RADNOR >> The atmosphere, venue and circumstances were all different but the result still felt just as good as they’d hoped it would.
After two years of heartbreak losing in overtime in the Philadelphia Catholic League girls basketball championship game, the Archbishop Wood Vikings finally got their hands on the league’s circular trophy Sunday afternoon. All it required was winning a rubber match with a Cardinal O’Hara team that had beaten them earlier season and was on a roll of its own.
It wasn’t a packed house at the Palestra, but Archbishop Carroll’s gym served the role just fine as top-seeded Wood’s defense and perimeter shooting overcame the No. 2 Lions 56-48 as the Vikings claimed their first PCL title since 2016.
“Those two losses the last two years fueled us coming into this game,” Wood’s Kaitlyn Orihel said. “This was our main goal. This was everything we had been working toward. We don’t get another re-do next year so we put everything we could into this to make sure we ended up on top.”
Wood (13-2) shot a scorching 8-of-16 from 3-point territory with four of those makes coming from standout junior Ryanne Allen. The 6-foot-1 wing, who has offers from numerous Big Ten and ACC programs, had the play of the game when she sank a step-back three at the third quarter horn to give Wood a six-point edge.
Despite the Lions (12-4) trying everything they could to stop her, Allen never cooled off Sunday and connected on 4-of-6 from deep on her way to a game-high 22 points. Less than 48 hours removed from hitting the game-winning free throws against Carroll in the PCL semis, Allen came through again to help deliver her team a title.
“It’s all thanks to my teammates,” Allen said. “Their constant encouragement kept me going and I know I can make these shots in big moments and I know I have their support when I’m shooting. Having them by my side and to get this far in such a unique season is amazing.”
Aside from having to leave the floor for a few possessions after cramping up late in the fourth, Allen did a little of everything for Wood. She hit the glass hard with 10 rebounds, doled out four assists and added a block and steal.
It wasn’t her first time haunting Cardinal O’Hara this season either as Allen sparked a Wood comeback in the teams’ first of two regular season meetings.
“The three at the end of the third quarter took the wind out of our sails a little bit, she’s a phenomenal player, she’s one of the top players in the state,” O’Hara coach Chrissie Doogan said. “She put the team on her shoulders and carried them.”
Shannon Morgan hit a corner trey right before the first quarter buzzer for an 11-10 Wood lead, then the Vikings used an 11-2 run with Allen scoring or assisting every point to go up 24-16 midway through the second. The Lions took the shot then responded behind junior Maggie Doogan.
With Wood’s Dana Kiefer in foul trouble and Bri Bowen needing her ankle re-taped, Doogan took advantage, scoring two baskets off great passes by Sydni Scott and Amaris Baker, hitting two free throws and blocking a drive that led to a Julia Stellabotte put-back to draw the Lions level 24-24 at the break.
O’Hara saw its nine-game win streak snapped Sunday, but the Lions figure to be one of the top teams going into the PIAA 5A tournament and will try to regroup quickly.
“If all goes well, we get to play three more games,” Doogan said. “Wood knows us. These girls have been playing against each other since fifth or sixth grade. I have a picture of Maggie playing against (Wood senior) Noelle Baxter in AAU on my refrigerator from when they were in fifth grade.”
Bowen, who rolled her ankle late in the semifinal game with Carroll but gutted through it on Sunday, played a huge role for Wood. With Orihel struggling offensively in the first half, Bowen scored 10 points and finished with 15 on a perfect shooting day, hitting 5-of-5 from the floor and 2-of-2 at the line.
The physical junior also drew the defensive assignment on Doogan in the second half and while O’Hara’s talented 6-foot-3 forward still finished with 15, Bowen didn’t give her anything easy.
“She is a very good player, very skilled and she can shoot the ball but also finish at the rim but one of my strengths is being physical,” Bowen said. “I tried to be as physical as I could because she does have the height advantage on me and also boxing out and tried to keep her off the boards.”
Amaris Baker tied the game 32-32 on her 3-pointer with 4:04 left in the third, a rare outcome for the Lions on Sunday. O’Hara connected on just 2-of-14 attempts behind the 3-point line and Morgan said the Vikings made a more concerted effort to fight through screens instead of the switching defense that had hurt them in the second regular season meeting between the two.
“We just didn’t want them to get any momentum on offense,” Morgan said. “Sydni Scott is so good at getting her shots off and Maggie Doogan can take it all the way down the floor, so we tried to pressure them all the way and slow them down.”
Bowen gave Wood the lead for good, sinking a three off a hand-off from Allen shortly before her classmate ended the quarter with some flair for a 42-36 lead. After hitting the shot, Allen fell to the floor where she was mobbed by teammates before heading to the bench, realizing the turn in momentum the play had provided.
“My trainer taught me that move, he was here actually, so glad I could pull it off for him. That was an awesome shot to hit for my team,” Allen, one of the team’s co-captains, said. “It was huge for momentum going into the fourth quarter so I was happy it went in and I could contribute that.”
Orihel, the Villanova recruit, scored all 12 of her points in the second half and put pressure on O’Hara’s defense by continually attacking the rim. She connected on four straight free throws after the Lions had cut the lead to 48-42 midway through the final quarter and her driving layup gave Wood a 54-44 lead with 1:12 to go.
For Orihel and fellow senior captains Baxter and Kiefer, it was a win they had long been waiting for and intended to enjoy before turning their attention to the District 12 Class 4A game coming up Wednesday with states to follow.
“We talked about knowing we weren’t going to win the game at the end of a quarter or at halftime, it’s a full game and it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Baxter said. “We kept putting positive energy on everyone and just tried not to get excited too soon.”
“It doesn’t matter if it was here, at the Palestra or in a parking lot out back, we came together as a team and we worked hard, so I’m so proud of all of us,” Orihel said. “It’s still that same feeling holding up the plaque no matter where we were.”
ARCHBISHOP WOOD 56, CARDINAL O’HARA 48
ARCHBISHOP WOOD 11 13 18 14 – 56
CARDINAL O’HARA 10 14 12 12 – 48
AW: Ryanne Allen 8 2-2 22, Bri Bowen 5 2-2 15, Kaitlyn Orihel 3 6-6 12, Shannon Morgan 1 0-1 3, Noelle Baxter 0 2-4 2, Dana Kiefer 1 0-0 2. Totals: 18 12-15 56.
CO: Maggie Doogan 5 5-6 15, Amaris Baker 6 0-2 14, Siobhan Boylan 4 0-0 8, Julia Stellabotte 2 0-0 4, Sydni Scott 1 1-1 3, Greta Miller 0 1-2 1, Joanie Quinn 0 1-2 1. Totals: 19 8-13 48.
3-pointers: AW – Allen 4, Bowen 3, Morgan; CO – Baker 2.