By coach Jim Ricci's count, senior guard Jackie Pierson played about 28 minutes Thursday night.

"Make sure she is in the game," Ricci told his assistant coaching staff.

Why did the Archbishop Wood girls' basketball team need Pierson in the game so badly? Because when she wasn't playing in the Catholic League semifinal against Archbishop Ryan, there was a noticeable difference.

Pierson's presence was most felt on the defensive end, as she was tasked with marking Kalene Coffey, Ryan's standout senior guard.

"A lot of our kids can guard," Ricci said. "Nobody guards like her."

Defense was key for the Vikings as they defeated the Ragdolls, 34-23.

"She's a shooter, so I spent the entire time trying to get through as many screens as possible," Pierson said of Coffey.

The Vikings held the Ragdolls to nine first-half points and received balanced scoring, gaining a double-digit lead with a little less than four minutes to play in the half.

The tough defense was anchored by Pierson and Aubree Brown.

In the second half, there wasn't a lot of scoring, as neither team could knock down shots.

The lack of offense gave Ryan the chance to come back into the game, and the Ragdolls went on a run, getting within seven points with less than a minute to play.

"We couldn't get into our offense," Pierson said. "We struggled to get our plays going."

Wood, ranked third in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer, will play in the Catholic League championship game at 6:45 p.m. Monday at the Palestra against Cardinal O'Hara.

It will be the fifth straight year that the Vikings have appeared in the final.

The last time the Vikings won the title, Pierson was a sophomore and, by her own account, "didn't get a lot of playing time."

Pierson probably won't have to worry about that this time.

Archbishop Ryan   5 4 5 9 – 23

Archbishop Wood   12 9 4 9 – 34

AR: Danielle Skedzielewski 8, Amanda Weindorfer 6, Alison Szyszko 4, Kalene Coffey 4, Melissa Rizzo 1.

AW: Jackie Pierson 6, Aubree Brown 6, Haley Scullion 6, Jess Kaminski 6, Madison Tamburini 4, Rachel Day 3, Colleen Young 3.

Contact Kate Harman at rallysports@phillynews.com.