Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
When Mikal Bridges dropped his 13th and 14th points of the evening in Great Valley’s home game against Archbishop Wood, the Villanova signee and star of the Patriots’ basketball team became the fifth boys basketball player in school history to reach the 1000-point mark.
Immediately after the ball passed through the bucket, on a turnaround jumper with 5:49 remaining in the second quarter, the buzzer sounded as the Great Valley bench poured onto the floor, the crowd giving an appreciative roar as it rose to its feet.
The only person surprised by it all was Bridges.
“I didn’t know--I was going back to the bench, I thought something happened,” he said. “I knew I was close, they told me I had a chance to get my 1000th, but I didn’t know how many, so they just told me to play and don’t think about it.”
A momentary pause in the action, as Bridges was mobbed by teammates and family to celebrate the moment. Then, back to business.
Bridges would finish with a game-high 29 points, leading Great Valley to a 53-49 win over Archbishop Wood.
“That’s a real special moment, to get 1000 points. I had said to the kids that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote an article a few years back about how one in every 5,000 kids score 1000, and now it’s even tougher,” Patriots coach Jim Nolan said, citing a reduction in games per season from 24 to 22 since that article had been written. “I’m real proud of him, he’s worked hard to get where he’s gotten.”
Though Bridges’ 1000th points were part of a 23-8 run by Great Valley (6-0) to open the game, Archbishop Wood (2-1) wasn’t going away quietly. The Vikings began to chip away at the Patriot lead in the third quarter, getting seven points from sophomore Tommy Funk as they trailed by just six entering the final stanza.
“Tommy Funk’s a young kid, he’s a sophomore, and he’s really playing well,” Wood coach John Mosco told CoBL. “He had a great effort tonight, probably should have gotten him a few minutes’ rest, I shortened my bench and got caught up in the atmosphere.”
Two consecutive put-backs by junior Luke Connaghan cut the lead down to 48-46 with 1:40 remaining, but Wood would get no closer. After Bridges hit a pair of free throws to extend the lead back to four, Cornell commit Pat Smith got a good look at a 3-pointer for Wood but it didn’t fall.
Bridges then sealed the game, taking a missed Blake McGlond free throw and slamming it home, putting his team up 53-46 with 45 seconds remaining. As if that wasn’t enough, his fifth block of the game followed on the other end, rejecting a Smith 3-point attempt into the packed crowd.
“First road game even though [we have] six, seven seniors--but my first road game,” said Mosco, a longtime Neumann-Goretti assistant now in his first year as a head coach. “I don’t know if I did a good job in the beginning, but we battled back and played well. I think we lost a lot of those 50/50 plays, we need to get a couple loose balls here and there.”
The Wood comeback had a lot to do with the team’s ability to slow down Bridges, who had 20 points at halftime but scored just three in the third quarter and didn’t tally anything in the fourth until his free throws with two minutes to play.
“We tried to guard him with a smaller guy in the beginning and they put him right in the post and he got a couple easy ones,” Mosco said. “We put the switch and put Pat on him, and I thought Pat competed and did a hell of a job guarding him. He only had two buckets in the second half, so that was pretty good.”
Smith, a 6-5 sharpshooter, led the Vikings with 16 points, while Funk finished with 13. Connaghan added eight, all of which came in the fourth quarter and many of which came after he had to have a cut on his forehead attended to by the trainer.
Besides Bridges, Great Valley got 12 points from senior point guard Ricky McQuay as well as seven from senior forward Nate Cohen, who both helped take a lot of pressure off the team’s star in the second half.
Wood moves on to play South Jersey powerhouse Paul VI on Saturday, part of a tough stretch that includes a road game at Bethlehem Catholic and then St. Joseph’s-Metchuen and DeMatha both looming large after Christmas. Great Valley is off for a bit and then faces a pair of Suburban One-American schools over the Christmas weekend in Upper Moreland and Upper Dublin.