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Archbishop Wood’s defense, Orihel’s record too much for Gwynedd Mercy in PIAA 4A quarterfinals

Archbishop Wood’s Kaitlyn Orihel (4) pushes the ball up the court against Gwynedd Mercy in a PIAA 4A quarterfinal game on Saturday, March 20, 2021. (James Beaver/For MediaNews Group)

WARMINSTER >> Kaitlyn Orihel’s to-do list keeps getting smaller with each passing game.

The Archbishop Wood senior lifted her first PCL girls basketball trophy last weekend and Saturday, became the program’s all-time leading scorer while also helping the Vikings get by Gwynedd Mercy Academy in the PIAA 4A quarterfinals. About the only thing left for Orihel and her teammates is to win a state title, a feat that now stands just two wins away.

Orihel’s record-setting effort and intense team defending pushed District 12 champion Wood past the District 1 champion Monarchs 60-38.

“After I scored my 1,000th point, it was the next personal goal of mine but once we found out we were having a shortened season, I knew it would difficult but still possible,” Orihel said. “I kept it in the back of my mind but tried not to focus on it. It feels great to be able to get it.”

Named a first team All-PCL pick for the fourth time in her career earlier this week, Orihel was at her attacking best offensively against Gwynedd Mercy, scoring a game-high 24 highlighted by a buzzer-beater to end the third quarter. The Villanova recruit entered the game needing 16 points, and after three in the first quarter, she scored at least six in every frame after and got her record-breaking score on a layup to start the fourth quarter.

Archbishop Wood’s Ryanne Allen (5) congratulates Kaitlyn Orihel (4) after Orihel became Wood’s all-time leading scorer during the Vikings’ PIAA 4A quarterfinal game against Gwynedd Mercy on Saturday, March 20, 2021. (James Beaver/For MediaNews Group)

Orihel passed Pam Rosanio, a 2004 Wood graduate who went on to a terrific career at UMass, who held the previous mark of 1,417. It was also the second school scoring record to fall this season as Rahsool Diggins broke the boys’ scoring mark on March 4.

Wood (15-2) coach Mike McDonald called the guard a great leader and great person and felt the accomplish was magnified by the way Orihel hasn’t put herself above her teammates the last four years.

“When somebody doesn’t focus on it, puts the team first and does everything we ask, I think it’s incredible they still get to experience that individual reward anyway,” McDonald said. “That’s the way Kaitlyn’s been. She’s unselfish, she puts the team first, plays extremely hard all the time and is a great teammate.”

The difference in Saturday’s matchup was going to be pace. Gwynedd Mercy Academy thrives at a slower pace where it’s precise offense can work through sets and get the ball to the right person at the right time while Archbishop Wood is at its best in an up-and-down game.

McDonald felt the best way to get the game played at his team’s liking was to be aggressive and swarm the ball when the Monarchs had it. While there was always concern the Monarchs’ guard could make Wood pay by getting players in foul trouble or passing out of double-teams, the Vikings didn’t want GMA eating a lot of time off the clock.

“We had to pressure the ball and no matter how tired we got, just keep up our energy and uplift each other,” Wood guard Delaney Finnegan said. “We wanted to tire them out and show we could be more dominant.”

Finnegan, who comes off the bench for Wood, was really good defensively and got plenty of chances to guard Monarchs senior Kaylie Griffin. The sophomore also chipped in five points, including one of the 11 threes the Vikings hit during the game.

Gwynedd Mercy Academy scored the first basket of the game, then didn’t get another until Wood led 11-2. The mix of 3-point shooting, with Wood hitting 7-of-14 in the first half and defensive pressure put the Monarchs behind early.

“Their pressure, it sometimes came out of nowhere,” Griffin said. “There was no rhyme or reason when they double, they just decide to and they’re all very talented and well-coached so that’s what we struggled with. We couldn’t get into our offense and couldn’t really get into a flow.”

Gwynedd Mercy’s Kaylie Griffin (11) dribbles her way into the key against Archbishop Wood during the teams’ PIAA 4A quarterfinal on  Saturday, March 20, 2021 at Archbishop Wood High School. (James Beaver/For MediaNews Group)

Griffin, heading to St. Joe’s next year, led GMA with 14 points. Sofia Coleman had 11 and Bianca Coleman scored seven off the bench, but Wood rarely let any of them have an open shot and the Vikings held sophomore Hannah Griffin without a point.

The game was played with high intensity but the two teams also had plenty of respect for each other. Any time a player got knocked down, players from both teams helped them up and when it was over, Kaylie Griffin came over to congratulate Orihel on her accomplishment.

“I’ve known Kaitlyn and Noelle since I was really young and I’ve played with Ryanne before, I mean, we just played,” Griffin said. “There was no bad sportsmanship, we competed hard because we all love the game of basketball.”

Gwynedd Mercy, which did win the District 1-4A title for the fourth straight year, finished the year 16-3 and was the AACA’s top team in the regular season. While Griffin, only the third player in school history to surpass 1,000 points, is a big loss, her younger sister, the Colemans, Maddie Newell and Jenna Mangan all return next season.

Only one team wins the state title and if the Monarchs were going to lose, their senior captain said there was nothing wrong with it coming against a team as skilled as Archbishop Wood.

“I’m happy with the season,” Griffin said. “We didn’t get the outcome in the AACA and we didn’t get the outcome here but I’m still proud of everyone.”

The Monarchs never scored more than five consecutive points at any point in the game as Wood’s defense continued its relentless effort through the third quarter. Finnegan chalked it up to good communication on the back end, especially with the double teams the Vikings were throwing at GMA.

There aren’t many easier ways to create offense than off a defensive stop and Wood was certainly able to capitalize when it got turnovers against the Monarchs.

“We trust each other, so we’re always aware of who has to rotate,” Finnegan said. “Defense keeps up your energy when you keep getting a lot of stops and when you can then take it down to the basket and score, it builds up your confidence.”

Archbishop Wood’s Noelle Baxter (11) looks to evade the Gwynedd Mercy defense during their PIAA 4A quarterfinal on Saturday, March 20, 2021. (James Beaver/For MediaNews Group)

Allen led the barrage from behind the line, hitting four 3-pointers as part of her 18 points while Orihel buried three treys, including the buzzer-beater at the third quarter horn. Dana Kiefer hit two 3-pointers during the Vikings’ big opening quarter run and Bri Bowen, who also played well on defense, had all seven of her points in the third frame.

Orihel acknowledged she was keeping tabs on where she in terms of the scoring record and felt she had a chance to get there on Saturday. Fittingly, the milestone score came off an assist by Baxter, her teammate of nine years and something they were quick to point out in the team room after the game.

“The seniors, we’re going into every game knowing it could be our last but we’re not going to let it,” Orihel said. “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure we’re playing in Hershey.”

Wood will host District 2 champion Scranton Prep, a 74-35 winner over Central Columbia, in the PIAA 4A semifinals on Tuesday.

“After last year, our only goals were winning championships and we came into this year ready to do whatever it takes,” Orihel said. “We want as many games as possible. We have at most two games left so we’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure we get both and hopefully can check that last thing off our list next weekend.”

ARCHBISHOP WOOD 14 15 17 14 – 60
GWYNEDD MERCY 6 11 4 17 – 38
Archbishop Wood: Kaitlyn Orihel 10 1-2 24, Ryanne Allen 6 2-2 18, Bri Bowen 1 4-5 7, Dana Kiefer 2 0-0 6, Delaney Finnegan 2 0-0 5. Totals: 21 7-9 60.
Gwynedd Mercy: Maddie Newell 1 0-2 2, Kaylie Griffin 5 1-2 14, Sofia Coleman 4 1-2 11, Jenna Mangan 0 1-2 1, Bianca Coleman 3 0-0 7, Julia Masterson 1 0-0 3. Totals: 14 3-8 38.
3-pointers: AW – Allen 4, Orihel 3, Kiefer 2, Bowen, Finnegan; GMA – Griffin 3, S Coleman 2, B Coleman, Masterson.

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