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PIAA 5A: Meredith, Evans power Archbishop Wood past Villa Maria

03/16/2023, 12:45am EDT
By Andrew Robinson

Andrew Robinson (@ADrobinson3)

BENSALEM – Mike McDonald has seen it enough times to know exactly what’s going on with Kara Meredith of late.

It’s a classic case of a senior realizing it’s coming down to the end and pushing their play to a new level to make sure it ends when and where they want it to. When that senior is already a really good player, as the Holy Family-bound Meredith is, then that closing act usually leads to really positive results.

Deja Evans (above, left) and Kara Meredith have been consistently strong all season for Wood. (Photo: Andrew Robinson/CoBL)

Meredith’s offense and defense set the tone and another Deja Evans state playoff double-double led the Vikings to a 42-29 win over Villa Maria Academy.

“She’s a smart kid who works really hard, so it’s not surprising she came ready to play,” McDonald said. “She’s kind of been waiting for this moment throughout the course of her career, to be someone who is out there to start games and set the tone.”

Meredith scored 13 points, all in the first half, to lead Wood offensively and managed to add on guarding VMA’s standout senior Marah McHugh off the bat. In fact, Meredith had Wood’s first five points and eight total in the Vikings’ 13-2 opening run that put the Hurricanes in a major hole less than five minutes into the game.

Just as vital was the work she did, along with help from her teammates like Delaney Finnegan and Emily Knouse taking turns, guarding McHugh with the AACA’s co-MVP held to just two points in her last game before heading to Gettysburg College. Across the board it was a stout Wood defensive performance, VMA getting as close as 15-10 in the second quarter before a senior-led 12-0 run restored a commanding lead for the Vikings.

“My confidence just had a huge increase this year,” Meredith, a three-year varsity contributor, said. “Knowing my role on the team and knowing I can help the team in different ways, I’m trying to be that person and I think it’s really come through this season.”

Meredith, who hit 3-of-7 attempts from long range, had five points in that pivotal 12-0 run while Evans tallied four points and an assist and Finnegan came up with the bucket inside that kicked the whole thing off.

This year’s Wood senior class goes seven strong, the largest class in McDonald’s tenure and they’ve all carved out their own roles throughout their careers. When they lost one of their own, co-captain Allie Fleming, to a knee injury in January it only strengthened their resolve.

A few weeks back, Meredith was stellar in Wood’s PCL title game loss to Lansdale Catholic and she hasn’t really cooled off since. Her explanation echoed her coach’s in that it’s just the time to bring it all out.

“For me, it’s that we’re seniors and this could be our last game,” Meredith said. “This could be our last game playing together, ever, so it’s really emotional and helps us lock in and play our best on the court.

“We were talking about it before the game, this wasn’t going to be our last game, we’re going to make it, we’re going to keep going and we’re going to make it to Hershey.”

Evans agreed with Meredith’s assessment that she’s trying to bring her level of play up in these final few games. It could be argued the senior forward’s been doing that for two years now, at least in PIAA games.

With 11 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, four blocks and two steals on Thursday, Evans made it seven double-doubles in seven state playoff games since coming over to Archbishop Wood prior to her junior year. Meredith jokingly said that kind of consistency is “insane” but all Evans is worried about is the next game.

"It's something about this time of year,” Evans, a 6-foot-2 Albany recruit, said. “I just want to win and we just want to win as a team. I feel like I have to step up my level of play and be a leader for the team."

It’s not that Villa Maria Academy’s six seniors weren’t trying to up their level, they very much were. Scoring against the Vikings’ defense proved difficult but Elaina Guerzon had eight to lead her squad while Ava Irvine battled her way to five and Claire Cronley had four early on to try and quell Wood’s early hot streak.

Hurricanes coach Kathy McCartney had nothing but positives to say about her team, her seniors and the season in total. Like any coach reflecting on the end, she felt her team still had something in the tank but overall chalked it up as a successful season that saw an AACA title and a District I title game appearance, both never an easy feat.

"They've got a little fight in them," McCartney said. "I came into this game thinking we could win, I didn't just want to be close, cut it to seven, I wanted to win so that's why it's frustrating right now. But when you look at the body of work, it was a good year.”

Evans got her double-double through an and-one layup early in the fourth. Ava Renninger added seven points and Emily Knouse had five points, seven rebounds and two assists to aid Wood.

The Vikings are in the state quarterfinals for a 10th straight year and this group is on a hunt for a third straight PIAA title. Up next is Bishop Shanahan and Wood’s seniors will probably have a similar talk about stretching their time together out for a few more games afterward.

“We’re such a close team and that’s one of our biggest strengths,” Meredith said. “We have talented players but we’re even better by playing together and playing as a team, looking for the best shot and playing for the person next to us is something we really emphasize here.

“I really think that’s the thing we’ve done best this year.”

By Quarter
Archbishop Wood:     15  |  12  |   8   |   7   ||  42
Villa Maria Academy:  6   |   6   |   7   |  10  ||  29

AW: Kara Meredith 13, Deja Evans 11, Ava Renninger 7, Emily Knouse 5, Delaney Finnegan 4, Alexa Windish 2

VMA: Elaina Guerzon 8, Ava Irvine 5, Claire Cronley 4, Sierra Dean 2, Sophia Tray 2, Alice Nash 2, Ella Iacone 2, Carly Catania 2, Marah McHugh 2


Wed., March 15
Boys 6A
(11-1) Parkland vs. (1-7) Garnet Valley (6 PM)
(1-2) Spring-Ford 43, (3-3) Hempfield 39
(12-1) Roman Catholic 60, (1-3) Lower Merion 56 (OT)
(7-2) New Castle 65, (1-4) Downingtown West 56
(3-1) Reading 86, (1-6) Upper Darby 58
(1-9) Coatesville 61, (1-8) North Penn 55
(12-3) Archbishop Wood 72, (3-6) Chambersburg 45

Girls 5A
(1-1) West Chester Rustin 49, (2-2) Abington Heights 46
(12-1) Archbishop Wood 42, (1-2) Villa Maria 29
(1-3) Bishop Shanahan 43, (2-1) Pittston Area 35.
(11-1) Bethlehem Catholic 34, (1-4) Gwynedd Mercy 24

Boys 4A
(1-1) Bishop Shanahan 69, (2-1) Scranton Prep 57

Girls 4A
(12-1) Lansdale Catholic 79, (4-2) Jersey Shore 42
(3-5) Trinity 67, (12-2) Audenried 50
(2-1) Scranton Prep 51, (1-1) Nazareth Acad.47 (OT)
(3-1) Wyomissing 40, (12-3) Neumann-Goretti 33

Boys 3A
(12-3) Devon Prep 82, (2-2) Mid Valley 52
(12-1) West Catholic 56, (2-1) Holy Redeemer 47
(3-1) Trinity 91, Math, Civics & Sciences 84 Girls 3A
(2-1) Dunmore 52, (12-1) Imhotep Charter 34

Boys 2A
(11-1) Mahanoy Area 58, (12-1) Constitution 40
(1-1) Dock Mennonite 60, (12-2) Sankofa Freedom 44

Girls 1A
(4-2) St. John Neumann 40, (1-1) The Christian Acad. 37

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