quarter from Ryan was the difference. Williams, Paris and Murray all helped keep Cochran and Ramos quiet. The Vikings didn’t hit a field goal until there was 1:11 left in the game, by then it was too little too late. 

“It was just our mindset throughout the whole second half,” Zeglinski said. “We had to find a way and we took it personally on defense. We said we’re going to win this game by not letting them score so and then we are able to get out and run.”

“It was tough, late third and early fourth.” West Chester East head coach Tom Durant said “We couldn’t make a shot, but I think we were forcing shots and we weren’t sharing like we were earlier, we weren’t driving a kicking we lost that mentality, but they scrapped, they made it a game.”

Ryan’s pressure helped them go on a 15-3 run in the first half, but East hit back with nine straight from Jose Ramos. The senior hit back-to-back-to-back threes, scoring nine of his 14 points in the quarter, helping East to a 23-31 lead going into half. His backcourt mate K.J Cochran also contributed with a team-high 15 points. 

“I think our guys were looking too much instead of trying to attack on their own,” Zeglinski said. “They want everything to be perfect, but in a game like that the other team is going to junk it up, so our guys just had to go out there and be aggressive.”

The pressure in the second half was the difference.  Zeglinski also credited Williams’ patience with East going to the box-and-one, the junior guard finished with 13 points. Ryan’s coach also complimented Ryan Everett and Johnson, both of whom made big plays in the second half. Everett knocked down a couple three's finishing with 10 points while Johnson came up with a couple of key steals and buckets in the third during Ryan’s big run. 

Zeglinski said once his team got into a rhythm and shared the ball they started rolling. When the offense got going, Ryan’s energy on the defensive end turned up a notch, helping them separate. 

Up next for Ryan, it’s a familiar foe, undefeated Radnor. Earlier in the season Radnor dismantled Ryan at the Diane Mosco Invitational Shootout, defeating them 57-42. This time the two meet with the stakes slightly raised. It’s a win or go home scenario with a berth in the PIAA 5A state semifinals on the line.

“All of their guys can pass and shoot it,” Zeglinski said. “They play the right way and are really well coached, so we'll have our hands full.”


By Quarter
Archbishop Ryan: 15 I 6 I 20 I 18 II 59
West Chester East: 9 I 14 I 16 I 7 II 46

Archbishop Ryan: Sorber 21, Williams 13, Everett 10, Paris 9, Johnson 4, Murray 2 

West Chester East: Cochran 15, Ramos 14, Kushner 8, Porter 4, Price 3, Gallagher 2


Girls 6A
(3-1) Cedar Cliff 39, (1-6) Upper Dublin 26
(7-2) Upper St. Clair 42, (1-4) Pennsbury 31
(1-9) Abington 40, (1-8) Springfield-Delco 35
(12-1) Cardinal O’Hara 42, (1-3) Spring-Ford 39
(12-3) Archbishop Carroll 41, (1-1) Perkiomen Valley 38 (OT)

Boys 5A
(1-1) Radnor 75, (12-3) West Philadelphia 61
(12-2) Archbishop Ryan 59, (1-5) West Chester East 46
(12-1) Imhotep Charter 68, (3-5) Muhlenberg 32

Boys 4A
(3-5) Eastern York 75, (12-2) Overbrook 54
(11-1) Allentown Central Catholic 49, (12-3) Cardinal O’Hara 46
(12-1) Neumann-Goretti 74, (11-2) Bethlehem Catholic 49

Girls 3A
(4-1) Mt. Carmel Area 48, (12-2) West Catholic 38
(3-1) Lancaster Catholic 64, (1-1) New Hope-Solebury 54

Girls 2A
(1-1) Faith Christian 35, (4-1) South Williamsport 28
(1-2) Sacred Heart Acad. 42, (4-2) Line Mountain 40

Boys 1A
(1-1) Chester Charter 56, (4-2) Northumberland Christian 38
(3-1) Linville Hill 50, (12-1) City School 42
(1-2) Phil-Mont Christian 57, (3-5) Mount Calvary Christian 46

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