You don't have to be a wise guy to know what makes Vincentian Academy such a force on the Class A girls basketball stage, but you'd be wise to find a way to try to deal with one player in particular if you hope to stop the Lady Royals.
That would be 6-foot-1 sophomore Brenna Wise.
"She can do it all," Vincentian coach Ron Moncrief said. "She's one of those kids you can throw on the floor at any position at the high school level. She's one of our hardest workers. She's very coachable, too. She's willing to do whatever it takes to win the game. She's been a joy to coach."
Vincentian is 28-1 in no small part because of Wise, who averages 22.0 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.2 blocks. She's the only member of the Lady Royals scoring in double figures, and Bishop Guilfoyle knows that containing her will be a big part of the game plan tonight if the 27-2 Lady Marauders are to clinch a spot in the PIAA championship for the fifth time in seven years.
Tipoff at Indiana Area High School is at 7 p.m.
"The strength of their team is Wise," Guilfoyle coach Mark Moschella said. "In addition to that, I think the quickness of their point guards and penetration could cause us a lot of problems, as well. So we've got to make sure we know where she's at at all times."
The Lady Royals are tall - three other players who might play are at least 5-11 - and athletic. And they aren't unfamiliar to this position. They were upset by North Catholic in last year's semifinals after winning an earlier matchup between the schools in the WPIAL finals.
It's also a young group with only two seniors in the top 11.
"Before the season began, I was very confident that our team was going to do great things, because we had a lot of talent," senior guard Abbey Bartoszewicz said. "We built chemistry throughout the year."
The Lady Royals had big wins over Kennedy Catholic and Quigley Catholic during the regular season. Vincentian's only loss came against Class AAAA state qualifier Gateway, but the Lady Royals did run into some trouble in the second round of interdistricts when they squandered an early double-digit lead and fell behind late against Berlin Brothersvalley. Bartoszewicz rebounded and put in her own miss just before time expired, though, to give Vincentian a 44-42 win.
"Our strategy was to play man inside the 3-point line, to front [Wise] and have our help-side defense playing behind her. They had 12 points in the second half, and she had no field goals," Berlin coach Rachel Prosser said. "I think somebody who can handle pressure [defense] and be cool under pressure matches up the best."
That's been a strong point for the Lady Marauders, who start five seniors, four of whom have been to the state finals twice.
"We have to make sure we take care of the ball and that we take good shots. We have to be aggressive, but we have to be patient. That's a challenge," Moschella said.
BG's seniors were part of the team that beat Vincentian in the 2010 semifinals.
"Not much has changed. They're well-coached. They have a lot of great talent. I give Coach a lot of credit. He does a great job with his program," Moncrief said. "For us to win, we have to play great defense and rebound the ball."
The Lady Royals are hoping they can stop history from repeating itself.
"I know we're probably the underdog because we are so young and they have so many seniors on their team, but I feel we're motivated because we haven't gotten past the semifinals," Bartoszewicz said. "I think we're more ready than we've ever been. Hopefully the game turns out like we hope."