The Archbishop Wood girls’ basketball team brought home its second straight PIAA class AAA state championship Saturday night at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center with a 53-41 victory over Erie's Mercyhurst Prep.
Don’t be fooled by the final score: the teams stayed neck-and-neck up until the fourth quarter. Mercyhurst Prep held the greatest gap in the first half with a 22-15 lead. By halftime, the score was tied at 24.
The momentum shifted with every basket. Stephanie Wilwohl and Ally Burke led the Lakers with 17 points each, yet, the Vikings were too in sync to let that do any damage. The first three quarters of the game left the crowd on the edge of their seats, with no team taking a commanding lead.
Usually the Vikings manage to steal momentum in the third quarter, but the Lakers stayed close. On the strength of Christine Verrelle's team-leading 16 points, the Vikings started to pull away for good in the final quarter.
As the fourth quarter started, it was clear that the Vikings were ready to take home the trophy. Wood scored 14 unanswered points, just as Mercyhurst Prep found itself in foul trouble. The Lakers were scoreless in the fourth until just over two minutes left, due to a few foul shots in their favor. The Wood girls came in clutch from the foul line, doing major damage with each free throw.
Even with a 12-point lead as the game drew to a close, Mercyhurst Prep never gave up, and kept the Vikings on their toes until the final buzzer.
Both teams played with tremendous heart, regardless of the score. Students from each school cheered on their feet for the entire game, creating an incredibly intense atmosphere. All of the girls on the court looked sharp throughout the game, with great ball movement and impeccable defense.
At the close of the game when asked to sum up the season with one headline, assistant coach John Gallagher said, “Seven Seniors, Mission Accomplished.” With just 18.1 seconds left in the game, the starters were called off the court and they received a much-deserved standing ovation.
Tear-filled eyes accepted the trophy, the medals, and endless pride. The Vikings celebrated a job well done, acknowledged the runners-up with respect, and raised the trophy to their fans with appreciation.