Allen, defense help Archbishop Wood rally past Cardinal O’Hara

WARMINSTER >> Ryanne Allen only saw Noelle Baxter at the last second, but didn’t think twice about giving up the ball.

Allen’s dish led to a short jumper by Baxter with 1:38 left in regulation that gave Archbishop Wood its first lead since the first quarter. For the Vikings and for Allen, it had been three quarters of tough going against Cardinal O’Hara but the junior rallied her team back in the final minutes.

Behind that assist and a 13-point final frame from Allen coupled with a few key defensive stops, Wood rallied past the visiting Vikings 43-40 Tuesday in their first PCL Red Division meeting this winter.

“My teammates kept encouraging me, which helped, but I’m confident and I’m going to keep shooting,” Allen, who notched a game-best 19 points, said. “Once one drops, the rest will follow and that’s what happened toward the end of the game. I knew I had the support of all the other players on the team.”

It’s become a recurring trend in recent years for Wood-O’Hara games to come down to the wire, with the Vikings needing a buzzer-beater to win last season’s meeting in Warrington, so a slugfest on Tuesday was par for the course.

Wood (3-0 PCL Red) scored five seconds into the game and held a 5-3 lead just past the midway point of the first quarter, but the hosts would have to wait a while to see a higher number on their side of the scoreboard again. Lions senior Siobhan Boylan, who played terrific defense on Allen for much of the game, scored seven points and assisted another basket as O’Hara (1-2 PCL Red) ended the first on a 9-2 run.

Although the first half wasn’t a crisp one offensively, the effort level was high with players from both teams diving to the floor, looking to take charges and fighting for every rebound.

“We knew we were in for a battle, we knew we had to play a full 32 minutes and I think we played about a 26-minute game,” O’Hara coach Chrissie Doogan said. “It’s a learning experience. Those end-of-game situations, this is two games in a row we’ve lost in the last minute of the game so we have to continue to improve.”

Compounding Wood’s struggles on offense in the first half was foul trouble. Seniors Kaitlyn Orihel and Dana Kiefer both picked up two fouls in the first quarter and Orihel adding a third in the second frame, forcing the Vikings to go to their bench.

Kara Meredith helped keep the Vikings afloat offensively, scoring all eight of her points in the first half while Allie Fleming and Delaney Finnegan also gave good minutes. Junior Shannon Morgan really rose to the occasion, playing a heavy dose of minutes and providing Wood some critical defense on O’Hara’s talented guard duo of Sydney Scott and Amaris Baker.

“We were rushing things, so I just wanted to play team ball and make sure we were going through our plays because they were killing us in the beginning,” Morgan said. “We just came together as a team, moved the ball around and tried to get the best shot instead of just forcing some things like we did at the beginning.”

O’Hara used a 3-pointer by Scott and a layup by Baker following a steal and outlet pass by Annie Welde to take a 29-20 lead with 3:34 left in the third quarter, the Lions’ largest advantage of the night. The well would dry up there as the Vikings closed the quarter on a 6-0 run, capped by an Allen bucket with just 0.6 left on the clock.

Archbishop Wood’s Ryanne Allen puts up a 3-pointer over Cardinal O’Hara’s Siobhan Boylan.

Allen would tie the game on a three assisted by Baxter to open the fourth, but Cardinal O’Hara had an answer this time. Maggie Doogan hit two at the line, Baker scored on a good drive to the net and after a Wood hoop, Julia Stellabotte converted a second-chance score off an offensive board for a 35-31 advantage and 3:19 on the clock.

“We have to be able to make foul shots and layups but we’ll get there,” Chrissie Doogan said. “I thought we did a nice job of driving and kicking, we got open shots but we couldn’t put them in the basket. We’ll get better, we still have a long way to go.”

From there, it was the Allen show offensively for Wood as the junior would score or assist the Vikings’ next 12 points. Allen sank a pair of free throws to halve the lead before Baxter forced a tie-up with 2:26 to play and the arrow favoring Archbishop Wood.

Kiefer found Allen on a cut to tie the game at 35-35, but the Vikings lost Orihel when she was whistled for her fifth foul with 1:56 on the clock. O’Hara couldn’t convert on the one-and-one however, giving the Vikings a chance to take the lead.

“Ryanne Allen put her team on her shoulders,” Chrissie Doogan said. “There’s a reason she’s a legit all-state player. She put her team on her back.”

Allen drove into the lane, sucking four Lions defenders into her path as she collected the ball and started to go up for a shot. Standing alone to her left was Baxter.

“I knew they were going to collapse on me, so someone was going to be open,” Allen said. “I saw Noelle out of the corner of my eye, so I knew I had to get her the ball. I trusted her to make that shot and she did.”

Baxter sank the short jumper with 1:38 to go, putting Wood back in front.

“I trust (Allen) to make a shot if she keeps going, so I kept telling her to keep her head up and play good defense, which she did,” Baxter said. “Honestly, I was in the right spot and she just made a great play. She could have gone up with it but I think the pass was the right decision and I was just happy to be there.”

The game wasn’t over and Wood had to close it out with defense and foul shooting. Allen blocked a layup on the ensuing possession, with Bri Bowen grabbing the rebound and forcing the Lions to foul.

After Allen hit two at the line, it was Morgan’s turn to make a defensive play. Holding her ground, the guard forced an errant dribble and dove on the ball, flicking to Allen who was then fouled and sank two more at the stripe for a 41-35 lead and 31.1 on the clock.

“I knew she was going to go behind her back, that’s her move, so she took two dribbles and I caught her off her spot,” Morgan said. “The ball was loose for a second, so I just wanted to jump on it as fast as I could.”

Allen, the only Viking to attempt a free throw, was just 2-of-5 at the line through three quarters before going 8-of-8 in the fourth.

Despite their 3-0 start, the Vikings feel like they have plenty of room for improvement but were happy to take the comeback win Tuesday.

“We’ve been struggling, so it felt good to put our practice on the court,” Baxter said. “We’re really deep as a team, so it’s good to know that if anything happens to one of us, they can step in and keep up that level.

“If we keep our defense up, we saw it can keep us in a game.”

ARCHBISHOP WOOD 7 9 10 17 – 43
CARDINAL O’HARA 12 10 7 11 – 40
Archbishop Wood: Ryanne Allen 4 10-13 19, Kaitlyn Orihel 2 0-0 4, Bri Bowen 1 0-0 2, Noelle Baxter 2 0-0 4, Dana Kiefer 1 0-0 2, Shannon Morgan 1 0-0 2, Kara Meredith 3 0-0 8, Allie Fleming 1 0-0 2. Totals: 14 10-13 43
Cardinal O’Hara: Amaris Baker 4 2-2 11, Sydney Scott 2 0-2 6, Siobhan Boylan 2 3-5 8, Annie Welde 1 1-2 3, Maggie Doogan 1 4-4 6, Julia Stellabotte 3 0-0 6. Totals: 13 10-15 40.
3-pointers: AW – Meredith 2, Allen; CO – Scott 2, Baker, Boylan.

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