Home > Sports > GIRLS BASKETBALL: Taylor Kaminski lifts Archbishop Wood over Archbishop Carroll for PCL title

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Taylor Kaminski lifts Archbishop Wood over Archbishop Carroll for PCL title

By Mike Prince
The Public Spirit

Archbishop Wood's Christine Verrelle cuts down her piece of the net after the Vikings defeated Archbishop Carroll for the Philadelphia Catholic League championship Monday. (Mike Prince/Montgomery Media)

Jim Ricci jumped higher than he’s ever jumped before in his life.

And up until the second that the Archbishop Wood coach left his feet, the Vikings hadn’t seen the winning side of a Philadelphia Catholic League championship game in 29 years. They had only beaten Archbishop Carroll once in the past 31 years. They had been in the league final three out of the past four seasons, with each game ending with losses to the Patriots. And up until that moment where Ricci was in the air, Taylor Kaminski had shot 0-for-5 from the floor in none other than a league title game against Carroll.

And then, in just one small second, everything changed.

“My vertical leap is about an inch. I think I got about five,” Ricci said.

Kaminski, a junior guard, took a pass from senior Tori Arnao, blew past her defender and hit a layup with exactly two seconds remaining, putting Wood up by two while sending its fans, bench and entire coaching staff into a frenzy.

Moments later, a desperation shot by Carroll fell short and the Lady Vikings had won their first PCL title since 1982, defeating the two-time defending league champions and top-seeded Patriots 33-31 at the historic Palestra at the University of Pennsylvania on Monday night.

“It just feels great,” said Kaminski, whose game-winning shot were the only points that the junior recorded all night. “It’s never happened to me before. It’s just really exciting. I was in shock when the shot went in. I was shooting so bad the rest of the game and I was just in shock. It was amazing.”

It took a few seconds for Kaminski to even find the words to describe what it felt like to hit what will most likely be the biggest shot of her life. But when her coach was asked about it, Ricci was quick to praise one of the players that just helped to bring him the PCL championship that he had so badly wanted for years.

“She is one of those kids that battles and that’s just a tough Northeast Philly kid on the floor right there,” the fifth-year Wood coach said. “God knows she was a big player last year and she was digging in a lot this year and got lots of minutes tonight, got a couple stops and then hit that shot. It’s a great feeling.”

Even though Kaminski hadn’t hit a shot all night, Ricci said that he got the play that he wanted his team to run.

After Carroll (18-7) tied the game with a minute, 55 seconds remaining on two free throws by senior captain Jen Carney, the No. 2 seed, Wood, took possession and rotated the ball around, watching the seconds tick down. Ricci never called timeout. The players never showed any willingness to let the Patriots get the ball back and have a chance to win the game.

And after passing the ball around and playing keep away for nearly two full minutes, the ball ended up in Kaminski’s hands.

“We got what we were looking for,” Ricci said. “We had (Taylor) on a flash-high cut and she went back door and we got it. I saw her breaking open and I kind of froze when she made the layup, but it went in and while it may not erase all the times we lost (to Carroll), it sure does feel good. I’ve been on the other side of this three or four times and it sure does feel good.”

Outside of a win over Carroll in states last season – one that eventually led Wood to its first ever PIAA title – the Vikings (21-4) hadn’t beaten the Patriots since 1980. Even earlier this season, Wood lost to Carroll and without a loss in league play this season, the Patriots were still the team to beat.

Carroll was playing in its fifth consecutive PCL championship game. It beat Wood in the first year, lost to Cardinal O’Hara the following year and then defeated the Vikings each of the past two seasons. But now, with a state championship and a league title under their belts, the Vikings proved themselves to be the best in a conference that isn’t taken lightly by anyone who knows anything about the PCL.

“When we were in states last year, the only thing you’re thinking about is states, but I believe that the PCL is the best thing in the state,” Ricci said. “It’s so competitive and when you’re in the moment, you’re in the moment, but this has been our goal all year. We heard things about last year. People tell us, ‘you won the state title but not the league.’ It’s not fair for the kids to hear, but they still do.”

And just like that, Wood doesn’t have to listen to any of the naysayers anymore.

“It’s very important because we’ve been here the last few years that I’ve been here, but we never won,” Kaminski said of the PCL. “It feels great to finally be on the other end of the game. We knew that it could be our year and we’ll all very proud of each other.”

Monday’s game was a classic PCL rivalry, with the two teams playing back-and-forth basketball from start to finish.

Neither team led by more than five, with Wood holding a one-point lead going into the half, at 13-12. The Patriots had taken a small lead, but junior guard Lauren Nealon (six points) hit back-to-back three-pointers to put Wood back on top. After Carroll flip-flopped the score and led by one (23-22) entering the fourth quarter, Jenna Swope opened the final period with a huge three-pointer.

After Carroll’s Kristie Costantino banked in a jumper, Wood senior guard Stephanie Keyes followed with another three to put Wood on top. Though the Patriots would eventually tie the game, they never regained the lead.

“Carroll is so well-coached and it’s so hard to defend that team, so to keep them to 31 points is unbelievable,” Ricci said. “We played about as selfless as we could play them. We hung in and got what we needed in the end. We practiced this all year and just try to prepare them as well as you can to handle that kind of atmosphere and I think our schedule did that all year.”

Keyes finished with seven points for Wood, as did Arnao, who earned the biggest assist of the season. Swope added four rebounds to her three points. Christine Verrelle added five points.

Carroll was led by Meghan Creighton (11 points, five rebounds) and Sarah Curran (10, three).

Both Wood and Carroll move on to their respective District 12 title games, with Wood playing Prep Charter in the Class AAA championship at Archbishop Ryan on Friday. Carroll takes on Central at Lincoln High on Sunday. Both teams earned automatic spots in the state tournament.

Whether or not the future holds a repeat of last year’s state championship for Wood is unknown, but one thing that the Vikings are sure of is that they jumped over their biggest hurdle of the year on Monday night. And not a single one of them will ever forget the night when they finally added another date to the banner.

“The girls wanted this,” Ricci said. “They hung in all game. It was a great win for us and for our school. I’m so proud of them.”

Extra points: Archbishop Wood finished the season with a record of 11-1 in PCL play, with the lone loss coming against Archbishop Carroll (36-31) back on Feb. 7. The Vikings beat Lansdale Catholic and Cardinal O’Hara in the playoffs before defeating the Patriots, improving their record to 14-1 against PCL teams this season. Carroll had not only been undefeated in league play before Monday night, with a 12-0 regular season record and two playoff wins, but the Patriots had not trailed at the half against a PCL team one single time this season before Monday night’s loss to Wood. The Vikings’ win also snapped Carroll’s 13-game winning streak, which saw the Patriots win every game since a Jan. 15 54-42 loss to Mount Lebanon. Carroll had also won 16 of the last 17 games before the loss. Caitlin McCartney, who sprained her ankle in a playoff win against Lansdale Catholic two Thursdays ago, returned to the lineup on Monday and played significant time as a starter. The senior forward hit a free throw in the first quarter to score her lone point of the game. Though Wood defeated Carroll 35-31 in a PIAA Class AAA quarterfinal last March, the two teams will not see each other again until next season, as Carroll moved to Class AAAA before the season commenced and will be in a different bracket.

Archbishop Wood (33) – Verrelle 1 2-3 5; Keyes 2 2-3 7; Arnao 3 1-3 7; Swope 1 0-1 3; McCartney 0 1-2 1; Mirack 0 0-0 0; Howland 1 0-0 2; Nealon 2 0-0 6; Kaminski 1 0-0 2; Pierson 0 0-0 0. Totals: 11 6-12 33.

Archbishop Carroll (31) – Carney 0 3-4 3; Costantino 1 0-0 2; Creighton 3 3-4 11; Curran 5 0-0 10; Fazzini 2 0-0 4; Fiascki 0 0-0 0; Pearson 0 1-2 1; Shields 0 0-0 0. Totals: 11 7-10 31.

Three-point goals: Nealon 2, Verrelle, Keyes, Swope;

Archbishop Wood 6 7 9 11—33

Archbishop Carroll 6 6 11 8—31

Republished with the permission of The Public Spirit/Globe Times Chronicle

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