Delaney Finnegan’s defense helps Archbishop Wood get to PIAA-5A final

BENSALEM >> Delaney Finnegan typically draws the toughest assignment for Archbishop Wood’s defense. The 5-foot-10 senior captain gets matched up with the opponent’s top scorer and her lockdown ability is a big reason why the Vikings are making another deep state playoff run.

Finnegan had one of her toughest tests in the PIAA-5A semifinals Tuesday night at Bensalem High School. She was matched up with West Chester Rustin senior Laine McGurk, a Drexel commit who can score in a variety of ways. McGurk averaged 25.6 points per game through the first three rounds of the state tournament.

With a trip to Hershey on the line, Finnegan not only passed her test, but did so with flying colors. The Southampton native led the defensive effort that limited McGurk to just seven points – three of which came with Finnegan as the primary defender – in the Vikings 52-35 win.

“I knew that she can really get off her feet and rise above the defender,” Finnegan, who finished with four points, two rebounds and an assist, said. “My biggest thing was to just deny her the whole game and stay on her right hand and keep her out at the three-point line as much as possible, because she’s most dangerous in the lane. I just wanted to deny and keep up my energy to just really keep her out at the three-point line and take her out of the game the best I could.”

Archbishop Wood’s Delaney Finnegan (20) defends West Chester Rustin’s Laine McGurk (20) during their PIAA-5A semifinal on Tuesday, March 21, 2023 at Bensalem High School. (Mike Cabrey/MediaNews Group)

McGurk, who grabbed 10 rebounds, got on the board when she split a pair of free throws in the first quarter. There were plenty of whistles early – both teams committing six fouls in the first quarter and 10-plus in the first half – but Finnegan went to the locker room with zero personal fouls.

“Her instincts, her IQ, her work ethic, her motor and her length,” Wood coach Mike McDonald pointed to as Finnegan’s strengths. “She’s 5-10, she’s got good length in the arms, but it’s her instincts, her toughness, her IQ. She knows what she’s doing out there. It’s not just a kid that’s denying. She’s got great IQ and great instincts and then she’s a tough and long kid to go along with it. She was just huge. To do that without fouling is just tremendous.”

McGurk made her first field goal midway through the third quarter. She grabbed a rebound, raced down the floor and buried a deep transition three-pointer. The 5-foot-10 wing made it a personal 6-0 run when she knocked down another long-range triple, this time using a screen to create just enough space between herself and Finnegan, to get Rustin within one, 29-28, with 2:15 left in the third quarter.

Archbishop Wood’s Delaney Finner (20) holds the ball on the floor during the Vikings’ PIAA-5A semifinal against West Chester Rustin on Tuesday, March 18, 2023 at Bensalem High School. (Mike Cabrey/MediaNews Group)

The Golden Knights didn’t score the rest of the quarter while Finnegan and the Vikings defense did their part in a game-sealing 19-3 run that saw the 29-28 advantage grow to 48-31 in nearly a full quarter’s worth of game time.

“We made them make tough shots,” McDonald said. “We took McGurk away. I don’t know what she ended up with, but I thought Delaney Finnegan was phenomenal covering her today, just a wonderful job, and our help defense being where they’re supposed to be, taking away the shots we wanted to take away and giving up the shots we wanted to give up. Just a phenomenal job defensively.”

Finnegan’s final high school challenge will come in the state championship game Saturday night. The Vikings face South Fayette at the Giant Center in Hershey at 6 p.m.

“I usually want to guard the best player,” Finnegan said, “because it’s just my role. I just do what I need to to help my team win. That’s my role. I do take pride in it.”

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