Archbishop Wood junior guard Jaylen Stinson, the star of the show, neatly summed up the significance of the Vikings’ 94-93, double-overtime victory over Roman Catholic on Sunday.
“It means a lot,” Stinson said, “but then again, it means nothing.”
The same might be said for what shapes up as the biggest game of the Philadelphia Catholic League regular season: Friday’s clash between Archbishop Wood and Neumann-Goretti in the Saints’ little gym off 11th Street in South Philadelphia.
Both teams are undefeated in PCL play. Both are riding hot streaks. And they are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in The Inquirer’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Top 10.
Archbishop Wood (13-3 overall, 9-0 league) jumped into the No. 2 spot after a 4-0 week capped by Sunday’s pulse-pounding victory before a capacity-plus crowd in Richard Kelly Gymnasium.
Stinson led the way with 11 points after regulation, including a three-pointer that beat the buzzer at the end of the first overtime.
Archbishop Wood coach John Mosco said the victory meant “nothing” because it was a regular-season game in January, and his focus is for the Vikings to be playing their best basketball in February and March.
So in a sense, Friday’s showdown will hold little meaning, since both teams know there are games with higher stakes in the future — in the league playoffs, in the state tournaments.
But try getting there late and finding a seat to this latest game that means “nothing.”
Here’s the new Top 10, with last week’s rankings in parentheses:
1. Neumann-Goretti (1) 13-2: Junior guard Hysier Miller was clutch in the Saints’ victory over Roman Catholic on Friday, scoring four in the second overtime. Neumann-Goretti has won six in a row, all in Philadelphia Catholic League play. The Saints have a light week, with no games until Friday night’s battle with Archbishop Wood.
2. Archbishop Wood (3) 13-3: The Vikings have won 11 in a row since a loss to Wastach (Utah) on Dec. 19 at the Iolani Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii. They went 4-0 over the past week in PCL play, capped by Sunday’s victory over Roman Catholic. Stinson and fellow junior guard Rahsool Diggins, who combined for 53 points, were instrumental in the triumph. But junior swingman Daeshon Shepherd generated 24 points as well, showing his inside-outside versatility with a couple of dunks and a pair of three-pointers, plus 11 rebounds and three assists.
3. Westtown School (2) 15-6: Senior guard T.J. Berger and junior guard Jalen Warley were stars of the show in an imposing victory over Friends Schools League rival Academy of the New Church, combining for 45 points and controlling the game’s pace. The 6-4 Warley, a rangy playmaker, has generated major recruiting interest, with a recent offer from Oregon. Westtown will play Hamilton Heights (Tenn.) at an MLK Day event Monday in Washington, D.C., face Germantown Friends on Tuesday and meet New Jersey independent power Blair Academy on Sunday at a showcase at Parkland.
4. Roman Catholic (4) 8-7: Here are the Cahillites’ three Philadelphia Catholic League losses: Overtime to Bonner-Prendergast, double-overtime to Neumann-Goretti, double-overtime to Archbishop Wood. It’s cold comfort but Roman is a few missed free throws away from the top of the league standings, rather than its current position in the muddled middle of the pack. “Every one of these games is going to be a one-possession game,” RC coach Matt Griffin said. “The margin for error is slim, so to miss double-digit free throws [in the losses to Neumann-Goretti and Archbishop Wood] is a backbreaker.” Big positive for Roman Catholic: Center Jalen Duren looked every bit like one of the top players in the class of 2022 against the Saints and Vikings, generating a combined 61 points and 31 rebounds and basically being all-but-unguardable in the paint. Sophomore guard Justice Williams was superb against Wood, as well.
5. Methacton (5) 16-1: Senior Owen Kropp, the Warriors’ consummate glue guy, had eight assists and 13 points in a victory over Spring-Ford. Senior guard Erik Timko is averaging 18.1 points and senior center Jeff Woodward is averaging 15.9 and dominating in the paint for Methacton, which has won 13 in a row since an early-season loss to Roman Catholic. The Warriors will be at Norristown on Tuesday and home vs. Pottstown on Thursday.
6. Bonner-Prendergast (8) 11-3: There’s no shortage of great backcourts in the Catholic League, and Friars seniors Tyrese Watson and Donovan Rodriguez rank with the best of them. They combined for 44 points and supplied the defensive pressure as Bonner-Prendergast scored another impressive victory by rolling past Archbishop Carroll, 81-62, on Friday night. Junior guard Malik Edwards added 25 for the Friars. Bonner-Prendergast will visit St. Joseph’s Prep on Monday and will be home vs. La Salle on Friday.
7. Malvern Prep (NR) 15-4: The Friars have won nine in a row and 12 of 13. Leading the way has been senior guard Deuce Turner, who recently passed the 2,100-career-point mark and became the Inter-Ac league’s all-time leading scorer. Malvern Prep has won each of its first four league games by at least 18 points. The Friars will visit Episcopal Academy on Tuesday and host Penn Charter on Friday.
8. Archbishop Carroll (6) 10-4: Junior swingman John Camden scored 21 in the loss to Bonner-Prendergast. The Patriots, who have dropped three in a row, have some time to regroup and will look to get back on track this weekend with games at Roman Catholic on Friday afternoon and home vs. La Salle on Sunday afternoon.
9. Gratz (9) 14-2: Senior guard Yassir Stover had 19 for the Bulldogs in a victory over Penn Wood. Stover is averaging 18.6 points and has hit 34 three-pointers for Gratz, which has won seven in a row. The Bulldogs have a busy week ahead, with road games vs. Lincoln on Tuesday, vs. Constitution on Thursday and vs. Engineering & Science on Friday as they look to tighten their grip on first place in the Public League’s A Division.
10. Imhotep Charter (10) 11-6: Notre Dame recruit Elijah Taylor led the way as the Panthers won the Burger King Classic in Erie with a pair of victories over the weekend. Taylor went for 14 points and nine rebounds in a win over ISA Andrews Osborne in the semifinals and for 13 points with eight rebounds in a victory over Cathedral Prep in the title game. Senior guard Sammi Wylie made three three-pointers on his way to 11 points in the championship game. Imhotep will be home vs. Audenried on Tuesday, visit Bartram on Thursday and play Haverford School in the All-City Classic on Sunday at Archbishop Wood.