POTTSTOWN — Mechanicsburg knew it was up against a monumental task in its second round PIAA Class 5A tournament foe, Archbishop Wood.
But the Wildcats got off the bus ready to go after the Philadelphia Catholic League champion Vikings and had more fire and energy. They did something that not many opponents have done this year.
Mechanicsburg forced Wood to call the first timeout of the game.
Of course, after that timeout, the Vikings turned a small deficit into a 12-point lead after the first quarter. Wood’s offense did what it does and the Vikings claimed an 80-56 win over Mechanicsburg at Pottstown High School on Thursday night.
“Just for the record, he called timeout first,” Wildcats coach Bob Strickler said. “We were ready to go and then we hit that stretch, they shot 3s almost like they were lay-ups. They shot the ball extremely well.”
Cade Alioth scored 23 points and pulled down 11 rebounds — no small feat considering the guys Wood sent out to guard him. Whether it was
Six-foot-11 starting center Seth Pinkney or 6-foot-7 reserves Karrington Wallace and Julius Phillips, Alioth had a battle going on all night.
The senior forward said the score showed the officials had no impact on the game, but he was a little frustrated that some of the contact he was taking wasn’t turning into fouls.
Despite that, Alioth embodied the spirit this has has all season, and didn’t quit and didn’t back down.
“This team has never backed to anyone and I think that dates back to Carlisle in our very first game,” Alioth said. “We came out in the second half, just clawed back. We said let’s go out and throw a punch, it’s 0-0, let’s try and get a good start. We got a good start, but you saw how good of a team (Wood is).”
The Wildcats led 13-11 when Wood took its timeout, then spearheaded by Villanova recruit Collin Gillespie, Wood roared back with a 16-2 run to end the first quarter and continued to blitz Mechanicsburg through a 23-9 second quarter. Strickler said he felt the Wildcats would have to hold Wood to 60 to have a chance to win, and noted the Vikings also had 50 at the half.
Gillespie scored 24 to pace Wood, which got five players in double-figures. Pinkney, after giving up a couple early hoops to Alioth, was able to adjust and the Mechanicsburg senior had some tough looks after that quick start.
“I still had some where I was even thinking, ‘Why did I just shoot that?’” Alioth said. “(Playing against Dylan) Painter definitely helped me. You realize little things about playing undersized.”
Wood’s lead ballooned up to 70-59 at the end of the third quarter before the Vikings started pulling guys from the game. All the while, Mechanicsburg didn’t stop battling and playing hard.
It wouldn’t have been the right way to end for the Mid-Penn Keystone champs, who reached the Mid-Penn title game and District 3 final, to go out any other way.
“I would love to say our program is esteemed and we do those things on a regular basis, but we don’t,” Strickler said. “Those kids did that and brought us back into the limelight. The challenge for the next group is to get to the district playoffs and make some noise. We played in two championship games and I don’t think a lot of people would have expected us in a Mid-Penn and a district final, nor playing a team like Archbishop Wood. That’s what I’ll remember about these kids, when you told them they couldn’t, they did.”