Hysier Miller got things started for the Neumann Goretti basketball team.
Hakim Byrd finished the job for the Saints.
The slick, quick backcourt partners combined for 41 points to power Neumann Goretti to a 66-55 victory over Archbishop Wood Friday night in a Philadelphia Catholic League clash of the top two teams in the Inquirer’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Top 10.
Miller scored 17 of his 24 points in the first half, and Byrd scored nine of his 17 in the fourth quarter for No. 1 Neumann Goretti (14-2 overall, 8-0 in the league) before a capacity-plus crowd in the Saints’ gym.
“We won a game in January on our home floor,” Neumann Goretti coach Carl Arrigale said, downplaying the significance of the victory. “We held serve. It would have been a much bigger deal if they had won, since we don’t lose many games here.”
Rahsool Diggins scored 15 and Jaylen Stinson and Daeshon Shepherd each added 13 points for No. 2 Archbishop Wood (13-4, 9-1), which had its 11-game winning streak snapped.
The visiting Vikings shot just 2-for-10 from the foul line in the fourth quarter, as the heat and humidity in the little gym off 11th Street in South Philadelphia seemed to sap some energy from players on both squads.
“No excuse because everybody has to go through it, but we’ve been battling some sickness on our team and I think we got tired,” Archbishop Wood coach John Mosco said. “We’ll learn from this. We got to get back in the gym and get better.”
Archbishop Wood had averaged 77.8 points during its 11-game streak. But with strong work at the defensive end by Miller and Byrd, as well as senior swingmen Cameron Young (eight points, seven rebounds) and Jordan Hall (seven points, five assists), the Saints were able to limit the Vikings to 38 points through the first three quarters.
“We talked about it enough all week,” said Arrigale, whose team visits Archbishop Ryan Monday night in an effort to keep alive its drive for a perfect regular season in the PCL. “They can really get downhill. We really tried to limit how much they touched the paint.”
Byrd, a senior guard, and Miller, a junior guard, were engaged in a fierce battle all night with Wood juniors Diggins and Stinson in a clash of two of the city’s top backcourts.
"That was the game plan, keep them out of the lane,” Byrd said of Diggins and Stinson.
The muscular Miller hit a pair of three-pointers and scored 12 in all as Neumann Goretti seized command with a 20-11 advantage in the second quarter, taking a 35-28 lead at the half.
“He carried me in the first half so I carried him in the second half,” Byrd said of Miller.
Wood tried to rally in the fourth quarter behind Diggins and Stinson, three times cutting the lead to seven and once closing within 58-53 on Diggins’ driving layup.
But the Saints spread the floor, creating space for Byrd to jet into the lane. The speedy senior made a driving layup and hit a fade-away jumper deep in the paint to help blunt the visitors’ comeback.
“If he gets 40 and I get zero, it would be like I got 40 because he’s my brother,” Miller said of Byrd.
In contrast to the Vikings’ struggles from the line, Byrd was 4-for-4 on free throws in the final 1 minute, 37 seconds.
“I think the world of him,” Arrigale said of Byrd. “I want the ball in his hands. He’s like my closer. It’s nice to get a lead and be able to go to the bullpen.”
Archbishop Wood 17 11 10 17 – 55
Neumann Goretti 15 20 15 16 – 66
AW: Rahsool Diggins 15, Jaylen Stinson 13, Daeshon Shepherd 13, Marcus Randolph 8, Muneer Newton 6.