Three in a row for Archbishop Wood

Posted: March 24, 2012

STATE COLLEGE - Even in a season in which Archbishop Wood lost more games than in the previous two seasons combined, the Vikings found a way to win it all again.

The PIAA Class AAA girls' state championship trophy won't be moving from its trophy case, as Wood cruised to its third consecutive state title by defeating Lancaster Catholic, 52-33, Saturday night in Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center.

"Every team is different, but I don't think it ever gets old," Vikings coach Jim Ricci said. "And if anyone ever tells you it does, they're lying.

"I think each [championship team] is separate in their own thing. This team had a lot of its own identity to find early, with everybody leaving and a lot of doubters from not within the program."

In winning back-to-back state titles, the Vikings, of District 12, went 26-5 in 2009-10 and 27-4 last season. But they were under .500 as late as 13 games into the 2011-12 season, at 6-7.

It didn't matter, though. And losing seven seniors from the previous season's team didn't matter, either. The Vikings (21-10) dominated the favored Crusaders (30-4) from District 3, never trailing.

The Vikings shot 54.1 percent from the field, compared to 34.4 percent for the opposition. They controlled the paint and the boards, outscoring the Crusaders by 34-4 inside and outrebounding them, 24-16.

If someone had asked Ricci at the beginning of the season if he thought his team was going to three-peat, he said he would have been lying had he said "yes." He knew his team certainly had the talent to challenge for it, but it was going to take a tremendous tournament run and a nearly flawless title game to accomplish it.

They were down by 13-4 to Trinity in the second round of states and came back. It took double overtime against South Park in the quarterfinals to advance.

But it all fell in place.

Junior guard Jackie Pierson led the way for the Vikings on Saturday with 16 points and five assists. Senior forward Alex Heck fell just short of a double-double, with nine points and nine rebounds.

The Crusaders, who had put up 90 points against Prep Charter in the state semifinals, were stymied by the Vikings defense Porsha Speller, the District 3 tournament MVP, was held scoreless, with four turnovers. The Crusaders didn't score double-digit points in a quarter until the fourth.

"I didn't think it was a type of game where we could really go after them," Ricci said. "Because I think what we do well feeds into what we do really well, and if we were going to go up and play Porsha all the way up there, they're just going to blow past us. We wanted to defend the three-point line and in, and did."

Archbishop Wood   13 13 15 11 – 52

Lancaster Catholic   9 5 8 11 – 33

AW: Lauren Nealon 10, Alex Heck 9, Jackie Pierson 16, Jess Kaminski 4, Taylor Kaminski 8, Colleen Young 2, Haley Scuillion 3.

LC: Emily Martin 10, Amy Balasavage 5, Danielle Atkinson 10, Alyssa Aichele 5, Kirsten Werner 3.

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