When playing in the state championship game, you’d like to play your very best game of the season. In that regard, hang a star next to the Moon Tigers on Friday evening.
After a wild back-and-forth second half, Moon, hailing from just west of Pittsburgh (think Robert Morris University), captured their school’s second state championship over a young, but highly-talented Archbishop Wood squad who calls the esteemed Philadelphia Catholic League their home, 74-64.
In the quintessential East vs West matchup that this 5A title fight presented, Moon “shared the sugar” effectively with one another on the offensive end while playing at a deliberate pace en route to shooting a sultry 63.6% from the field in the opening stanza as the Tigers led 16-11 after the opening eight minutes.
And while Wood would refuse to go away without a fight, thanks in large part to the efforts engineered by 6’0 sophomore floor general Rahsool Diggins, Moon never trailed throughout the opening half, as the Tigers sprinted off the floor with the possession of the 25-23 advantage with their soundtrack being the rousing roars of approval from their adorning fans who had made the 230 mile trek eastward.
In the second half however, Archbishop Wood turned up the intensity meter ten-fold.
Ignited by a gorgeous halfcourt alley-oop from Diggins to fellow sophomore Daeshon Sheperd, the Vikings had successfully clawed all the way to tie their Tiger counterparts at 32-32. From there, Wood’s fullcourt pressure defense posed plenty of problems for Moon as the Vikings eventually claimed their first lead of the night at 43-42 after a Sheperd take with 1:40 left to play in the third. And once the dust had finally settled on the third stanza, the scoreboard hanging high above the Giant Center floor showed Wood with their largest lead of the ballgame, 51-44.
In the final quarter however, Moon would finally solve Archbishop Wood’s up-tempo riddle.
Sparked by the incredible efforts by their twin senior captains, Austin and Connor Ryan, the Tigers eventually weathered the storm, overtaking the lead once again at 59-58 after a Connor Ryan trifecta with 3:35 left to play.
And while Wood would regain the lead their next trip down the floor, Moon would go on to outscore Wood 15-4 over the final 3:15 to help finalize the travel itinerary for the solid gold trophy’s four-hour trip westward after their 74-64 triumph.
When combing over the stats, Moon’s are simply mind-boggling. Aside from the Ryan twins accounting for 48% of Moon’s 74 overall points, spearheaded by a team-high 28-point effort from Connor Ryan, the Tigers by and large shot the cover off the basketball. In fact, the third quarter was the only period all night long where Moon did not shoot over 50% from the field. Not only that, by the Tigers shot a perfect 6-6 from the field in the final period, including 3-3 from bonus distance, en route to a scintillating 58.5% overall performance. And when you consider the fact that we have seen countless teams from just the District 3 and L-L landscape alone have their fair share of struggles when playing within the mammoth confines of the Giant Center routinely, Moon’s performance becomes all that more remarkable.
Speaking of remarkable, Moon’s takedown of Wood on Friday night marked the first time since 2008 in which the Philadelphia Catholic will go home without a state championship. Needless to say, there’s sure to be a party currently ongoing in Moon that won’t stop for quite some time.