A lot has changed for Luke Boyd.
The Archbishop Ryan High School sophomore started the season as a reserve on the basketball team. After a few games, he was bumped up to sixth man, and whenever a player needed a blow, they pulled the sharp shooting guard off the bench and he played key minutes.
Then Ryan’s top player and the leading scorer in the Catholic League, Aaron Lemon-Warren, suffered a broken foot and the Raiders were left with a huge void in their lineup.
That’s when Boyd became a full-time starter, and it didn’t take long for him to find himself in a big game in hostile territory.
“The first game, I was pretty nervous,” said Boyd, a Somerton resident. “He got hurt in the practice before the Judge game. I was so nervous going into that game because it was a packed gym and it was Judge. That’s a big game for us, and it was my first game. I was nervous.”
The nerves didn’t last long.
Sure, the butterflies were flapping their wings when his name was called that Friday night at Judge, but he’s no longer nervous. Now he’s just productive.
Boyd has hit double figures in six of the last eight games, and he’s come up big in the biggest moments.
In Ryan’s biggest win of the year, Boyd hit five treys en route to 18 points as the Raiders knocked off Bishop McDevitt in the semifinals of the Catholic League playoffs. Because of the win, the Raiders advanced to the semifinals and went on to play at the Palestra against Neumann-Goretti.
There, Boyd led the Raiders in scoring with 12, but Ryan fell to the Saints, who went on to win the Catholic League championship.
But thanks to the McDevitt win, the Raiders qualified for the District 12 5A play-in game, where they bested Mastery Charter North 85-63 to advance to the state playoffs. In that one, Ryan senior leader Gediminas Mokseckas scored 32 points while Boyd added 20.
The win means the Raiders can keep rolling, at least for another game. Ryan will play Penn Wood on Friday night at Norristown High School in a 6 p.m. game. Boyd will continue to look to get better.
“I’ve been playing pretty well, but I’ve had so much help,” Boyd said. “Everyone tells me to shoot. Last year I played on the freshmen team, and they told me to shoot. Then I got moved up to the JV team, and they told me the same thing.
“Since I started playing varsity, they encourage me to shoot. Everyone has been really helpful. I know I’m still learning a lot. I’m just trying to do my best.”
It’s worked out for Ryan.
Few expected the Raiders to make noise once Lemon-Warren went down, and for good reason.
Lemon-Warren was scoring more than 18 points per game when he went down, and Ryan had a crazy tough schedule after he suffered the broken foot.
Ryan lost regular season games to Neumann-Goretti, Bonner-Prendergast, Roman Catholic and Archbishop Wood at the end of the regular season, and you could say they were slumping a little. That’s not how Boyd sees it, though.
“Those games were good because even though we were losing, we were learning and getting better,” Boyd said. “And look, in the playoffs, we beat McDevitt, a team we lost to during the season. So those losses, maybe not good because you never want to lose, but we learned from them and got better from them.
“Same with the game (against Neumann-Goretti in the playoffs). I never played in a game in front of that many people like that before. It was great. We got that experience. It was great. I think it helped us, and it will help us going into the (state) playoffs.”
The Raiders might not be a favorite to win the 5A state championship, but it would be hard to bet against them. They have a chance to make it to Hershey, where they could see Wood again. It’s probably not a game the Vikings would want to play.
But Boyd, the brother of 2019 Ryan grad and standout football player Colin Boyd, isn’t looking ahead. He’s just looking to the next game.
However, when pressed, he would say there’s a lot of reasons to be excited about Ryan going forward.
Next year, Lemon-Warren should be back, and there are only two seniors on the roster. Yes, Mokseckas and Christian Isopi are extremely important players for the Raiders, but it’s nice to have everyone else back and that means high expectations for the team.
“If we made the semifinals this year, our goal should be to make the finals next year,” said Boyd, who is in honors classes. “We should be excited about next year. We have a lot of talent and now we have experience. This year has been so good for that.”
But first up is the state playoffs. And the best way to get experience is to win and advance.
“I think we have a really good team,” Boyd said. “Even when Aaron got hurt, everyone believed. Nobody thought the season was over. We think we can win. And we’ll keep believing.”