Catholic League playoffs: Ragdolls rally, advance to semis

After enduring a four-game losing streak heading into the Catholic League playoffs, the Archbishop Ryan girls basketball team found themselves down 10 points in the first quarter at Bonner-Prendie.

A back-breaker? Not on Kalene Coffey’s watch.

Coffey, a senior guard for the Ragdolls, erupted for 13 of her game-high 24 points in the second quarter, as Ryan went on to notch a thrilling 48–43 win. The Catholic League quarterfinals victory on Thursday night propelled Ryan into the semifinals, where they will meet three-time defending state champion Archbishop Wood on Thursday night at Philadelphia University (6 p.m. tipoff).

Coffey’s outburst couldn’t have come at a better time.

“She was very good,” Ryan head coach Jackie Hartzell said by phone Friday afternoon. “She made six of her seven three-point attempts, and like the rest of our kids, she didn’t give up when we got down early.”

As is usually the case for the Ragdolls when things are going well, they got a complete team effort from everyone involved. While Coffey was the scoring hero, fellow senior Melissa Rizzo added 11 points and seven rebounds, while sophomore Danielle Skedzielewski chipped in with seven boards of her own. Junior Taylor Adair filled the box score with three points, eight rebounds and six assists while limiting Bonner-Prendie’s best player — sophomore Alyssa Monaghan — to 14 points.

Despite the four losses to close out the season, Ryan is viewing the playoffs as a fresh start. Deep and balanced, the Ragdolls boast a core group of five seniors — Coffey, Rizzo, Kelsey Dale, Amanda Weindorfer and Courtney Helm — that all have big game Catholic League experience. Combining that with the sophomore and junior contributors (sophomore Samantha Hicks and junior Alison Szyszko all play key minutes) gives the Ragdolls the belief they can knock off Wood.

It will not be easy.

On the regular season’s final day, Wood throttled Ryan, 42–18, (six less points than Coffey had on her own against Bonner-Prendie). Just last night, the Lady Vikings made short work of another local team, trouncing St. Hubert 61–34 to eliminate an equally deep Bambies’ team.

“We have to compete, which we did not do on the last day of the season,” said Hartzell, a former Wood assistant. “Our kids play AAU basketball together, and we’re very familiar with each other. We know we have to play extremely well for four quarters to give ourselves a chance.”

Ryan will need to do a laundry list of things right to sack Wood, but Hartzell says the team is up to the challenge. The reigning state champs boast an arsenal of depth in their own right; they’re tall, can shoot from the outside, get to the rim with relative ease and defend better than any team in the league, as the 18 points Ryan scored against the Lady Vikings indicates.

“We have to guard, we have to rebound and, more than anything else, we have to score,” Hartzell said. “They’ll definitely key on Kalene and make things difficult for her to get going.”

One of the best things about having a team with so many seniors is that at this time of year, they see that the end in sight. Now, every game is potentially their last one, and Hartzell can see it in their eyes that this group isn’t ready to break apart just yet.

“It was obvious last night that the seniors didn’t want that one to be their last,” Hartzell said. “If we don’t believe we can beat Wood on Thursday night, then we’ve already lost. Getting them to believe they can do it is the first step we’ll take this week in practice. Our seniors have been great leaders and it will be up to them to lead us heading into Thursday.

“We just want to give ourselves a chance. That’s all I can ask.” ••