John Knebels
Sports Columnist

Relief was a major part of it. So was pride. But according to the players and coaches that celebrated Archbishop Wood’s Catholic League basketball championship victory over Archbishop Carroll Monday night at the Palestra, the overriding feeling that accompanied the school’s first league title since 1982 was joy.

Pure, unbridled joy.

“It sure feels good to be on the winning side of things,” said Wood coach Jim Ricci. “I feel so good for the girls, especially the seniors.”

Ricci was referring to the Vikings’ frustration against a Carroll team that had defeated them in the league championship three of the past four years. {{more}}

Many Wood players admitted that they felt an annoying albatross dangling from their necks. Even though they had captured the PIAA Class AAA state championship last year and had defeated Carroll in the tournament quarterfinals, they remained unable to secure a championship plaque.

After a desperation heave by Carroll (18-7 overall) from well beyond the three-point circle that followed a well-designed inbounds play fell short of the hoop, Wood’s wait was over, and so too was Carroll’s 13-game winning streak.

“It’s been 29 years since we won,” said junior Taylor Kaminski. “It feels really good to be on the team that is adding another number to the banner in our gym.”

Kaminski will always be a pivotal footnote to that accomplishment. With the score tied at 31 and 1:55 left in regulation, Wood (22-5) decided to pass the ball around and wait for the last shot, something they had diligently worked on at a recent practice.

Guarded closely with the final seconds ticking down, Kaminski drove the lane and dropped in a short shot with less than three seconds remaining that proved to be the game winner. “I didn’t even think about it,” Kaminski said. “I just used my instincts. Something had to be done and the clock was winding down. I just went for it.”

Ricci admitted that he was attempting to telepathically add an assist to Kaminski’s historic bucket.

“I saw it going up, and I was saying, ‘Please, go in,'” Ricci said. “It was just like how you would see it in the movies.”

Even though Kaminski isn’t a starter and had struggled with her shot during the low-scoring contest, Ricci was not the least bit surprised she ended up being the heroine.

“She’s a kid who wants to be on the floor no matter what the situation,” Ricci said. “She’s a tough kid. She is gonna be a great leader next year.”

With the PIAA tournament about to begin, it is conceivable – maybe even probable – that the two rivals may meet again. However, most players agree that even though pursuing a state championship is exhilarating, winning a Catholic League title is arguably more important.

“This is a big league; it’s a tough league,” said Ricci, whose Vikings shot 8 for 10 from the foul line while Carroll only hit 5 of 12. “Winning this thing … it’s big.”

Senior Christine Verrelle, one of eight Vikings to finish in single digits in scoring, agreed.

“It means a lot,” she said. “A lot of people say that the Catholic League is the best league around, and I agree. After we got states, people were saying that we had one more thing to conquer.”

No one is saying that any longer.

John Knebels can be reached at