Stout defense, clutch shots lead Archbishop Wood past Cardinal O’Hara

CHELTENHAM >> It was a case of neither team making many shots, but Archbishop Wood made the two biggest.

The first, a driving and-one layup by senior guard Cassie Sebold at the end of the first quarter, got the Vikings on track. The second, a 3-pointer by junior forward Katie May off the right wing late in the third quarter, broke a tie and put Wood ahead for good.

Those two shots, combined with a masterfully executed defensive plan, were enough to spark the Vikings to a 34-20 Philadelphia Catholic League win over Cardinal O’Hara at Arcadia University on Friday night.

“They made a 3 and another shot where we were down by five, and Wood just likes to run their offense, they’re really good with it and really patient and good at getting the right shot,” O’Hara junior guard Kenzie Gardler said. “I think we got out of our rhythm because they just kept running through their set until they got a shot and we just couldn’t get into an offense.”

O’Hara (9-4, 5-2 league) started better only by the fact that it had a 9-4 lead with 6.8 seconds left in the first quarter when Wood was about to inbound. To that point, the Vikings had been struggling against O’Hara’s press and just in general playing half-court offense.

With the clock pressing matters, Sebold received the inbound pass and made a play. The senior sped down the floor and right into the paint, putting up a shot through contact which fell in and she hit the following free throw with just one second left in the quarter.

“I knew we needed points and getting that, I think, put us over the edge,” Sebold said. “We needed a score to get over the hump, because we really couldn’t score before that.”

It was a big play in that it gave Wood (8-5, 5-0) life and as Gardler noted, sucked some energy from the Lions heading into the second frame. Wood got a spark from senior guard Karly Brown off the bench in the second quarter, her free throws with 4:22 left giving Wood its first lead at 11-10.

O’Hara would tie the game in the third, but it never went back in front after those Brown foul shots and the senior extended the lead when she drilled a 3-pointer 83 seconds later. A bucket by Bridget Arcidiacono with 16 seconds left in the second quarter put Wood ahead 19-14 at the break.

“It felt good to win the first big game we’ve had,” Wood senior Shannon May said. “It really means something. Not that our other games didn’t matter but this one means something for the playoffs.”

Wood survived much of the first half with Katie May on the bench with three fouls. The Vikings used their bench players well during those stretches, and kept up their high level of defense against a very potent O’Hara offense.

It all started with the way Wood defended O’Hara’s tremendous senior point guard, Hannah Nihill. Up top, the guards like Sebold and Shannon May, did as much as possible to keep Nihill in front of them. Inevitably, the Drexel-bound guard would get by a defender and into the lane but when she did, Nihill rarely had any kind of option.

“Defensively I thought we did really well,” Wood coach Mike McDonald said. “We helped when we had to help, outside of the first quarter, but we didn’t over-help to where we were giving them wide-open 3-pointers. The defensive game plan was executed perfectly.”

“I’m sure that was their main goal, because we’re a shooting team and everyone knows that,” Gardler said. “They probably want to get to the help side, but not collapse on the shooters on the outside.”

Archbishop Wood’s Bridget Arcidiacono goes to the basket during the Vikings’ game against Cardinal O’’Hara at Arcadia University on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

The third quarter was almost devoid of offense. O’Hara’s Maura Hendrixson buried a trey 55 seconds in, then neither team scored until Lions senior Mary Sheehan hit a shot at the rim to tie the game 19-19 with 2:06 left in the frame.

Katie May, still playing with three fouls, finally put Wood on the board in the second half with 53 ticks left when her sister set her up for the go-ahead 3-pointer. Sebold had another late finish, getting a layup with three seconds left that restored Wood’s five-point lead at 24-19.

“Erin Morgan set a great screen, we go over it in practice all the time and it got me wide-open,” May said. “I knew I had to knock it down.”

“They hit a 3 and then a quick two, so we were down by five and never came back from that,” Gardler said. “It was a tough game for us, because we like to get it and go, but our layups weren’t falling and we couldn’t get into a rhythm and I think that was our main problem.”

Nihill had five points, all in the first quarter and Wood paid Gardler equal respect on defense, holding the Villanova-bound junior to just two points. Sheehan had a team-high seven points and seven rebounds for O’Hara.

Wood was able to put some extra space into its lead when Shannon May poked the ball away from Nihill, raced to the rim and scored while being fouled by the pursuing Nihill. Officials ruled it an intentional foul, giving May two foul shots on top of the bucket for a four-point play.

“I was so proud of her,” Katie May said of her sister’s play. “She really wanted it, she’s a senior and a captain, plus my sister, so I was happy to see her make such a big play. It just felt like we had it at that point.”

Sebold hit a pair of foul shots with 1:34 left for the final margin and giving her a team-high seven for the game. The Vikings also hit 8-of-11 from the foul line in the final frame.

“We just really made them work for their points,” Sebold said.

Archbishop Wood 34, Cardinal O’Hara 20
Cardinal O’Hara 9 5 5 1 – 20
Archbishop Wood 7 12 5 10 – 34
Cardinal O’Hara (20): Mary Sheehan 2 3-4 7, Hannah Nihill 2 1-1 5, Maura Hendrixson 2 0-0 5, Kenzie Gardler 1 0-0 2, Molly Paolino 0 1-2 1. Nonscoring: Hoy, Denoncour. Totals: 7 5-7 20
Archbishop Wood (34): Cassie Sebold 2 3-3 7, Shannon May 1 4-5 6, Karly Brown 1 3-4 6, Katie May 1 2-2 5, Erin Morgan 2 0-0 4, Nikki Greenberg 1 0-0 2, Meg Neher 1 0-2 2, Bridget Arcidiacono 1 0-0 2. Nonscoring: Parsons. Totals: 9 14-18 34

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