Archbishop Wood girls’ basketball coach Mike McDonald doesn’t take trips to the Palestra for granted, especially in the Philadelphia Catholic League playoffs.
He never won the title as a player at Cardinal Dougherty, but he’ll have an opportunity to win his second title in four seasons as a coach when McDonald’s Vikings play Archbishop Carroll in the Catholic League championship on Monday at the Palestra at 6:30 p.m.
“I’m expecting it to be a really good battle,” McDonald said.
When Carroll and Wood met earlier in the season, the Patriots topped the Vikings, 43-33.
But the Vikings are a different team than they were in the beginning of the year, senior point guard Ryleigh Parsons said.
Despite a sub-.500 start to the season, the Vikings are on a seven-game winning streak, including last week’s 60-50 over Neumann-Goretti in the semifinals.
The Vikings are led by sophomore guard Kaitlyn Orihel, who averages 18.2 points per game. Senior guard Annie Whalen is second on the team, averaging 9.0 points per contest.
Parsons had a limited role on the 2016 Wood squad that won the Catholic League title. But during that run, she observed the way those seniors helped their teammates remain composed to help the Vikings win the championship.
Parsons said she feels the responsibility to do those same this year in her last Catholic League tourney.
“I feel like there’s a lot more pressure on this group of seniors because we’ve seen it, we’ve done it, and now we just want to complete it,” Parsons said.
McDonald said the Vikings will try to limit Patriots junior forward Erin Sweeney, who scored 21 points in Carroll’s 49-36 win over Bonner-Prendergast in the semifinals. The Bonner-Prendy Pandas attempted to deny Sweeney the ball with a box-and-one defense that featured senior guard Maeve McCann following Sweeney around the floor.
Sweeney said the Vikings used a similar defensive strategy in the beginning of the season and that she expects even more pressure in the championship.
“It’s always a little tough,” Sweeney said. “But my teammates do a really good job of being tough on me in practice to come prepared for it in the games.”
Even if the Vikings are able to limit Sweeney’s impact on offense, Carroll coach Renie Shields said she’s confident in the rest of her team to step up.
Freshman guard Grace O’Neill recorded 17 points and led the Patriots on a second-half run that helped them prevail in the win against Bonner-Prendergast. Senior guard Harlem Jennings, who drove the lane and created open looks for Sweeney, chipped in nine points.