TOWAMENCIN- One final game to determine seeding for the 2020 PIAA girls basketball state tournament needed no last second shot. In fact, the result of who earned the 5th seed for the state tournament was decided well before the final buzzer rang in Upper Dublin’s gymnasium.
“Every aspect of the game was our [lowest] of all season long. We couldn’t make outside or inside shots that disappointingly carried over to our defense and as a result we weren’t playing the defense that we normally do. We are too experienced to let that happen,” stated Knights head coach, Jen Carangi.
The North Penn Knights (19-7) fell to the Upper Dublin Lady Cardinals (19-8), 48-26, in a highly anticipated Friday night square off with state tournament seeding on the line and Upper Dublin owned every inch of their home court, as if this game was there last.
“We have a lot of chemistry which is really good, but we need to build up a bigger lead in the beginning so that we aren’t having to play catch up and score when they are ahead for most of the game like tonight. That didn’t really work out in our favor tonight, but we know that we can keep an early lead going if we get ahead from the beginning of the game. We needed to settle the game down a little bit and I think that we need to hit a reset button, go through all of our plays again for the next game,”said North Penn guard, Alli Lindsay.
The offenses on both ends of the court found themselves in a groove early as buckets from Upper Dublin’s, Kara Grebe, and North Penn’s, Valerie McGriff, exemplified the fast paced scoring and trades of possessions out of the gates for both basketball squads. The early 3-2 lead for the Cardinals, courtesy of an open look corner three out of the hands of Kara Grebe, gave Upper Dublin the first bucket and lead on the Friday night contest. From there on out, Upper Dublin never looked back.
“We didn’t have what we usually have with open passes and quick ball movement and were rushing what we were looking for. We always have chemistry as a team. Tonight we just couldn’t click all the way, but we know we will always find each other and find our open passes. Tonight just wasn’t our night,”expressed North Penn’s, Alaina Mullaly.
A full court baseball pass connection between Upper Dublin’s Jess Polin and Bliss Brenner jolted the Cardinals into double digits with an 11-5 lead following the Brenner 2-point bucket finish. With time expiring in the first quarter of the night, the lone underclassmen in North Penn’s starting five, received the inbound pass and dribbled twice to put herself at the Upper Dublin gymnasium logo. The moment after the junior, Alli Lindsay, banked in a half court, brought something more than reducing a 4-point deficit to 1.
“There was about 2.6 seconds left so I knew I only had 2 dribbles. I took it wide because there was a girl in the middle [of the court] and then I shot it, was hoping for the best,”expressed Lindsay.
An 11-10 lead in favor of the home team was quickly provided some reinforcements from behind the arc. Back to back 3s from Upper Dublin’s, Dayna Balasa, ramped up the Cardinals offense to open the 2nd quarter. A 17-10 lead which set off an offensive surge in favor of the girls in red and white. One that put the Cardinal’s up by 10 heading into halftime. With a 24-14 deficit, the Knights knew they had to answer once the final half of play got underway.
“Playing against a team like [Upper Dublin] who is very well coached with smart players who are on the older side made it a problem trying to play from behind the whole game once we dug ourselves into a hole,” said coach Carangi.
When it’s needed most, North Penn has been known to have a big name step up on the scoreboard and build momentum on the court whether the scoreboard is, or isn’t in their favor. To start the 2nd half in the Friday night match with the Cardinals, the leading scorer in the 3rd quarter was not only the biggest name for the Knights, but the big man for the Knights as well.
“Our team goes as [McGriff] goes and I felt like she struggled a little bit in the first half. I felt really encouraged however when she came and started strong,”expressed coach Carangi.
The 6’0 foot senior forward battled toe to toe in the paint with Upper Dublin’s big man player, senior Jackie Vargas, as well. And when both players got their first touches of the ball in the 3rd quarter, they put on a show in the paint.
“There was a lot of contact down there and [Vargas] is one of their biggest players. [I focused] on not forcing any passes, or shots that couldn’t make up for any better opportunities and building off from the basics and went from there,”said McGriff.
The two centers matched each other’s efforts with back to back jump shots from McGriff followed by Vargas, who responded with a layup and an under the basket block on a put back attempt from North Penn’s Katie Early. A 38-23 lead in favor of the Lady Cardinals only grew as Upper Dublin’s play on the court gained full control of the scoreboard and clock. The Cardinals went 8 for 10 from the line in the final moments of the Friday night spectacle.
“Next week we have to bring it. It’s one and done from here on out and we know the team we can be. It’s in states where we have to show that,” stated Mullaly.
A difficult, but necessary one to look back on as Coach Carangi prepares to take her girls to the state tournament next week as the 6th seed in District 1.
“We start state playoffs next Friday night so we really just want to get ourselves back to playing North Penn basketball. Doing what we know, playing good defense, executing our offense, that’s really going to be our focus next week and fortunately for us, we do have all week to prepare for that,” concluded coach Carangi.
The Knights step back on the court next Friday night to kick off their state tournament play against the Patriots of Freedom High Cchool with a tip-off time and location to be determined.
Upper Dublin: Eskew 3 pts, Brenner 4 pts, Polin 6 pts, Smith 8 pts, Grebe 9 pts, Balasa 9 pts, Vargas 9 pts
North Penn: Early 1 pt, Mullaly 1 pt, Plaugher 3 pts, Plaza 4 pts, McGriff 6 pts, Lindsay 11 pts