MARPLE — Cardinal O’Hara absolutely needed to win Tuesday.
The Lions needed to beat nationally ranked Archbishop Wood (No. 24 according to espnW). Never mind what a win would mean for the Lions in the Catholic League standings, they needed to win to affirm how good they really are.
In the teams’ first meeting last week, the Lions stumbled down the stretch and suffered an excruciating three-point loss. But O’Hara vowed to not repeat recent history on its home floor.
The must-have game fell largely on the shoulders of Maggie Doogan, who had one of her best performances to date. The outstanding junior forward scored 20 points on 7-for-8 shooting from the floor to lead O’Hara to a 44-38 victory.
The loss was the first of the 2021 season for Wood (4-1). With the win, the Lions (3-2) remained a game behind for one of the top-two spots in the PCL Red with two losses. The top two teams will qualify for the Catholic League final. Wood, Archbishop Carroll and West Catholic are ahead of O’Hara in the standings.
“Today we were motivated to come out, share the ball and get everyone involved,” junior guard Sydni Scott said. “The last game, I felt like I was being selfish, like, I had a couple of forced shots. So, I just told myself to relax and give the ball away to my teammates.”
“I don’t think we had a different approach tonight. We all kept the same composure,” added Scott, who banked three 3-pointers for nine points to go with five rebounds, two assists and one steal. “The only thing I think we changed was our defense.”
O’Hara’s defense stymied the tremendous Kaithyn Orihel and Ryanne Allen and Vikings in the first three quarters. Wood had 21 points on 8 for 35 shooting from the floor going into the final period.
Things got little dicey for the Lions in the fourth quarter. Wood applied a full-court press the entire final eight minutes. The Lions committed five turnovers as Wood scored 12 straight points to cut O’Hara’s largest lead (36-18) to six with three minutes left.
“We were basically telling our kids during the timeouts, ‘Hey, it’s not last week and this isn’t going to happen again. Have confidence in yourself,'” Lions coach Chrissie Doogan said. “It’s a fine line between being aggressive, trying to beat the press and getting layups, and bringing the ball out. Wood really wasn’t letting us stall, they were coming after us. We were getting 2-on-1s and not making great decisions all the time.”
The Lions went from comfortably ahead to simply trying to survive. But good teams find a way to overcome last-game adversity, which is something Doogan stressed to her players, especially after back-to-back difficult losses to Carroll and Wood. So, once the Lions figured out how to solve Wood’s relentless press, the Vikings had no choice but to foul in the waning moments. Maggie Doogan and Siobhan Boylan went a combined 6-for-6 at the free-throw line down the stretch to seal the win.
“We obviously saw the press coming,” said Maggie Doogan, who had 20 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots. “I think for the first three quarters we were in control of the game, we were playing at our own pace, and then they kind of came out and pressed, so we had to keep our composure, calm down and control the game.”
The Lions busted open a 19-16 lead at halftime with a 15-0 run to begin the third quarter. Doogan netted six of her points in the third, while senior guard Amaris Baker scored five of her 10 points. Aiding the Lions was a stingy defensive performance that held Wood’s deadly outside shooting to a paltry 1-for-9 from 3-point distance in the third quarter and 5-for-22 overall.
Offensively, the Lions were at their best when they were running the floor.
“I thought our rebounding was terrific tonight and we were able to get some transition points. I thought that was huge for our kids,” Chrissie Doogan said. “My assistant keeps track of how we score and what plays we are running … and it was all transition once we got out and ran a little bit. We have quick guards and actually our big girls are pretty quick, too, so if we can get the rebounds and push, we can be tough to stop.”
Wood leaned on Orihel and Allen during its fourth-quarter surge. They both finished with 14 points, and combined for 14 points in the last quarter.
While she didn’t make much of an impact on the scoreboard, the senior Boylan (two points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal) was outstanding on the defensive end and did a great job guarding Allen. Julia Stellabotte hopped off the bench to make a pair of steals in the third quarter.
“Since I’ve been here we’ve only beaten them once and that was freshman year. All the other times we played really close games but came up short,” Maggie Doogan said. “With Neumann-Goretti and West Catholic coming up, this win is a huge confidence boost for us and it will definitely help us going forward.”