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Wood’s defense locks down second straight state title

HERSHEY >> All season, Cassie Sebold and Shannon May were a defensive force quite unlike any other.

So it made a whole lot of sense that in their last game together, they’d turn in one last defensive gem. Of course, that’s come to be expected of Archbishop Wood teams in general but with their senior backcourt playing stifling defense, Wood was really doing its thing.

Wood didn’t have a great offensive game and Trinity kept it close, but Wood’s defense led the way again as the Vikings won their second straight title, this time in Class 5A, 34-26 at the GIANT Center Saturday night.

“I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Sebold, a Chestnut Hill recruit, said. “My teammates, they made this experience so much better than if it had been anyone else. They’re all my best friends, we do everything together, we hang out all the time. I feel like some teams just interact on the floor but it’s helped us so much with chemistry and I think it was a reason why we were able to grind this out.”

Cassie Sebold (4) of Archbishop Wood drives to the hoop against Trinity in PIAA Class 5A girls’ basketball championship game action at the Giant Center in Hershey, PA on Saturday, March 25, 2017. Mark Palczewski | Special to PA Prep Live.

Wood started the game great, hitting its first three 3-point shots for a 9-0 lead over the Hillers out of District 7. The Vikings didn’t score over the last 4:49 of the first quarter and only pocketed five points in the entire second quarter but still led 14-7 at the half.

That was mostly thanks to the work of Sebold and May, who stuck to Trinty’s top scorer, senior Sierra Kotchman like a second shadow. The Hillers were a potent offensive team all around, with Kotchman the catalyst, capable of a huge night if left to her devices.

She soon found out that May and Sebold aren’t really fans of leaving opponents to do as they please.

“Coach Mike (McDonald) told us everything each individual player on their team did well and we knew (Kotchman) was their best player and could really shoot,” May said. “We had the decision to face-guard just like we have a couple games in the past. It wasn’t new to play like that. Cass and I, we know what each other is going to do. The team defense, it’s our signature thing.”

Kotchman scored seven points and shot just 2-of-7 from the floor.

Trinty got most of its production from Riley DeRubbo, who drew fouls at a consistently high rate all night, shooting 12 of the team’s 19 free throws. The Hillers got Wood into foul trouble early in the third quarter and with the Vikings continuing to struggle from the floor, started chipping the lead down and getting within two points at 19-17 early in the final quarter.

While Sebold and May handle the defense up top, it’s May’s sister Katie that takes care of the back end. A 5-foot-9 junior, Katie May is Wood’s best rebound and shot-blocker and despite being saddle with foul trouble, played every second of the 32-minute game.

Even playing with four fouls for a long stretch, the younger May didn’t hesitate and ended up recording seven blocks, six after halftime, seven rebounds, five assists and five points, all at the line in the fourth.

Ryleigh Parsons (34), Karly Brown (1), Shannon May (3), and Cassie Sebold (4) celebrate Archbishop Wood’s victory against Trinity in PIAA Class 5A girls’ basketball championship game at the Giant Center in Hershey, PA on Saturday, March 25, 2017. Mark Palczewski | Special to PA Prep Live.

“You have to be a little careful in full-court man, but when they’re going up for a layup, I’m pretty confident I can block shots without fouling,” May said. “We always say (hold the opponent to) 30. We don’t score that much so we really pride ourselves on our defense and if we keep teams under 30, we’ll most likely win the game.”

Sophomore Mia Andrews provided another pivotal spark for Wood, hitting two 3-pointers off the bench, one in each half and putting much-needed points on the board.

Katie May hit Bridget Arcidiacono for a layup with 4:45 left in the game, setting off a Wood run that wrestled control of the game back and put the Vikings in position to let their defense close it out. The run ended up being a 9-0 Wood spurt over 1:32, helped out by a couple of Trinty turnovers.

The big shot came from Sebold on a corner 3-pointer with 3:39 left in the game. It was typical Wood, swing the ball until someone’s open and the senior knew it was time to use her green light.

“I’ve been working on my shot and I knew I would need it a lot in this game,” Sebold said. “Hard work pays off. I don’t know, I was wide open in the corner and Coach Mike says when you get it, you can shoot it. It was perfect timing and a great moment.”

Sebold wasn’t too confident when she took it.

“She actually hit my hand a little bit, so I thought it was off,” Sebold said. “Thank God it went in.”

Bridget Arcidiacono (5) of Archbishop Wood gets fouled by Riley DeRubbo (34) and Jayme Britton (3) of Trinity in PIAA Class 5A girls’ basketball championship game action at the Giant Center in Hershey, PA on Saturday, March 25, 2017. Mark Palczewski | Special to PA Prep Live.

The senior hit two foul shots 16 seconds later and May capped the run with a driving layup for a 28-17 edge. Trinity got within seven and later six, but at that point, it was Wood’s defense doing its job.

“Our defense has been phenomenal all season,” McDonald said. “I don’t know what our average (points allowed) is, but it’s close to 30 or even under 30. I can’t say enough about what our guards do to other players to take teams out of their offense. Shannon May and Cassie make a tandem on defense that’s been extraordinary for the last three years. I couldn’t be prouder of them and all the seniors.”

Wood’s seniors have been to the Giant Center four years in a row. The first two times, they left heartbroken then last year, got to experience a state title. They weren’t going to leave without another one.

“I didn’t even think about it until this morning when I woke up,” Shannon May said. “It was my last time playing with Cassie, playing with Katie, playing under my mom (assistant coach Kathy) and Wood in general. I didn’t even know what to think when it hit me like that, I got really said.

“But I knew it would be ok if we won. You can’t get better than winning a state championship for your last game.”

ARCHBISHOP WOOD 9 5 4 15 – 34

TRINITY 4 3 8 11 – 26

Archbishop Wood: Shannon May 2 0-0 5, Cassie Sebold 2 6-6 12, Bridget Arcidiacono 2 1-2 6, Katie May 0 5-6 5, Mia Andrews 2 0-0 6. Nonscoring: Meg Neher, Karly Brown, Erin Morgan, Ryleigh Parsons, Shannon Kelly, Rhiannon Broadbine, Emily Halloran, Nikki Greenberg, Nina Dougherty. Totals: 8 12-14 34

Trinity: Kotchman 2 2-2 7, Cappelli 0 2-2 2, DeRubbo 1 11-12 13, O’Connor 1 2-3 4. Nonscoring: Lemons, Britton. Totals: 4 17-19 26

3-pointers: AW – Sebold 2, Andrews 2, Arcidiacono, S May; T – Kotchman

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