Although Archbishop Wood was the top seed coming out of District 12, it was handed a difficult draw in the first round. Despite being the fourth seed in District 3, Berks Catholic had the size and athleticism that made for a tough matchup.
No matter how big or athletic a team is, though, Wood is going to be very tough to beat and the Lady Vikings proved that yet again in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA tournament.
Wood rolled to a convincing, 69-43 win over Berks Catholic on Saturday evening at Archbishop Carroll High School. Led by Aubree Brown's 23 points, the Lady Vikings made easy work of a talented team. A combination of suffocating defense, nine three-pointers and toughness going to the basket allowed Wood to overwhelm the Saints and cruise into the second round of states.
"With nine seniors, I was not too curious about how they would come out [despite being heavily favored],' Wood coach John Gallagher said. "There's some really good teams that lost yesterday. It could happen to anybody, but I will match our experience against anyone's right now.'
Berks Catholic made it clear early on that it would not simply lie down just because it was a heavy underdog, but that seemed to matter little to Wood. While the Saints played fairly well in the first half, the Lady Vikings' defense was absolutely stifling. Wood prides itself on its defense and it showed as Berks had trouble getting the ball past half court on most occasions.
"We had a zone press to start the game and it was effective because it turned them over a little bit,' Gallagher said. "After they adapted to it, they started to get over the top of us. We adjusted at half time and went into man; our man press is a lot better than our zone press.'
On the offensive side, Wood is so dangerous because every one of its players can score from inside the paint and beyond the arc. Brown, Jess Kaminski and Bailey Greenburg, who ended with 14 points each, carried the majority of the scoring load. Each of them hit at least one trey, but also got to the line on numerous occasions. It's difficult to stop a versatile offense like that.
"I knew we had to come out strong, get to the basket and get them in foul trouble,' Brown said. "We all played really hard and really wanted it. We also have a lot of good defensive players. A lot of our game is trapping and getting steals and we did that.'
It was also clear that Gallagher gave the girls the green light early and often. I'm sure he wishes his club was a bit more efficient, but at the end of the day the Lady Vikings scored 69 points on 23 made shots. You can't argue with those results against a good team.
The only quarter Wood struggled in was the third, in which it scored just eight points, but the other three periods saw the Lady Vikings firing on all cylinders. Greenburg scored 12 of her 14 points in the first half, while Brown and Kaminski were in attack mode throughout the game. Rachel Day, who was relatively quiet through three, had seven points in the fourth quarter to help finish off the Saints.
"I think, at least for the seniors, it's about playing every game like it's your last,' Kaminski said. "We are all in this together, so we push each other. Coach didn't mention any negatives, normally he'll pick apart little things we did wrong and we correct it in practice. As of right now, confidence is high because we beat a pretty good team.'
Berks Catholic (43): Merritt 4 3-7 11; Balatgek 3 0-0 9; C. Wensel 2 3-4 7; Lee 2 2-2 6; B. Wensel 1 0-0 3; Blankenbiller 1 0-0 3; Kubinak 1 0-0 2; Zdradzinkski 1 0-0 2. Totals: 15 8-13 43
Archbishop Wood (69): Brown 6 9-11 23; Kaminski 5 3-6 14; Greenburg 5 2-6 14; Day 3 0-0 7; McFadden 2 0-0 5; Keyes 1 0-0 3; Kiersnowski 1 0-0 3. Totals: 23 14-23 69
Three-point goals: Balatgek (3), B. Wensel, Blankenbiller; Greenburg (2), Brown (2), Day, Kaminski, McFadden, Kiersnowski, Keyes
Berks Catholic 8 17 6 12—43
Archbishop Wood 16 22 8 23—69