The Archbishop Wood girls’ basketball team will be in familiar territory the next time it takes the floor.
After dismantling Southern Lehigh, 59-39, on Saturday in the PIAA Class 5A semifinals, the Vikings (22-7) advanced to their eighth state title appearance in nine years, and fifth straight overall. They meet Mars Area High School, located north of Pittsburgh, which beat Archbishop Carroll, 52-39, in the other semifinal. The game is set for Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Hershey’s Giant Center.
As expected, Wood came into the season with high expectations ranked, No. 15 in the USA Today’s Super 25 preseason poll. The Vikings wound up with the No. 2 seed in the Catholic League playoffs, finishing 11-1, before losing to eventual champion Cardinal O’Hara in the PCL semifinals.
In their road to the 5A title, they beat Springfield (Delco), Twin Valley, and Southern Lehigh, all by double digits. The only close call came in the quarterfinal round, escaping previously-unbeaten West Chester Henderson, 40-35.
Coach Mike McDonald has relied heavily on a strong senior class in Katie May, Bridget Arcidiacono, Erin Morgan, and Nicki Greenberg.
“They’re experienced from making runs the last three years they’ve been a part of this,” the third year coach said. “They understand the expectations, they understand what it takes to get there. They’ve been focused and really zoned in over the last couple of weeks, for the state playoffs especially.”
Freshmen Kaitlyn Orihel leads in the team in scoring, averaging 10.6 ppg followed by May’s 9.0 ppg and 4.4 apg. May also shoots a team-best 42 percent from three-point range.
McDonald credits his team’s schedule for its success. Wood traveled to Phoenix to play in the Nike Tournament of Champions and to Baltimore to play in the She Got Game Tournament in December. While in Phoenix, the Vikings played stiff competition, including Riverdale Baptist from Upper Marlboro, Md. The Crusaders featured two McDonald’s All-Americans in Shakira Austin (a Maryland recruit) and Honesty Scott-Grayson (Baylor).
“I think kids [in general] think they’re going to win automatically and that’s why we play such a tough nonleague schedule to go with our already competitive Catholic League,” McDonald said. “We faced those teams [in Phoenix and Baltimore] who kind of knock you on your butt and make you realize you have to work and play at the high level in order to succeed.”
Mars is looking for its first state championship. Mars (23-6) is led by senior guard and Xavier recruit Lauren Wasylson. The Planets’ roster also features junior guard Tai Johnson, a Bucknell recruit, and her freshman sister Alek Johnson.