ROYERSFORD >> Minutes after West Chester Henderson lost to defending state champion Archbishop Wood in the PIAA 5A state quarterfinals, 40-35, Saturday afternoon, an emotional Warrior head coach Greta Neff reflected in the sudden ending of the 2017-18 girls’ basketball season.
“If you had told me last September that my team would be 30-1 and the only game we lose would be the last game of the season, I’ll take it any day of the year, and I still will,” said Neff. “This team has overachieved from the beginning – and that’s exactly what they are, a team, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
On the other side of the Spring-Ford High School gym, Archbishop Wood senior all-state guard Katie May was taking a different tack.
“When the final buzzer sounded, my first thought was, ‘Finally, we won,’” said May. “Henderson was one of the toughest teams we played defensively this year, but one of the keys for us today was that we rebounded with them, and Lindsay [sophomore Lindsay Tretter] really made some big plays for us today.”
Tretter nailed four treys and finished with 14 points (as did May) to lead the Vikings (21-7), who will now face District 11 champion Southern Lehigh (27-2) Tuesday March 20 in the state semifinal. Southern Lehigh defeated District 3 champ Harrisburg, 42-36, in their state quarterfinal Saturday.
All season long, Henderson had relied on their rebounding advantage, but Saturday, Wood held their own with the Warriors, pulling down 26 rebounds to Henderson’s 29. The Warriors grabbed 21 rebounds in the first half, but pulled down only eight in the second half.
Archbishop Wood head coach Mike McDonald said, “I thought Erin Morgan (five rebounds) and Katie May (10 rebounds) down low defensively against their bigs was the major key to victory for us. If they didn’t keep [Henderson’s bigs] away from the basket, we would have had a tough time, because they would have been able to score down low pretty easily.”
Neff said, “Wood’s a very good basketball team — they’ve been here before. Our legs were tired today, you could see it, it’s been a long season.”
Archbishop Wood defeated Henderson, 38-28, in the first round of the PIAA 5A state tournament last year, and Saturday, Henderson came out of the locker room on fire, disrupting the Wood offense for an early 12-2 lead.
A trio of steals by senior forward Abbey Shea, senior point guard Maddie DePrisco and senior guard Erin Torrance, the last one leading to an end-to-end drive by Torrance for a three-point scoring play, helped to give the Warriors a 12-2 lead with 2:13 left in the first period.
“We came out early and tried our hardest [for a fast start], we were tough on defense,” said DePrisco.
The game turned into a bruising defensive battle on both sides.
“We didn’t get good passing or ball movement early,” said McDonald. “But we settled down in the second quarter, and [the halftime break] was huge for us. And then we got a little bit of movement against Henderson’s 2-3 defense and we started finding shooters. Lindsay Tretter was huge for us, and I’m always happy to see someone step us like she did today.”
Tretter scored eight points (including a couple of treys) in the final period to help turn the tide for the Vikings. Through three quarters, Henderson’s defense had kept Wood at bay, and the Warriors led 27-23 with just eight minutes to play.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, May’s mid-range jumper cut Henderson’s lead to 27-25, then Tretter hit a trey to give the Vikings a 28-27 lead, their first lead since early in the first quarter.
“In the beginning of the game, I was a little nervous because I’d never played in a game this big before,” said Tretter. “But once I started hitting my shots and making some [plays on defense]. I felt more confident.”
A Henderson turnover was followed by a May turnaround jumper to make it 30-27, then free throws by Henderson’s Grace Ferguson and Adrienne Smith cut Wood’s lead to 30-29.
After both teams traded turnovers, Tretter hit another three-pointer off an in-bounds play to give Wood a 33-29 lead, their biggest lead of the game to that point.
Ferguson, who led the Henderson rebounding with nine boards, blocked a Wood shot with 2:30 left, giving the Warriors the ball, but a missed shot underneath gave the ball back to the Vikings. Henderson shot 10-for-37 from the field Saturday, while Wood was 14-for-47.
Another basket by Tretter, and a free throw by Morgan, gave Wood a 36-29 lead with only 46 seconds left, but Henderson junior guard Erin Thompson nailed a trey from the right side with 35.8 seconds left to cut the Vikings’ lead to 36-32.
May then grabbed offensive rebounds off back-to-back missed one-and-ones by Wood, then was fouled and hit both ends of a one-and-one to make it 38-32 with 25.6 seconds left.
“Katie May’s leadership and composure meant a lot to us today,” said McDonald. “She wasn’t making shots for a strech there [early in the game], so for her to continue to do all the little things, like rebounding, playing defense, and then hitting a couple of shots late was huge. She’s huge for us in so many facets of the game, even when she doesn’t fill up the stat sheet.”
After two more Wood free throws gave the Vikings a 40-32 lead, Thompson (who led the Warriors with 12 points) hit a last-gasp trey with 3.8 seconds left to make it 40-35.
After the game, seniors DePrisco and Shea reflected on the last game of their scholastic basketball careers.
“I had so much fun this season.” said DePrisco. “Our team was so successful, and I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with anyone else. These girls are my family, I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”
Shea said, “I think this being the last game for our seniors, who haven’t committed [for basketball] anywhere, the effort that we put into [this season] shows our dedication. We spent four months together. We have a great coach, and a great team. We’ve worked hard for four years, and this is a tough one [to lose]. Wood is a tough team, and they can go 11 deep, and we had to struggle to keep it up, but I think we played a good game today.”
Neff said, “These kids have learned a lot about life through this [experience], and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Archbishop Wood 40, West Chester Henderson 35
West Chester Henderson 12 3 12 8 – 35
Archbishop Wood 5 7 11 17 – 40
West Chester Henderson (35): DePrisco 1 0-0 3, Ferguson 3 3-6 9, Shea 1 1-2 3, Smith 0 2-4 2, Tench 0 0-0 0, Thompson 3 4-4 12, Torrance 2 1-1 6. Totals 10 11-17 35.
Archbishop Wood (40): Andrews 0 0-0 0, Arcidiacono 0 0-0 0, May 4 6-6 14, Morgan 1 1-3 3, Orihel 3 0-0 6, Parsons 0 0-0 0, Tretter 5 0-0 14, Whalen 1 0-0 3. Totals 14 7-9 40.
3-point field goals: DePrisco, Thompson 2, Torrance, Tretter 4, Whalen.