Pictures and video highlights coming
HERSHEY – Archbishop Wood had to have more on its mind that just winning the PIAA 5A state championship Friday night at Hershey’s Giant Center.
What the Vikings knew preparing for the game--that they were no match in any way shape or form for District 10 champion Meadville—was established in the first seven minutes of the game as they raced off to a 17-2 lead and then showcased their talent, athletes and basketball skill the rest of the way to a 73-40 win.
With its first-ever state basketball championship, the Vikings, who finished 28-3, completed the football-basketball daily double—something that might just become an annual outcome for this powerhouse sports school located in Bucks County.
Wood won the 5A state football championship back in December.
What the Vikings were looking to do in Chocolatetown was to lay claim to being recognized as the best basketball team in Pennsylvania.
Now, Imhotep Charter, which faces Strong Vincent from Erie in the 4A championship game on Saturday afternoon, and the winner between Reading and Pine Richland in the 6A title game Saturday night will have their chance to weigh in on that conversation that can’t be settled on the court.
But the Vikings have already done their talking. And they made a strong case.
First they swept through the Philadelphia Catholic regular season undefeated.
Then they won the championship by beating 3A state champion Neumann-Goretti.
They followed that by winning the PIAA District 12 championship by defeating Public League power Martin Luther King.
Now they have their state gold medals.
“That was out main goal coming into the year,” said Villanova-bound blue-chip guard Colin Gillespie. “I’m just proud of our guys for getting it done.”
Gillespie ran the show for the Vikings, scoring 15 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, dishing eight assists. Tyron Pickron led Wood with 18 points, including five three-point shots. Seth Pickney had 11 and Andrew Funk scored 10.
Strangely, from his perspective, Gillespie called it a “shaky season.”
“We lost our first couple of games, then our (gym) wall fell down so it was difficult playing on the road all year but we stuck together as a group and we got it done,” he told SPORTSfever.
By the way, those losses were to out-of-state powerhouses in the Gonzaga D.C. Classic. The rest of the way they didn’t lose to a Pennsylvania team.
And on Friday the Vikings made their most compelling argument in grand style.
“Competition is always fun to play against,” said Gillespie. “Definitely the Catholic League is one of the best leagues in the country. Definitely it prepared us for this stage. Just tough teams night in and night out.
“We were confident all season. With the group of guys we had, we were always confident. We’re good on offense. Our biggest thing is defense, getting stops. We know we can score.”
Meadville, which returned to the state finals for the second time--the first since losing to Billy Owens and Carlisle in 1987, finished the season 26-2. Armoni Foster led the Bulldogs with 17 points. Simeal Wofford had 14.
Overmatched and overwhelmed, still Meadville coach Mark McElhinny warranted a tip of the cap.
He wasn’t about to go negative.
“They have eight guys who can play,” he said. “A very athletic and skilled team. I’m proud about how we do it. Our guys came all the way up through since they were 10 and 12 years old.
“This is also motivation for us to compete against a team like this. We’ve got to get better. Instead of complaining we’ll work harder to try to compete.”