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For Wood, March belongs to May

Katie May is ending March in fine form.

At some point during each of Archbishop Wood’s three state playoff games so far, the senior forward has taken over the game. It was most visible in the quarterfinals against West Chester Henderson, where she willed the Vikings past their unbeaten opponent and into the semifinals.

With Southern Lehigh standing between May, Wood and another trip to Hershey, don’t be surprised if she takes over again on Saturday when the teams meet for a 2 p.m. start at Souderton.

“A player led team is much better than a coach led team and that’s the benefit of having Katie out there,” Wood coach Mike McDonald said. “The kids will listen to their seniors so when the players are out there leading, it’s a lot better for everybody involved.”

Against the Warriors of Henderson, May posted 14 points and 10 rebounds and seemed to be involved in every big play down the stretch on both ends of the floor. With Henderson eager to avenge a state playoff loss to Wood from last season, May decided she wasn’t going down yet.

A round prior, against Twin Valley, it was more of the same. While freshman Kaitlyn Orihel carried most of the scoring load late, May had four of her 13 points in the fourth quarter and ripped down five of her nine rebounds in the final eight minutes.

The Raiders chopped Wood’s lead down to four early in that frame. May, who added two blocks, helped make sure they wouldn’t get any closer than that.

She scored nine points in Wood’s first round win over Springfield (Delco), and again helped control the glass.

“It’s my senior year, I want to go out on top and I think all the seniors feel that way,” May said. “We’re going to do everything in our power to get us to Hershey and win our final game. I felt like the seniors my previous three years definitely stepped up in the state playoffs and I felt like it was my turn to do that.”

Thursday’s game will be May’s 19th career state playoff game. She’s played in the last three state championship games and won the last two state titles, so there’s nothing about this time of year that fazes the Northeastern recruit.

With nearly an entire regular season’s worth of state games to her name, May knows how to block out everything but what’s happening on the floor. It took a couple years to find that comfort zone, but it gives her a huge advantage, especially when things get close.

“When we play other teams and I see how nervous other people are, that’s when it hits me the most because I’ve been here so many times,” May said. “Not that it seems like any other game to me, it obviously is important but I’ve been there and know what to expect and I think other teams haven’t done that.”

May said she started to feel that comfort at the end of last season’s state title run and it showed in the state final, where she played all 32 minutes and through four fouls in crunch time of the fourth quarter.

She’s also watched how the team’s seniors led the Vikings in each of those years and filled the same closer role she now occupies. Whether it was Aubree Brown as a freshman, Bailey Greenberg as a sophomore or Cassie Sebold and older sister Shannon last year, May’s had more than enough learning on the job.

“Knowing that it’s coming to an end, she wants to go out as a winner,” McDonald said. “Not that she wouldn’t go out a winner anyway, but she wants her season to end with a win in Hershey and at the very least, she wants to get to Hershey to have that experience one last time. She has talked about it and you can see it in her, she wants the legacy of winning a third straight state title.”

May is also tailor-made for the job. The senior is an extremely well-rounded player, mixing scoring, passing, rebounding and defending seamlessly into the Vikings’ system. She shoots the three at a high percentage, she can score from the low block and hits shots everywhere in between.

While she’s Wood’s tallest regular player at 5-foot-1o, May still gives up a few inches to a lot of opponents but compensates with technique and tenacity to snare rebounds. It’s the same thing defensively where the senior parlays timing and positioning into stops.

“I’m not the best scorer or the best defender but if I can be a little bit of everything, whatever my team needs, if they need a rebound or need a basket, if I can be that person, then I’m doing the best I can for my team,” May said. “Coach always talks about we want to play our speed and I think as a senior I can say let’s get the shot we want and let’s keep this possession our speed.”

May’s game isn’t flashy or overly eye-catching but it’s quality is apparent with repeated viewing.

“I think you need to watch her a lot as a fan to really understand everything she does,” McDonald said. “When there’s a play to be made or a pass to be made, she makes it. There’s no decisions she makes that you really question. Sure, every once in a while they happen, but they’re rare and it’s not often you have a high school kid who makes those rare bad decisions. You understand what she’s trying to do.”

The Spartans are coming off an impressive victory against Harrisburg in the quarterfinals and McDonald has seen a lot of good things on the film he’s watched of Southern Lehigh. He cited junior Olivia Snyder as the key player for the District 11 side while senior point guard Amanda Mobley is the one who sets the pace and Ellie Cassel is a threat anywhere inside the arc.

Aside from her rebounding, May’s voice has been her strongest asset in the state playoffs. McDonald said she’s more vocal and the team’s younger players have been following her lead.

“My leadership has improved, I didn’t speak much my first three years because we had such strong leadership,” May said. “My vocal leadership and even my actions on the court, I think it’s been a stronger presence for the other girls. The coaches wanted that to be a big part of my game this year so I’ve always been trying to be the best leader I can.”

The best way to measure May’s impact is actually to watch the Vikings when she’s not on the floor. Wood doesn’t seem quite the same team without the senior out there.

Wood’s coaches understand filling the void May will leave in the lineup is a big challenge. It’s one they’re hoping not to think about until after the state title game.

“She’s going to be hard to replace,” McDonald said. “We’re going to have to figure out what to do because of everything she brings to the table for us. It’s so invaluable to have her.”

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