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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Cardinal O’Hara and Archbishop Wood Both One Win Away From Gold

By John Knebels, 03/21/24, 4:45PM EDT


By: John Knebels

NORRISTOWN, PA – Although obviously not representing everyone, the majority of Philadelphia Catholic League players and coaches insist that they root for their adversaries who compete against non-league teams during the postseason.

Taking them at their word, Cardinal O’Hara and Archbishop Wood should sense positive vibes emanating from the other 10 PCL teams that won’t be playing in the PIAA state final this weekend at the Giant Center in Hershey.

On Friday at 6:00, District 12 runner-up O’Hara will meet District 1-runner up Spring-Ford for the Class 6A title. Led by senior Joanie Quinn’s 21 points and junior Molly Rullo’s 18, the Lions advanced to the final with a convincing semifinal win over District 11 champ Parkland, 51-32, Monday night at Norristown High School.

Since losing to Archbishop Carroll in the PCL semifinals, Cardinal O’Hara has been playing its best basketball of the year. The Lions’ four tournament wins – including an uber-impressive 49-35 victory over District 1 champ and then 27-1 Perkiomen Valley in the quarterfinals – have come by an average score of 51-32.

Based on the devastating defeat against rival Carroll that left the Lions visibly emotional, no one knew what to expect moving forward.

Cardinal O'Hara vs. Parkland - PIAA 6A Semifinal Highlights by John Knebels for PSD

Cardinal O'Hara junior Molly Rullo agrees that her team is playing its best basketball of the season - PSD video by John KNebels

“I didn’t know if we had it in us,” admitted proud O’Hara coach Chrissie Doogan. “I was afraid we were going to pack it in. That’s a long gap in between. We had almost two weeks of no games. Practices were getting monotonous.

“I was really nervous for this group. Our seniors don’t want their careers to end. The team regrouped and they just decided they do want to make this run in March.”

After state semifinal win, Cardinal O'Hara senior Joanie Quinn immediately started preparing for the state championship - PSD Video by John KNebels

Head coach Chrissie Doogan appreciates & respects her teams' ability to turn earlier disappointment into a state finals trip - PSD Video by John Knebels

O’Hara (25-4 overall) will be searching for its third title in four years. Having lost in 2009 and 2016, the Doogan-coached Lions captured back-to-back championships in 2021 and 2022.

En route to its own PIAA title, Archbishop Carroll defeated O’Hara in last year’s state semis. Then the Patriots obstructed the Lions’ PCL path in the semis in February. Undaunted, the Lions dug deep and refused to feel sorry for themselves

“Everyone wants to play their best, but I think having lost to Carroll like that gave us that fire,” said Quinn. “So in a way – and obviously we didn’t want to lose that game – but in a way, losing to Carroll was a blessing in disguise.”

At 6:00 Saturday night, Archbishop Wood (25-5) will take the court in the Class 5A final, where they will face District 10 champion Cathedral Prep and try to finish the program’s first-ever fourth straight title – aka “four-peat” – and sixth under coach Mike McDonald.

Behind junior Emily Knouse’s 26 points, senior Ava Renninger’s 14, and senior Lauren Greer’s tenacious defense, Wood reached the final by upending Bethlehem Catholic, 53-30, Tuesday night at Norristown High School.

The Vikings have advanced to the championship a remarkable nine times in the past 10 tries; because of the global pandemic, the 2020 tournament ended before the quarterfinals.

Participating in their 12th state final in 14 opportunities dating back to 2010, the Vikings will try to establish a state-record ninth title and will take a 19-game tournament-winning streak into the final.

Archbishop Wood vs. Bethlehem Catholic - PIAA 5A Semifinal Highlights by John KNebels for PSD

Seniors Alexa Windish & Ava Renninger are one win away from finishing scholastic careers as a state champion - PSD Video by John Knebels

“This is different because it’s the last one,” said Renninger, a first-team All-Catholic who will play at Fairleigh Dickinson. “Don’t get me wrong. All the other ones were an amazing feeling, but the last one with my seniors next to me is gonna be an unforgettable experience. So this trip is definitely gonna hit harder because it’s the last game of my high school career.”

Since they also won the PCL championship, finishing with a state title would give Wood two plaques in the same season for the fourth time (the 2011 team under Jim Ricci, and the 2016 and 2021 squads under McDonald did likewise).

Wood junior Emily Knouse acknowledges she's just one weapon in Archbishop Wood's arsenal - PSD Video by John Knebels

Archbishop wood coach Mike McDonald is once again in position for a state title - PSD Video by John Knebels

According to Knouse, a first-team All-Catholic and St. Joseph’s University signee, a distinct difference separates the PCL from the PIAA.

“It feels different because going into the Catholic League final, we know our opponent super well and you almost can’t run your offense because of it,” said Knouse. “For states, the most you can do is watch video and scout them a little bit, but it will never be like the PCL.”


(Contact John Knebels at or on Twitter @johnknebels.)