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Wood’s 2016, 2017 state title teams a starting spot for Sebold and May

Cassie Sebold and Katie May were the equivalent of a common denominator for Archbishop Wood’s most recent state champions.

The final matchup of the Reporter/Times Herald/Montgomery Media girls’ basketball team of the decade bracket pits No. 1 Archbishop Wood (2015-16) against No. 11 Archbishop Wood (2016-17) in a clash of state champions with different identities. While there was a mixture of roster turnover and style change between the two seasons, Sebold and May were right in the middle of it.

Sebold and May were the only two players to start for both teams, so while this is a win-win scenario for them, each season brought a different role for the two of them.

“Being a part of those teams was so special and I’d do anything to get those PCL and state championship games back, we had such good chemistry, we were best friends on and off the court and we just got each other,” Sebold said. “We trusted each other and I think that’s something a lot of teams never experience or never have and I’m grateful to have been a part of something like that. I think it’s something a lot of Wood players from the past until now can say and it’s special to be a part of.”

May, a 5-foot-11 forward, was a sophomore in 2015-16 while Sebold, a 5-foot-5 guard, was a junior for the first of the back-to-back state titles. A year later, Sebold was one of four senior co-captains while May was the only returning starter in the frontcourt and the team’s tallest player.

PETE BANNAN-DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA Archbishop Wood’s Katie May (facing camera) gives teammate Cassie Sebold a hug in the final seconds against Gwynedd Mercy Academy in PIAA State playoffs at Archbishop Ryan in Philadelphia Saturday March 12, 2016. Wood won 42-33.

In 2015-16, May joined sophomore Kate Connolly and senior Bailey Greenberg to form an imposing frontline that walled off the basket. With Greenberg, the eventual state player of the year, Wood’s go-to on offense, May was able to focus on defense and using her shooting to space the floor.

A year later, the wall was gone and she would have to be the last line of defense.

“I had to take on more of a forward role, I was usually guarding the tallest girl on the other team, so learning how to do that and being more physical and stronger is what changed most,” May said. “Bailey or Kate usually guarded the best big girl, so I had to change my mentality from guarding point guards or guards to forwards and centers.”

May was so integral to what Wood was trying to do in 2016-17 that in the state final, the Vikings couldn’t sub her out and she played most of the second half with four fouls. On top of her defensive role changing, May had to learn how to handle being the go-to option late in games.

A first team all-state selection that season, May led the Vikings in scoring and rebounds.

“The previous year, especially at the end of games, it was ‘look to Bailey,’” May said. “It didn’t go to me all the time, but I always had to be ready for Coach Mike (McDonald) to say ‘it’s Katie’s time’ or ‘look to Katie, we’re drawing up a play for her.’ It was a different mentality.”

Wood made the state title game all four years May was in the program and coupled with the yearly grind of the PCL or the Vikings’ usual tough nonleague games, helped shape her into a future Division I player. May was the PA Class 5A Player of the Year in 2017-18 and has been a two-year starter in college heading into her junior year at Northeastern.

She credits her time at Wood as a whole for preparing her for the college level but the 2015-16 season especially set the foundation. As a sophomore starting on a team with serious PCL and state title aspirations, May figured out quickly what it took to be a winning player.

Archbishop Wood’s Katie May stuffs Mars’s Tai Johnson during the PIAA 5A girls’ Championship game at Giant Center in Hershey on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. KIRK NEIDERMYER | DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA

“ I think my game grew the most that year just learning from the older players and being a pivotal part of the team, a lot was expected of me even as a young player,” May said. “Having that pressure put on from myself and my teammates, I grew a lot mentally as well.”

Sebold was content to follow the lead of Greenberg and Claire Bassetti, the two co-captains in 2015-16, and filled her roles as an aggressive perimeter defender and floor spacer with an ability to drive on offense. After winning the PCL title and PIAA 3A title in 2015-16, Wood lost Greenberg and Bassetti to graduation and Connolly transferred to Souderton, leaving May and Sebold as the holdovers in the starting five.

While the Vikings had players ready to step into the starting five in seniors Shannon May and Meg Neher and junior Bridget Arcidiacono plus a bench leader in senior Karly Brown, they were still mostly new to the position. Shannon May, now at USciences, had started early in the 2015-16 season but finished the campaign as a spark off the bench. For Sebold, a co-captain with Shannon May, Brown and Neher, it meant coming out of her comfort zone to build the team’s continuity.

Archbishop Wood #4 Cassie Sebold makes a layup in the first quarter against Gwynedd Mercy Academy in PIAA State playoffs at Archbishop Ryan in Philadelphia Saturday March 12, 2016. Wood won 42-33.

“Katie and I had to take on big leadership roles especially because our offense is very intricate so we had to be leaders not just with our play, but through talking,” Sebold said. “For me, that wasn’t something I was completely used to. Katie’s always been a natural born leader but I had to adjust to that because I knew I had the experience and the other girls may not have been as comfortable.”

Sebold and Shannon May formed a terrific duo, especially on the defensive end and parlayed it into second team and third team all-state selections respectively. A good outside shooter, a determined driver and clutch foul shooter, Sebold also found her voice as the season went on.

The guard, who was just named MVP of Chestnut Hill College’s womens’ basketball team, has carried that through her first three college seasons. Some lessons don’t always have an immediate payoff but Sebold has seen the payoff for what her time at Wood taught her.

Cassie Sebold (4) of Archbishop Wood drives to the hoop against Trinity in PIAA Class 5A girls’ basketball championship game action at the Giant Center in Hershey, PA on Saturday, March 25, 2017. Mark Palczewski | Special to PA Prep Live.

“I gained a lot more confidence my senior year of high school because I had to be that leader and now it comes a little more natural and is a little bit easier,” Sebold said. “Being a leader for Chestnut Hill is easier than it was for me at Wood.

“I don’t get super-nervous for games anymore like I would. Playing at the Palestra and playing at the Giant Center is a huge thing and super nerve-wracking, you step on the court at the PCL championship, the lights are on and you can’t even see the net because it’s so bright. Getting in those big games at Chestnut Hill now, it comes more naturally.”

Whichever team wins the final poll of voting, which can be found on Twitter at @ReporterSports, Sebold and May see it as a win-win due to their roles on each. At the same time, they know how different the two seasons were and each gained plenty from both teams.

“They were vastly different teams, we had Bailey at the forefront the first year and the next year was about trying to find who we were going to be without her,” May said. “That caused Cassie and I to step up the most, that second year people weren’t expecting us to do as well and we proved them wrong. They’re very different years but were both great.”

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