Moon rallies in 4th quarter to defeat Archbishop Wood in PIAA Class 5A final
Friday, March 22, 2019 | 9:53 PM
HERSHEY — Moon coach Adam Kaufman was certain that this win would shock folks around the state.
Rarely does the Philadelphia Catholic League lose in the state finals, especially not to WPIAL schools. Yet, senior Connor Ryan scored 17 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and Moon overcame a late nine-point deficit to defeat Archbishop Wood, 74-64, in the PIAA Class 5A final Friday night at Giant Center.
Kaufman already knew one person who was shocked.
“I’m shocked,” he said. “I thought we had a chance but they’re really good. They’re really good. People don’t understand how good that basketball team is. We got to a point there where (the deficit) was seven and nine where we could very easily have broke.”
Before Friday, Philadelphia Catholic League boys teams were 14-3 in the state finals since joining the PIAA playoffs in 2009, and Archbishop Wood seemed poised to push that wins total to 15 after stealing the lead with a 14-2 second-half run.
Wood led 53-44 early in the fourth.
But Moon battled back behind Ryan and outscored Wood, 30-13, in the final quarter. Ryan converted 10 of 12 free throws in the fourth, made a key 3-pointer and scored a go-ahead layup with 3:15 left.
The 6-foot guard had 24 second-half points after scoring only four in the first.
“Something got into me,” Ryan said with a smile.
Donovan Johnson scored 17 points and Taru Jones added 13 as Moon (27-2) won its second PIAA title in team history. The Tigers, now 2-0 in state finals, won the Class 3A title in 2004.
Before Friday, only one WPIAL boys team has ever defeated a Philadelphia Catholic League team in the state finals: New Castle beat La Salle College in 2014.
Kaufman twice led Montour to the state finals in 2011 and 2012, each time losing to PCL power Neumann-Goretti. Aliquippa, Chartiers Valley, Greensburg Salem, Mars and Lincoln Park all lost finals in the past decade to PCL teams.
“Pittsburgh teams don’t usually come here and have success,” Ryan said. “A lot of times making the state championships is your championship, essentially. … Coach Kaufman said we’re going to play a really good team tonight. But don’t forget that we’re really good, too.”
The state championship celebration came exactly three weeks after Moon endured a heartbreaking loss in the WPIAL finals. The Tigers had held a 16-point second-half lead but left Petersen Events Center that night in tears after Mars rallied to victory.
“I think we learned a lot from losing that game the way we did,” Kaufman said. “I think they deserved to win it that way tonight because of what happened back then. It’s kind of poetic.”
“This makes up for it,” Ryan said. “If we had to deal with that to get this, so be it. I’ll take it.”
Daeson Shepherd led Wood (19-9) with 22 points and Rahsool Diggins had 20. Both are sophomores on a young 13-player roster with eight 10th-graders.
Moon led for almost the entire first half and well into the third quarter. But Wood stormed back and outscored Moon, 12-2, in the final two minutes of the third. Wood’s press forced four turnovers and out-rebounded Moon, 5-1, during that stretch.
Wood led 51-44 after three and scored the first basket in the fourth.
Trailing by nine, Moon regrouped. The rally started with a 3-pointer by Austin Ryan, and then two free throws and a layup by Connor Ryan to trail 55-51.
As a team, Moon went 15 for 18 from the foul line in the fourth.
Connor and Austin Ryan made consecutive 3-pointers less than a minute apart to lead 59-58 with 3:35 left. The final lead change came with 3:15 left on a layup by Connor Ryan.
“We weren’t going to walk in here and roll over,” Kaufman said. “They’re not those types of kids. They knew they could win the game and they’re tough kids. They’re going to play every play.”
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .