Archbishop Carroll and A.J. Hoggard roll past Archbishop Wood and back to the Palestra

It might not have been the game-winner, but to hear Archbishop Carroll sophomore A.J. Hoggard tell it, victory was assured.

And after his performance Friday night against defending Catholic League champion Archbishop Wood, there’s no reason to doubt him.

Hoggard scored 10 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter of Carroll’s 69-62 victory that will send the Patriots back to the Palestra for the PCL semifinals Wednesday for the ninth time in 10 years.

Last season’s loss in the quarterfinals snapped an eight-year streak of Palestra visits for Carroll.

“I felt like the second half had to be mine,” Hoggard said. “I had to get my team over the hump. I wasn’t going out again like last year on my home court.”

The prescient perimeter shot in question was a right-wing three-pointer that tied the game at 50 with 6 minutes, 23 seconds left and elicited an eruption from Carroll’s packed students’ section after Wood had seized momentum and a seven-point edge in the third.

“I knew we were going to win after I hit that shot,” Hoggard said.

The key to his performance, however, was his ability to make his teammates better.

Coach Paul Romanczuk has talked — this season and last — to his star pupil about knowing when to take over and when to get teammates involved.

In the second half, Hoggard taught a master class on the subject.

His cross-court skip pass to senior Devon Ferrero put Carroll ahead by 4 with 4 minutes, 40 seconds left.

After a shrewd timeout by Romanczuk with Carroll ahead by five following a frenetic stretch by both teams at the 3:05 mark, Hoggard broke down Wood’s defense with the dribble and hit Keyon Butler, who hit Ferrero for another huge triple.

“He played it perfectly,” Romanczuk said. “He was the best player on the court, on a court with a lot of talent.”

Romanczuk added: “He really picked his spots well. He showed some veteran savvy. … He played that second half … I don’t know if he could play it any better.”

Hoggard finished 5 of 19 overall and 11 of 12 from the foul line.

He also added 7 assists, 3 steals and 4 rebounds.

“I felt like the second half had to be mine,” Hoggard said. “I had to get my team over the hump. I wasn’t going out again like last year on my home court.”

Hoggard also made sure to praise his teammates.

Butler was also important, finishing with 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting with six rebounds against the trees inside for Wood.

Sophomore Tairi Ketner also added a spurt off the bench. Justin Anderson and Luke House didn’t shoot well from the perimeter, but their defense in Carroll’s late triangle-and-2 look helped stymie Wood.

It also helped that Wood missed nine consecutive free throws during a stretch that started in the second quarter and ended in the fourth when Andrew Funk converted a three-point play to get the Vikings to within, 54-53. Wood finished 12 of 21 at the line. Carroll was 18 of 21.

The defending champs were led by Funk, who finished with 18 points. Junior wing Julius Phillips added 13, while freshman Rahsool Diggins had 10. Senior Tyree Pickron added 8. Senior forwards Seth Pinkney and Karrington Wallace blocked three shots apiece.

Carroll      15    13    16    25 –   69
Wood        14    15    17    16 –   62

C: AJ Hoggard 23, Keyon Butler 17, Justin Anderson 9, Devon Ferrero 8, Luke House 8, Tairi Ketner 4.

W: Andrew Funk 18, Julius Phillips 13, Rahsool Diggins 10, Tyree Pickron 8, Seth Pinkney 6, Kyle McNamee 2, Karrington Wallace 2, Daeshon Shepherd 3.