Wood Girls vs Lansdale Catholic Girls
Written by: James Nelson-Stewart
February 28th, 2022, I attended the PCL Championship Games at the Legendary Palestra. I got to the arena early enough to see the Girls’ Championship game that had Archbishop Carroll going against Cardinal O’Hara. Truthfully before 2020, I had not been a fan or even a spectator of HS Girls’ basketball. I knew of local players such as Dawn Staley (Dobbins/Virginia), Tammy Greene (Plymouth Whitemarsh/Textile) and Renee Womack (Methacton/Penn State, who was my friend’s John Womack’s little sister). Also, I had some knowledge of the 1987 Wissahickon Girls Team (led by Peggy Jewell, Trish Corace and Dee Perry) who made a run to the PIAA finals when I was a Middle School athlete just finding my love of sports.
To say I was any more than a casual spectator would be an overstatement. But back to February 28th, the atmosphere at the game was a growing buzz but mainly because of the Boys Final that was going to be played right after that game with Neumann Goretti and Archbishop Ryan. So as I’m walking to my seat I see my brother Trenell Clements-Herder sitting there and I greet him and ask “What’s Good, what you doing down at the game?”. Trenell, who has been the Lansdale Catholic Assistant Girls’ Coach since 2020-2021, pointed at a group of people with hoodies on and said, “That’s what up.” That group with the hoodies on was the Lansdale Catholic’s Girls team soaking up the atmosphere of the Palestra with Coach Trenell and Head Coach Eric Gidney (better known as Coach EG). I observed that group of young ladies get excited from the aura of the event and from that point on they did not lose another game until the PIAA 4A State Title Game, where their opponent that night was the Archbishop Wood Girls, who won that game 57-45.
Archbishop Wood Girls on the other hand has built a very successful program. Since 2010, the Wood Girls’ Programs has won 7 PIAA Championships and 3 PCL Championships with 9 District 12 Championships. That is quite a resume. Coach Mike McDonald has been leading this juggernaut since 2015-2016 (2014-2015 interim head coach) and has kept the ship rolling with 4 State Titles and 2 PCL Titles at the helm. Every year, he has players leaving his program and attending college at every level. One of the true Powerhouse Girls’ Programs of this region. Lansdale Catholic is trending towards that distinction every year building a winning tradition and now looking to add 2 very distinctive pieces of hardware to their collection and those are the PCL Crown first and then the PIAA 4A Title.
Those stories alone would be enough to add to the intrigue and excitement of this game, but the other back stories give this game a very classic feeling. The 2 Division 1 Signees Senior Stars of both teams (Wood’s Deja Evans-Albany and LC’s Gabby Casey-St. Joes) played AAU together with the Nationally Ranked Philadelphia Belles National Team, who was a close-knit bunch of young ladies that travelled the country and had much success. Another key part of that AAU team was Unsigned Wood Sr. G Delaney Finnegan, who has a reputation for her defensive prowess. The plot just keeps thickening with Coach Mike McDonald coaching Unsigned LC Sr. Jaida Helm, who played her 1st 3 seasons at Abington High School, who transferred to Lansdale Catholic due to Family Medical Situations. Helm was a multiple time All-League performer at Abington, who is getting interest from school at the D1 and D2 levels. A few of the ladies are very familiar with each other because they train with Elite Skills Trainer Ryan Washington (Wissahickon and Kutztown Fame) and has had players like Evans, Star LC So. Saniyah Littlejohn, Emerging LC Fr. F Isabella Allen and Heady Fr. Lead Guard Aubrey Mobley in the gym or at the park working alongside each other to push each other to higher heights. The brother of Star Wood So. Emily Knouse was also part of those workouts.
This game has the potential to reach the same heights as the Camden/Imhotep and the Neumann/Roman games did with both teams having extremely excellent seasons and stakes that continue to grow with each passing game. The matchups are incredible for this Catholic League Battle. 1st Place Archbishop Wood (8-0 League, 16-3 overall) vs Tied for 2nd Lansdale Catholic (7-1 League, 17-2 overall). As we mentioned the Seniors (Wood- Deja Evans, Delaney Finnegan, Kara Meredith (Holy Family), and the injured Allie Fleming) (LC has Gabby Casey, Jaida Helm and Ali Johns). Star Sophomore Guards on both teams with LC PG Saniyah Littlejohn who has the potential to be the next BIG star in the region along with her backcourt mate Sharpshooting Nadia Yemola going up against Wood’s Sharpshooting So Wing in Emily Knouse, who also has a chance to be a high major D1 player. You have the Jr Point Guards controlling the show with Wood’s Ava Reddinger matching up with LC’s Olivia Boccella. LC Freshman Girls Mobley and Allen are getting more time and crucial minutes while Wood’s bench is deep full of Jrs., So, and Freshman. To just give you an understanding of the importance of this game, there will be a televised showing on the PCN network. Will we see a changing of the guard or will we continue to see the dominance of Wood continue. Can’t Wait and Hope to See you there.