Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3)
EAST FALLS — She’s still the same Allie Fleming, even if her role has changed.
The Archbishop Wood senior unfortunately saw her high school basketball career come to an end Jan. 10th when an injury against Archbishop Ryan was diagnosed as a torn ACL. While the “Southpaw Sniper,” as the guard came to be known for her hot-streak outside shooting over the years, was sidelined, Allie Fleming could still play a prominent role for the Vikings.
Wood’s newest assistant, “Coach” Fleming, hasn’t missed a beat and intends to do anything she can to help her team win PCL and PIAA titles.
“My perspective has definitely changed since it happened,” Fleming, who was Wood’s leading scorer at the time of her injury, said. “At first, I was so upset when it happened but now I get to focus on different things in my life and see things from another perspective and I’m trying to make the most of it.”
Vikings coach Mike McDonald has known Fleming for a long time, having her as part of his Mid-Atlantic Magic AAU team on top of being her coach at Wood. Knowing how much playing for Wood meant to the 5-foot-5 guard, McDonald wasn’t surprised that Fleming wanted to turn her negative into a positive for her team.
Archbishop Wood senior Allie Fleming, seen playing earlier this season, is helping out any way she can after a season-ending injury. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
She’s still on the floor pregame, usually standing as a watchful eye over the team’s warmup drills and joins fellow captains Delaney Finnegan, Kara Meredith and Deja Evans in the pregame officials meeting. Once the game starts, the senior resumes her role as one of the most boisterous people on the bench and in stoppages, she’s ready to jump in with an observation or advice for her teammates.
“She’s just being Allie Fleming,” McDonald said. “She’s still herself, still high-energy, vocal, a great teammate ready with a high-five. She was always that way as a player, she may not be getting into games to shoot for us but she’s the same kid, just a little bit wobbly at the moment.”
Fleming laughed when it was noted she’s not quite as quick to hop off the bench to celebrate a teammate’s made shot as she has been but she’s not staying down. The senior is an excellent student, hoping to major in biology, pre-med or something along those lines and she brings an analytical side to the game as well.
There’s plenty of overlap between Wood and the Magic’s offensive and defense schemes so Fleming has an in-depth knowledge of both and the Vikings coaches have already put her to work.
“She did a scout on Carroll for us and it was spot-on,” McDonald said. “She watched it, took notes, wrote it all down and gave it to us. We have her talking during the timeouts and between quarters to pep talk the team, she’s a high-IQ kid, she understands what’s going on out there, understands the offense and she’s able to add that as a peer, so they will listen to her.
“They all look up to her and respect her.”
It’s not really a surprise Fleming gravitated to a coaching role of sorts. Her uncle, Chris Fleming, is an assistant coach with the Chicago Bulls following stops overseas and with the Denver Nuggets and Brooklyn Nets and while Allie joked she should have called him first when she got her scouting assignment, she is liking the chance to see the game from that side.
“It was interesting seeing things from his perspective, you understand more what he means when you see things that same way,” Fleming said. “It was cool to be able to have my opinion and be able to speak on it.”
Two of Wood’s other assistants this season, Colleen Young and Claire Bassetti, are former players and Fleming’s starting to see what they see, so to speak, when they point something out or make a suggestion during a stoppage. Fleming said it’s similar to watching the game as a reserve, but it’s been surprising to see how much the scope of a game narrows when she was on the floor as compared to only watching from the sideline.
“It makes me still feel like a captain even if I can’t be on the floor,” Fleming said. “I know I’ll still have my presence there.”
There’s never a good time to have an injury, much less have a season-ending setback as a senior, but the timing was especially rough for Fleming as she was starting to weigh whether she wanted to play at the next level or not. With her surgery coming up in a couple weeks, McDonald said it’s a conversation they’ll have later on but he could see Fleming fitting in if the right program comes calling and at least she has an extensive catalog of game film from this year and last season, when she was a top reserve on Wood’s state title team.
For now, she’s solely focused on being whatever Allie Fleming her team needs her to be. At the moment, that’s “Coach” Fleming, a mix of motivator, leader, captain, cheerleader and potentially ace scouting report compiler.
“It’s a new experience but I’m liking it,” Fleming said. “Anything to stay involved with the team, I love all the girls.”
ARCHBISHOP WOOD 49, FRIENDS CENTRAL SCHOOL 40
Coming off an important PCL win Friday night at Archbishop Carroll and with another one looming Tuesday against Cardinal O’Hara, the Vikings had to figure out a talented Phoenix squad on Sunday night.
Thanks to some timely shooting and a big game from Kara Meredith, Wood kept it rolling and ran its record to 8-1 in the month of January.
“We came out hot, then went to a zone and we just weren’t getting movement,” McDonald said. “That’s a credit to them and their coaching, plus their length defensively. Luckily in the fourth quarter, it seemed like we figured a few things out to get some good looks for shooters.”
Meredith, the Holy Family-bound senior, scored 16 points including the team’s first six and hit a pair of critical threes as Wood regained control in the fourth quarter. Three of Meredith’s four makes from downtown were assisted by Deja Evans, the 6-foot-2 senior compiling five helpers in total and helping break the FCS zone with her passing out of the post in the second half.
Wood led 20-9 after one and it seemed like the Vikings might run away with it, but the Phoenix buckled down and began battling back in. Nal’la Bennett hit four threes, including a pair in the third quarter where nothing seemed to drop for Wood as FCS got within 34-32.
Then, Evans found Meredith for three to open the final quarter, Emily Knouse connected from deep, Evans cut to the rim and scored and ended an 11-5 run with her final assist to Meredith for a 45-37 win.
“We knew coming in Tuesday is a more important game for us in terms of our league, but (FCS) is a big game for us. It’s a showcase against a really good team from Pennsylvania, so it’s a pride thing. Plus, the other team’s coach went to the same high school as me,” McDonald said of FCS coach Vincent Simpson, both of them Cardinal Dougherty alumni although they weren’t there at the same time. “We always want to play well, we want to compete to win so I was glad we figured it out.”
ARCHBISHOP WOOD 20 | 5 | 9 | 15 || 49
FRIENDS CENTRAL 9 | 10 | 13 | 8 | 40
AW: Kara Meredith 16, Deja Evans 8, Emily Knouse 8, Ava Renninger 6, Alexa Windish 6, Delaney Finnegan 3, Lauren Tretter 2
FCS: Nal’la Bennet 12, Logyn Greer 9, Sana’a Garret 6, Sydney Williams 6, Kaiya Rain Tucker 2