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Archbishop Wood, SOL face off in Reporter/Times Herald/Montgomery girls basketball team of decade semifinals

Archbishop Wood starters including Cassie Sebold (4) and Claire Bassetti (44) are all smiles as they head out of the game in the final seconds against Gwynedd Mercy Academy in the PIAA tournament game at Archbishop Ryan in Philadelphia Saturday March 12, 2016. Wood won 42-33. (Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group)

Four teams remain in the hunt for the Reporter/Times Herald/Montgomery Media Girls Basketball Team of the Decade.

Top seed Archbishop Wood (2015-16) and No. 2 Central Bucks West (2014-15) have held serve so far but the other two entrants have played above their seeding. No. 5 Souderton (2017-18) isn’t a huge surprise to have gotten this far but No. 11 Archbishop Wood (2016-17) pulled two upsets, first over No. 6 North Penn (2013-14) and then the shock of the quarterfinals over No. 3 Archbishop Wood (2010-11).

There are a few common denominators — all-state picks, district titles, 24 or more wins – between the four squads but only two get to advance through this round of reader voting on Twitter at @ReporterSports.

No. 1 Archbishop Wood (2015-16) vs. No. 5 Souderton (2017-18) >> Wood’s team that took the Vikings back to the state and PCL summit will try to advance past the Indians’ top squad of the last decade.

Wood always plays a difficult nonleague schedule but early on, it seemed like it could have been too much as the Vikings started 4-6. Any fears proved to be poorly rooted as Wood simply won the next 21 games it played that season, along the way snapping Neumann-Goretti’s 53-game PCL winning streak in the Catholic League championship, winning a District 12 title and securing the last state title of the old 3A classification. State player of the year Bailey Greenberg powered a Vikings team that used its size in the frontcourt to stifle foes.

Souderton set the stage for its superb season with a PIAA 6A semifinal appearance the year before. The Indians, led by senior co-captains Kate Connolly, Alana Cardona, Tori Dowd and Megan Walbrandt, collected a 29-3 record while hoisting SOL Continental, SOL tournament and District 1 6A titles. An outstanding defensive team, Souderton blended aggressive perimeter defense with some emphatic shot-blocking on the back end as it returned to the state semifinals.

Souderton’s Tori Dowd passes to Megan Walbrandt after fighting for a loose ball with North Penn’s Carly Adams Jan. 9, 2018. (Bob Raines/MediaNews Group)

There is one more commonality between the teams. Connolly spent her freshman and sophomore years at Archbishop Wood and was a starter on the Vikings’ 2016 state title squad before transferring back to her hometown school Souderton for her junior and senior seasons.

No. 2 CB West (2014-15) vs. No. 11 Archbishop Wood (2016-17) >> The Bucks will try to end the trend of higher seeds going down to the Vikings’ most recent state championship squad.

Both teams ended up in Hershey but it was Wood that came home with a trophy to complete a back-to-back of state titles. West, which happened to run into a Cumberland Valley squad in the midst of a dominant run in the old Class 4A, piled up more than enough of a resume to make up for it.

The Bucks went 32-2, which included a 24-game winning streak and captured an SOL Continental title, the first ever SOL tournament title and a District 1 championship behind a hard-charging style. West, led by first team all-state pick and Michigan recruit Nicole Munger, third team all-state and Colgate recruit Mackenzie Carroll and Binghamton recruit Corrinne Godshall, rolled most opponents while posting 62 ppg and allowing 40.

Central Bucks West captains Mackenzie Carroll, Peyton Traina, Corrinne Godshall and Nicole Munger accept the runner-up trophy after their 40-35 loss to Cumberland Valley in the PIAA AAAA championship game on Friday, March 20, 2015 at the Giant Center in Hershey. (Bob Raines/MediaNews Group)

While the Vikings returned a significant amount of players from the previous season’s PCL and state title double, they were still a different type of team chasing the repeat. Losing three starters meant an overhaul to the first five and a new look bench. Junior Katie May, the lone returner in the frontcourt, turned in a first team all-state effort while senior guards Cassie Sebold (second team all-state) and Shannon May (third team all-state) set the tone with their aggressive defending. A loss to Cardinal O’Hara at the Palestra denied the Vikings a second straight PCL title, but they cranked their defense up to a new level in the PIAA tournament to capture the first Class 5A title.

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