Bench helps Archbishop Wood take down Germantown Academy

LOWER MERION >> Archbishop Wood girls basketball coach Mike McDonald had a message for his bench players prior to the weekend.

With three tough games in three days, the Vikings were going to need everyone to get through it. Wood prides itself on its depth and Saturday afternoon, the Vikings reserves gave McDonald just what he was looking for.

The Vikings used a big second quarter run to open up space, pulling away for a 53-37 over Germantown Academy at the Blue Chip Super Showcase held at Harriton High School.

“We’ve got a lot of great bench minutes and we talked about doing that before the game,” McDonald said. “We expected a lot of kids would have to get some minutes and everybody that did really stepped up and handled it.”

The Vikings’ bench combined for just 14 points, but gave the starting five some invaluable minutes off the floor. On top of that, the reserves did all the other things that Wood expects, like rebounding, passing and defending which helped lead to some baskets.

Part of it was GA’s defending and part of it was Wood not running its offense, but the Vikings looked average for a quarter and a half. Then Mia Andrews drained a 3-pointer for a 13-9 lead and Wood (12-5, 8-0 PCL) was back on track.

“No matter what shot goes in, everyone on the floor and bench gets excited about it,” Andrews, a sophomore who scored five off the bench, said.

A driving layup by Shannon May put Wood up 17-14 then after GA’s Alexa Naessens split a pair of foul shots, the Vikings caught fire. Wood closed the half on a 13-0 run, fueled by a trio of 3-pointers, with Cassie Sebold, Katie May and Shannon May all connecting.

“Basketball is a game of runs and that was their run,” GA sophomore Rachel Balzer said. “We had a run in the beginning but that’s a great team, well-coached, strong defensively and amazing offensively.”

McDonald has known Balzer, GA’s resident sharpshooter since she was in the third grade, so he made sure she was well defended at all times.

That’s where the bench helped out again, with players like Andrews, Shannon Kelly and Ryleigh Parsons all taking turns guarding Balzer.

“You try to watch the starters and see what they do,” junior forward Erin Morgan said. “The seniors set a great example of how to play and everyone feeds off each other.”

Normally, Wood will leave a starter or two out with some reserves, but there were a few spells of five bench players on the floor on Saturday.

Karly Brown is the most experienced player coming off the bench as a senior co-captain, but the younger reserves are just as confident coming in.

“We all just want to win,” Andrews said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a starter or coming from the bench, you go in wanting to win.”

Katie May paced Wood with 15 points, seven rebounds, five assists and a block while Shannon May scored nine points with three steals.

GA (14-9, 7-1 Inter-Ac) was led by 14 points from junior Alexa Naessens, who showed some vintage post moves and never stopped attacking inside. Balzer scored eight, but was held to just two points in the first three quarters.

“I was trying to get my teammates open as much as I could, (Wood was) focused on taking me out of the game,” Balzer said. “They defended me pretty well, they’re just a good defensive team.”

Afters Andrews’ trey, junior Nikki Greenberg provided the second-biggest basket off the game. The forward, who also comes off the bench, scored a buzzer-beating layup at the end of the second quarter, putting Wood up 16 points.

Katie May buried a 3-pointer off an assist from her sister to end the third quarter.

GA is also relying on some young players, more so now that senior co-captain Lilly Bolen is lost for the season with a knee injury. The Patriots started two freshmen and have just one senior, Abby Starzecky, playing rotation minutes at the moment.

“Maddie Burns came in today and had some great rebounds,” Balzer said. “We’re a young team but everybody is stepping up without Lilly. We’re just going to have to learn and improve from every game.”

With Wood, it seems like it’s a different player off the bench chipping in each game. McDonald said some of them are still finding their roles but they’re gaining confidence and always look to provide that kind of spark.

“Everyone knows how to play, we work really hard at practice and it helps everyone get better,” Morgan said. “You always have to be ready to go in, you never know when they’re going to call your number. Coach always tells us our bench is very deep so you always have to be on your game.”

Archbishop Wood 53, Germantown Academy 37

Germantown Academy 9 5 9 14 – 37
Archbishop Wood 7 23 14 9 – 53
Germantown Academy: Maddie Vizza 1 0-0 3, Abby Starzecky 2 4-4 8, Rachel Balzer 2 4-4 8, Alexa Naessens 6 2-4 14, Jaye Haynes 1 2-3 4, Shannon Topley 0 0-1 0. Nonscoring: Elle Stauffer, Maddie Burns, Taylor Putnam. Totals: 12 12-16 37.
Archbishop Wood: Shannon May 4 0-0 9, Cassie Sebold 2 3-4 8, Bridget Arcidiacono 1 0-0 3, Katie May 6 0-0 15, Meg Neher 2 0-0 4, Nikki Greenberg 1 0-0 2, Erin Morgan 1 0-0 2, Mia Andrews 2 0-0 5, Shannon Kelly 0 3-5 3, Lindsay Tretter 1 0-0 2. Nonscoring: Karly Brown, Ryleigh Parsons, Nina Dougherty, Elizabeth Fasti. Totals: 20 6-9 53.
3-pointers: GA – Vizza; AW – K May 3, S May, Sebold, Arcidiacono, Andrews.

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