SHILLING >> The Archbishop Wood girls basketball team never led in the first half of its PIAA Class-5A semifinal against Susquehannock.
The Vikings took their first lead on the first possession of the second half and never looked back. They led by as many as 20 points before putting the finishing touches on a 56-41 win Tuesday night at Governor Mifflin Intermediate School that sends them to the state championship game against (7-3) Trinity at the GIANT Center in Hershey Saturday at 6 p.m.
(12-1) Wood’s Katie May hit a three-pointer at the buzzer going into halftime to tie the game at 22. That turned out to be the start of a 10-0 Vikings run.
Cassie Sebold made a layup 35 seconds into the second half and May hit another three less than a minute later. Meg Neher added a basket and Wood led, 29-22. The advantage would never fall to one possession again.
(3-1) Susquehannock battled back to make it a 33-28 game after three quarters, but the Philadelphia Catholic League power turned it on in the fourth quarter.
Wood opened the final quarter with a 15-0 run. The Warriors didn’t score their first basket until Jaden Walker hit a three with 2:50 left in the game to make it 48-31.
“Our defense is always going to be there,” Wood coach Mike McDonald said. “They’re always going to play tough. We just have to make shots and we’re a tough team to beat … Our defense is always going to be there.”
Bridget Arcidiacono was held scoreless in the first three quarters. She hit a three to get the fourth-quarter scoring started and 13 seconds later made a basket — but missed the ensuing free throw — to put Wood ahead by 10, 38-28.
Erin Morgan and Shannon May hit back-to-back three-pointers and Sebold followed with four straight free throws to cap off the run and make it a 20-point Viking lead with 3:26 to play.
“Just keep the lead,” Katie May said of the fourth-quarter mindset. “Run the offense but knock down the shots and play up-tempo defense. It worked out.”
From there, it was just a matter of time until the final horn sounded on a 56-41 win and the Wood fans rained Hershey kisses onto the court.
This is Vikings fourth consecutive state championship game appearance and seventh in the last eight years.
“It’s awesome,” McDonald said. “I’m fortunate that people built this before me and they created basically a mindset that they understand what it takes to get there and they expect to win. They understand the commitment needed to get there every year. That’s the difference here — there’s a mindset at Wood that’s expect to win. People buy in, parents buy in, players buy in — obviously — coaches buy in and even the Wood community and administration support it. We’re lucky that way.”
“It says so much,” May added. “Coach just enforces it all year long — we practice literally every month even through the summer. It shows especially in the final games that we know the offense and are a lot more composed and ready than other teams.”
The Vikings fell behind 7-0 before getting their first basket — a Karly Brown three-pointer. They trailed 12-3 late in the first quarter, but followed with an 11-2 run to tie the game at 14.
“Just calmed down,” McDonald said of Wood getting past its slow start. “I think in the beginning they heard the crowd and it was loud and they just stopped thinking, they were panicking a little bit. After that they settled in and they were fine. They’ve been in plenty of big games, so it’s just a matter of composing. Luckily it didn’t go up too big and I thought the end of the first half was important for us to cut it close to build on that in the second half. We realized once we settled down it went well for us.”
Katie May hit a three to tie the game at 19 with 1:35 remaining in the first half and another to tie the game at 22 at the buzzer.
She scored eight of her game-high 13 points in the second quarter.
“It didn’t start out that great,” May said. “But my coach always gives me the green light to shoot whenever. I just knew I had to knock it down — especially since we were down and our team needed it.”
Sebold joined May in double figures with 12 points and Shannon May had eight before leaving with a shoulder injury.
Walker led the Warriors with 12 points, Jayla Galbreath added 10 and Maddie Geiple nine.
Archbishop Wood 56, Susquehannock 41
Archbishop Wood 5 17 11 23 — 56
Susquehannock 12 10 6 13 — 41
Archbishop Wood: Brown 2 0-0 5, S May 2 2-2 8, Sebold 3 6-7 12, Arcidiacono 2 0-1 5, Andrews 1 0-0 2, Morgan 2 0-0 5, K May 5 0-1 13, Parsons 0 2-2 2, Neher 2 0-0 4. Total 19 10-13 56.
Susquehannock: Tannura 0 4-4 4, Walker 4 2-2 12, Galbreath 3 1-2 10, Williams 3 0-0 6, Mahan 4 0-1 9. Total 14 7-9 41.
Three-point goals: Wood: Brown, S May 2, Arcidiacono, Morgan, K May 3. Susquehannock: Walker 2, Galbreath 3, Mahan.