By John Knebels
Videos: John Knebels
Photos by Mike Nance
HERSHEY – When Cardinal O’Hara exited the bus after arriving at the Giant Center parking lot, several members of Archbishop Wood greeted their arrival with cheers.
Earlier, O’Hara coach Chrissie Doogan had received a good luck text message from Archbishop Carroll coach Renie Shields.
The Lady Lions then proceeded to make history.
After defeating Chartiers Valley, 51-27, in Friday afternoon’s PIAA Class 5A state championship to provide O’Hara with its first-ever basketball title, the Philadelphia Catholic League thus became the first to win three state girls’ crowns in the same year since Archbishop Wood (4A) and West Catholic (3A) had already reached the pinnacle.
Ironically, the 2015 PCL trio of Roman Catholic, Neumann-Goretti, and Conwell-Egan had been the only boys’ league to pull off such an impressive stunt.
“First, thanks to West and Wood for putting that pressure on us,” Doogan playfully chided. “The PCL was hoping we represented them well, and I think we did a great job of that. I think it proves that we are the best league in the state. Every night is a battle.
“It absolutely prepared us. I actually felt pretty comfortable coming in here because we have been battle tested.”
The Lady Lions blitzed District 7 champ Chartiers Valley with a 10-0 start and led 17-7 after one quarter. It was just the beginning.
O’Hara increased its lead to 28-11 by halftime and 38-20 after three quarters. A commanding defense stifled Chartiers over the final eight minutes, surrendering a miniscule seven points.
Junior Sydni Scott’s 16 points, junior Maggie Doogan’s 13, and senior Siobhan Boylan’s 10 paced the offense. Doogan, who joined junior Annie Welde with a team-best seven rebounds, continued her stellar postseason play with five blocks and two steals in 31 minutes.
“We walked in and we were in awe of this huge arena, but we left it all out there and worked our tails off both on offense and defense,” said Doogan, holding a gigantic Hershey’s chocolate bar. “We deserved that win.”
According to a PIAA historian, Chrissie and Maggie Doogan became the third coach/daughter to win a state crown. It’s reportedly never been done twice.
Though their offense was steady, O’Hara’s backcourt of Scott and senior Amaris Baker turned the ball over only twice despite repeated attempts to disrupt their flow. And then there was O’Hara’s ferocious defense. Against a Chartiers team that averaged fewer than five miscues per contest, O’Hara forced 11 turnovers.
“I give my assistants all the credit in the world with convincing me and the girls that switching defense was the way to go,” said Chrissie Doogan. “They bought into it and we had two great days of practice. It was just the way to go, and kudos to all of them.”
Baker appreciated the strategy.
“We won states because of our defense, mindset, and intensity,” said Baker, who contributed six points and two assists. “We practiced two days of intense defense. We were talking and moving our feet. Our mindset was to win and be the first state champions, so we had to do what we had to do in order to win. Intensity was just to play hard and make the right plays.”
Boylan gave a shout out to the Catholic League.
“The competition in the Catholic League is amazing,” she said. “Playing against Wood, West Catholic, Neumann-Goretti, and Archbishop Carroll . . . all of those teams are great competition, and they really helped us work to get better and to get to where we are now.”
Welde, who had just lost her beloved grandmother, Marilyn Hagan, a day earlier, offered a perfect summary.
“This is exactly what she would have wanted, and I think she would be so happy,” said Welde. “This is something that so few people get to experience, and just to take everything in at one time is so fun.”
(Contact John Knebels at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)