Jeff Neiburg (@Jeff_Neiburg)
It took a little while, but it was only a matter of time. Archbishop Wood was eventually going to go cold.
Once the Vikings did, it was all Carroll.
The third-seeded Patriots finally got their footing in the second half and outscored No. 6 Wood 29-14 in the final 16 minutes, eventually leading to a wire-to-wire 64-44 victory in the Philadelphia Catholic League’s quarterfinal matchup at Archbishop Carroll High School in Radnor, Pa.
The win propels the Patriots into the Catholic League semi-finals for the sixth consecutive season.
Carroll was paced by highly touted junior wing Derrick Jones. The 6-foot-6 Jones scored 12 points in each half for a game-high 24 points. His game-high 16 rebounds were part of a 42-25 advantage on the glass.
“We don’t have too many guys that are 6-foot-6 or 6-foot-7,” Wood coach John Mosco said. “You try to take his jump shot away and he shoots it over you. He’s a special player.”
Jones featured a wide-range of his skills in this one. He did show off his mid-range jumper, but with Wood not being able to match the size of Jones and 6-foot-9 junior center Ernest Aflakpui, it’s no surprise that most of Jones’ points came from close to the rim.
His follow-up dunk off of a David Beatty miss with just over five minutes remaining in the game gave Carroll a 54-36 lead and capped off an 11-0 run that saw Wood not score for almost eight entire minutes. Jones came out of nowhere on the baseline and soared for the putback.
“When he plays aggressively and plays in straight lines offensively, there’s not anyone who can stop him,” Carroll coach Paul Romanczuk said. “I thought he, from the beginning, was really aggressive. We talked to him a lot about that. “
Giving up size and length on the interior, the Vikings were forced to run offensive sets that got them open looks from beyond the arc. The plan worked, at least in the first half.
Senior guard Tom Rush knocked down three of his team’s seven first half 3-pointers. The Vikings got triples from five different players in the first half.
Surprisingly none of those seven three’s came off the hands of junior forward Luke Connaghan, who was limited the entire game with foul trouble.
“We wanted to try to trap them a little bit and speed the game up,” Romanczuk said. “You’re going to give up something when you’re running and jumping and trapping. This is a good shooting team, they went and knocked down shots on us.”
A deep, 30-foot trey from junior guard Cody Fitzpatrick got Wood with three points at 32-29 as the first half was winding down. But Beatty had the answer for Carroll, pouring in a deep three of his own just seconds later, giving the Patriots a 35-30 halftime lead.
The score never got any closer.
Wood came out of the break ice cold. A combination of Jones and senior guard Austin Tilghman outscored Wood 12-6 in the third quarter. Connaghan scored all six of those points for Wood within the first three minutes of the quarter, his only points of the night.
As good as the Vikings shot in the first half was as bad as they shot in the second. For the day, Wood shot 15-for-47 (32 percent). Eleven of those 15 makes came in the first half. Carroll shot 23-of-45 (51 percent).
“We went away from our game plan,” Mosco said. “We had one pass and a shot, one pass and a shot instead of running our offense and trying to play through it.”
Carroll turned up the heat in the second half, pressuring Wood into nine second half turnovers and asserting its will on the outmatched Vikings team.
“We tried to get more to the bucket,” Jones said of the second half plan. “We knew with our size and our speed that they couldn’t stop us.”
Tilghman and Beatty both joined Jones in double figures with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Aflakpui added five points and six rebounds.
Rush tied for a Wood team-high with nine points, all in the first half. Senior forward and Cornell-commit Pat Smith was held to nine points on the day after scoring seven in the first half. With Connaghan on the bench, senior center Joe LoStracco saw an uptick in minutes. He only scored one point but collected seven rebounds.
Up next for Carroll is a showdown at the Palestra with No. 2 Neumann-Goretti in the semifinals on Tuesday night. Neumann blew out West Catholic, 98-57 on Saturday. Carroll previously lost to Neumann 64-58 on Jan. 29. A win for either team would potentially set up a PCL Championship matchup with No. 1 Roman Catholic – a team that Carroll lost 54-46 to.
The Patriots have revenge on their minds.
“I think the mindset is: we’re here again, what are we going to do about it now,” Romanczuk said. “We’ve been here before. It’s always a wonderful opportunity to go down to the Palestra and play in that atmosphere. We’ve had some tough losses down there, but it’s the best place to play basketball. I’m thrilled about it and hopefully our guys are as well.”
“We’re looking forward to it,” Jones said. “They got us the first time. We’ve been working in practice and hopefully we go down there and get a win.”