The Hilda Goodling Impact Academy boys' basketball team opened their District 3 Class A tournament Friday against Greenwood and wasted no time sending a message.
Impact Academy forced five turnovers and scored on all five to open the game with 10 unanswered points. Impact never looked back from there, racing to a 61-44 quarterfinal-round homecourt win over the Wildcats.
"Our kids really answered the bell," said head coach David Archer. "We talked about playing fast, playing smart and playing under control. I challenged them to come out strong and they executed to a T at the start. We are a young team, we started four juniors in this game, but we are coming together."
Impact Academy (10-8) earned a No. 2 seed in the Class A field and entered Friday's contest on a four-game winning streak. They beat 10th-seeded Veritas Academy by 35 points in mid-January, the same team Greenwood defeated by 33 points in Tuesday's opening round of the tourney.
Greenwood (12-13) had won three of its past five games to end the regular season and finished third behind champion Juniata and runner-up Newport in the Tri-Valley Athletic Association West standings. The Wildcats received the No. 7 seed in the Class A field.
Impact Academy forced Greenwood into 11 first-quarter turnovers and allowed the Wildcats just four first-quarter shot attempts as it raced out to a 25-5 lead after the opening period. A trapping, smothering defense created 12 of those points directly off turnovers.
"The biggest thing for us is our speed," Archer said. "We don't have 13 or 14 guys, but we have eight guys who can play at a high level. Our defense can be our offense. We have guys who can play and if we can get ahead of the game that way, we'll be great."
Six-foot senior guard Juwan Gooding led the way at both ends of the floor for Impact Academy, scoring 15 of his game-high 23 points in the opening eight minutes.
"We just wanted to come out strong," Gooding said. "We wanted to make plays, play defense and use our heads. We wanted to play with a lot of intensity."
Greenwood, a program that has advanced to 10 Class A championship games since 1987 but has never won a title, still managed to fight its way back into making it a pretty even game over the final three quarters.
"At practice the other day, we talked about Greenwood and their tradition," Archer said. "We want to look like that in the next 20 years. They always make districts."
The Wildcats trailed by 18 at halftime and by 22 after the third quarter before outscoring Impact Academy by a 14-9 margin in the fourth quarter. Gooding fouled out with 3:46 remaining and Impact Academy managed only one point after his departure.
"We got up so high there early on, I think it was just too hard to stay at that level," Archer said. "Greenwood is a championship-caliber team. We weren't going to punch them in the face, hold them to five points and that was it. When things settled down, Greenwood did a really good job."
Greenwood was paced by 6-foot-6 junior center Noah Wright, who scored a team-high 18 points. Juniors Elliott Wilson and Nykam Beverley scored 13 points each for Impact Academy, which will meet No. 3-seed Halifax in a 6 p.m. semifinal-round game Monday at East Pennsboro High School.
Archer, Wilson and Beverley were all part of New Hope Academy's District 3 Class A championship team a season ago.
"When you have guys like Wilson and Beverley, who won a district title last year, all this is not new," Archer said.
Impact Academy could be a bit of a mystery in the tourney as it only played a handful of teams from within District 3 this season. York Catholic was the only team from the YAIAA to meet Impact Academy. The Fighting Irish lost, 71-54, at York Catholic on Jan. 31.
"I told the kids that I'm not ready to go home yet," Archer said. "I don't play golf, it's cold out, snow is coming and I don't want to sit at home. Let's play another game. We qualified for states with this win and we get to keep playing, so it is exciting."
Impact Academy 61, Greenwood 44
Ferguson 1 4-6 7, Woodard 1 3-4 5, Sheaffer 2 0-0 6, Allen 2 2-5 6, Noah Wright 6 6-8 18, LaBant 0 0-2 0, Goodling 1 0-1 2.
Totals — 13 15-26 44.
Impact Academy (61)
Elliott Wilson 5 3-4 13, Nykam Beverley 6 1-2 13, Almonte 1 4-4 6, Valentin 0 0-0 0, Juwan Gooding 8 2-2 23, J. Beverley 0 0-0 0, Parson 2 0-5 4, Swanston 1 0-0 2, Jimenez 0 0-0 0.
Totals — 23 10-17 61.
3-point goals — G 3 (Ferguson, Sheaffer 2). IA 5 (Gooding 5).