By Ryan Coyle (@ryancoyle35)
Opening night. A night full of energy, optimism of a new season ahead, excitement … and sometimes even some jitters.
Archbishop Ryan might have been feeling those in its season opener against Penn Charter on Tuesday night. The Raiders fell into a 12-point hole with 2:31 left in the first quarter, prompting Ryan head coach Joe Zeglinski to use a timeout.
The pause settled any opening night nerves as Zeglinski’s squad dominated from that point on and opened its season with an 82-55 victory over Penn Charter.
“We came out a little slow, you expect that in the first game,” Zeglinski said. “Those guys had a few games before this, came out firing at the start and we know those guys can play. I loved our composure though and the way we responded.”
Archbishop Ryan's Darren Williams. (Photo: Ryan Coyle/CoBL)
Tuesday’s game was a highly anticipated matchup with multiple future Division I players on each team, including Ryan seniors Darren Williams (Florida Gulf Coast) and Thomas Sorber (Georgetown) and Penn Charter’s junior trio of Matt Gilhool, Jake West, and Kai Shinholster, who all have multiple division one offers to their name. However, the Quakers were without Shinholster Tuesday.
Sorber and Gilhool, are two of the highest rated big men in the country and the two battled early. The lanky 6-10 Gilhool blocked Sorber’s first shot attempt to start off the game. That was about as much success Gilhool would have containing Sorber, as he picked up his second foul by the end of the first quarter, forcing PC sophomore forward Tom McGlinchey into some early action. Sorber got another quick two fouls on the 6-foot-6 McGlinchey en route to 15 first-half points. He finished tied with Williams with a team-high 22 points.
“We knew if we could get Gilhool in foul trouble, that would be a bonus for us, so we tried to get the ball inside early,” Zeglinski said. “But, when you have a guy like Thomas, that is something we are going to look to do every game.”
Penn Charter (1-2) came out of the gates shooting the ball well, with senior Kevin Cotton knocking down two 3-pointers and junior Jamal Hicks knocking down one to help put the Quakers up 17-5 early. Following the timeout, Ryan shut down the Penn Charter 3-point attack and held the Quakers to just one 3-pointer the rest of the way.
Ryan took its first lead of the night, 21-19, a few minutes into the second frame and controlled the game from then on out. Williams found his shot from the outside early, knocking down three triples in the first half that propelled Ryan to a 36-27 lead at the break. He hit six threes in the game.
“That’s what Darren does,” Zeglinksi said. “He can score in so many different ways. He always finds a way. If the three isn’t going down, he can get to the rim. When he hit threes in back to back possessions and ignites a run for us like he did Tuesday, that is when we can be really dangerous.”
The Raiders ended the first half on a 35-10 run, helped by freshman wing Semaj Stone who came off the bench in his first ever varsity game and chipped in nine points, including banking in a three for his first varsity bucket.
Junior Brandon Russell and senior Jaden Murray also came up big at times in the game.
“That is the thing with this team, we have a lot of guys that can play and score the ball and on any night it could be anyone’s night,” Zeglinski said. “We know we have Thomas and Darren who we know can score the ball, but the next three guys behind them, it can be a bunch of different guys on any given night, which is why I think we can be really good this year.”
Coming out of the locker room break, Gilhool picked up a questionable foul on a drive by Murray only 18 seconds in the second half and picked up his fourth foul on the night with 5:54 left in third quarter, once again leaving Penn Charter without a matchup for Sorber in the paint.
With Shinholster out and Gilhool on the bench most of the night, West was tasked with carrying most of the offensive production on the night for the Quakers, leading his team with 17 points. West hit a couple of tough pull-up jumpers on Williams in the third quarter to bring the lead to 40-34, but Penn Charter wouldn’t get it any closer.
Williams continued his hot shooting in the third quarter, knocking down three shots from downtown on three attempts in the third frame, helping extend the Ryan lead to 48-36 with 2:44 left in the quarter. Ryan pushed its lead to 17, 59-42, heading into the fourth.
After bringing back four starters from last season’s PCL quarterfinalist and PIAA semifinal, Ryan has ambitions of bringing home multiple championships this season. A rally from a slow start on opening night showcased the Raiders’ experience and pedigree.
“We just knew we had to keep our composure,” Williams said. “We just know who we are, we are a good team and we can’t let a slow start like that get to us. You don’t like to get down early, but Tuesday shows even if we get down early we have the team that can come back.”
Archbishop Ryan: 14 | 22 | 23 | 23 || 82
Penn Charter: 19 | 8 | 15 | 13 || 55
Archbishop Ryan: 32-52 FG (12-23 3PT), 6-14 FT
Penn Charter: 17-42 FG (4-18 3PT), 17-22 FT
Archbishop Ryan: Williams 22, Sorber 22, Stone 9, Russell 7, Murray 6, Everett 5, Gallagher 3, Weiss 3, Gaye 3, Monaco 2
Penn Charter: West 17, Gilhool 12, Smith 8, Cotton 6, Bryson 5, Hicks 3, Taylor 2, Comitale 2