PHILADELPHIA >> It was a familiar game in a familiar gym in an all-too-familiar time of the year for Katie May. The challenge, she said, was approaching the moment as though it was revolutionary.
In doing so, May found her edge. It’s also how she found her teammates with wide-open looks, and how Archbishop Wood found its way into the second round of the PIAA Class 5A bracket.
May led the charge Saturday in Archbishop Wood’s 46-25 win over Springfield in the state tournament opener. The senior had 11 points, six rebounds, four steals, and three assists for the Vikings (19-7), whose visit to Catholic League foe Archbishop Ryan’s gym ended with a lopsided victory.
Archbishop Wood, the reigning 5A state champion, has been here before. So has May.
“It kind of feels like another game for us,” the Northeastern commit said. “But with this being my senior year, every game is a big game. So I’m just trying to enjoy it for as long as I can.”
The champion of District 12, Archbishop Wood turned a close game at intermission into a runaway victory. The Vikings shot 8-for-11 from the field in the third quarter, outscored Springfield, 19-5, and induced six turnovers on defense.
May saved her best for the third quarter. On consecutive trips down the floor, she called for the ball just a step outside the paint. On both possessions, she collected a pass, took two dribbles, and surveyed her surroundings for kickout passes to the wing. She found Kaitlyn Orihel both times; once, for a wide-open 3-pointer, and again for a driving layup.
Those passes, coupled with May’s two buckets in the quarter, helped Archbishop Wood open up what had been a tight game. The Vikings transformed a 19-11 halftime lead into a 22-point advantage with eight minutes remaining.
Depth, said Vikings coach Mike McDonald, helped his team flash different defensive looks against Springfield (21-8). Cougars point guard Alyssa Long saw it differently. Archbishop Wood defenders met Long, Springfield’s primary ballhandler, just across midcourt nearly every possession. The Vikings did not relent. They trapped Long on the sidelines, in the corners, and everywhere in between. When she managed to pass out of the double teams, Long’s teammates would receive similar defensive attention.
“That was probably the biggest problem, getting the ball upcourt,” said Long, who finished with six points and two assists. “They gave us so much pressure in the backcourt that we couldn’t get a play started or a set run.
“It just makes things more difficult, more hectic, more chaotic. It’s frustrating. It doesn’t flow to our offense well and, overall, it takes us out of our game, which is probably what they wanted to do.”
Springfield, the fifth seed out of District 1, did not help its cause, either. Archbishop Wood staged a 12-0 run to open the game, and the Vikings applied constant defensive pressure in the backcourt. That approach led to eight first-half turnovers by Springfield, including six in that tumultuous first quarter. For the game, the Cougars shot 5-for-31 overall and 1-for-11 from 3-point range.
“(Archbishop Wood) created havoc and forced turnovers,” said Springfield coach Ky McNichol. “When you play that kind of defense, you’re throwing a double(-team) every single time. It changed everything we wanted to do.
“Then in the second half, we got things close and we just couldn’t get anything to drop; from the foul line, from anywhere. Nothing would drop.”
Archbishop Wood, led by May, also picked up 11 points, five rebounds, and four assists from Bridget Arcidiacono. Orihel wasn’t far behind, with seven points and five boards.
Now, the Vikings are four wins away from claiming their third consecutive state crown.
“I think we have a culture where we expect to win in games like this, and it’s a big confidence booster for our kids,” said McDonald, the Vikings’ coach. “It’s still a matter of execution and having to knock down shots, and that’s what we did today.”
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