If Archbishop Wood and Archbishop Carroll played each other 10 times during the course of a season, chances are the two teams would win five each.

Fortunately for Wood, the only contest that mattered occurred Monday night at the famed Palestra.

With senior Ava Renninger contributing 22 points, four rebounds, three assists, and a block, the top-seed and undefeated Vikings edged the crestfallen two-seed Patriots, 54-52, in the first double overtime in the history of the Philadelphia Catholic League girls’ championship.

“I have always appreciated how much of a tremendous experience it is to be part of the PCL championship at the Palestra, but I forgot just how special it feels to win there,” said Wood coach Mike McDonald, who captured his third title in nine full seasons as head coach. “It is hard to put into words, but the roller coaster of torment, agony, and stress of the game is incredibly worth it.”

Had the game not been so epically important, Renninger would have received a game-stopping celebration.

Of Wood’s nine points in the second overtime period, Renninger provided eight of them by draining all eight of her foul shots. But her third free throw pushed Renninger’s career scoring into quadruple territory.

Senior teammate Lauren Greer, who later would corral 12 rebounds along with eight points and two steals, had reminded Renninger during anatomy class that she needed 17 points to reach 1,000.

“It didn’t matter how many points I scored,” said Renninger, who has committed to play at Fairleigh Dickinson University next year. “The only thing that mattered was going home with the plaque.”

Making its 14th visit to the PCL final in 16 seasons and 15th in the past 18, Wood trailed by 24-21 at halftime. An 11-8 third quarter tied the game, and after both squads traded nine-point outputs in the fourth quarter, the game went into overtime.

Still tied at 45-45 after the first extra period, Wood became more aggressive on offense, thus resulting in several foul calls against Carroll. Renninger, who had uncharacteristically missed two free throws with the score tied at 41-41 and only 25.1 seconds remaining in regulation, tuned out the noise and calmed her nerves before swishing eight straight from the charity stripe during a span of 90 seconds, giving Wood a 53-49 lead with 18.6 seconds remaining.

A clutch three-pointer by Carroll senior and PCL Most Valuable Player Brooke Wilson (12 points, seven assists, five rebounds) closed the gap to 53-52 with 4.6 ticks left. A free thrown by Greer and a missed Wilson desperation shot at the buzzer left finally ended one of the most exciting games in Philadelphia League history.

“I was way too sloppy at the end of the fourth quarter,” said Renninger. “I was definitely frustrated with myself because I could have closed it out. I think I picked it up in the second overtime by making my free throws and trying to limit those turnovers. I knew if I was given another opportunity to close the game out, I was going to knock those shots down.”

Aforementioned teammate Knouse had no doubt that Renninger would redeem her earlier missed freebies.

“She kept us in the game,” said Knouse. “I knew she was going to make her free throws. “I’m really proud of her and all of my teammates.”

For good reason.


Contact John Knebels at jknebels@gmail.com or on ‘X’, formerly known as Twitter, @johnknebels.