Article by Perry Mattern, The Sentinel
For the full article, click here.
COATESVILLE — The game plan by the Mechanicsburg girls basketball team was great. Coach Clay McAllister said the execution of the game plan by his team was perfect. But sometimes, even that isn’t enough.
Mechanicsburg was not able to cash in on a nine-point halftime lead, and fell 35-31 to District 1’s Abington in the second round of the PIAA Class AAAA tournament Tuesday night at Coatesville High School.
The Wildcats’ defense was there — like it has been all season — limiting Abington to just seven first-half points. For the game, the Ghosts shot an ugly 22 percent from the field (11-for-49). However, the offense came around when it counted for Abington as it outscored Mechanicsburg 17-8 in the final quarter.
Also akin to much of the season, Mechanicsburg struggled offensively. The selfless Wildcats often had long possessions that ended in turnovers or contested shots. Mechanicsburg made just eight of the 23 shots taken in the paint.
“I thought we attacked the basket exactly like we had to against that pressure,” McAllister said.
The officiating crew allowed plenty of contact in the lane — a detriment to Mechanicsburg’s leading scorer, Cecily Carl. The Wildcats’ forward finished 1-of-10 shooting from the field and shot just four free throws, despite a concerted effort by her teammates to get her the ball.
“I’m disappointed with all the contact on Cecily. She shot just four free throws tonight,” McAllister said of Carl, who graduates as Mechanicsburg’s all-time leading scorer. “But I’m also not going to sit here and lay it at the feet of the officials.“
Carl did impact the game in a big way, though. The American University recruit had a game-high 15 rebounds and six blocks. For much of the night Abington had no answer for her size and shot blocking in the lane.
Abington coach Dan Marsh was beyond impressed with Carl.
“(Carl) was a beast in there,” Marsh said. “She took away our penetration, (Mechanicsburg) closed out on our shooters, they took away our high low. They did everything perfectly.”
Perfectly wasn’t good enough, though. Following an abysmal 3-of-24 shooting performance in the first half, Abington turned to its defense to try and create offense. A variety of full-court and half-court traps bothered Mechanicsburg greatly. The Wildcats turned the ball over 19 times to Abington’s nine.
The Ghosts first lead didn’t come until the 4:27 mark in the fourth quarter on two free throws by Deja Rawls, who was huge down the stretch. Rawls finished with a team-high 11 points, making 7-of-10 free throws. The Wildcats desperately tried to force the ball away from her and Sammy Lochner (4-of-4 free throws made), but couldn’t do it.
“That’s the one thing that we do well,” Marsh said. “We’re like a 70-percent free-throw shooting team, which is really good for a high school team.”
Indeed it is, and Mechanicsburg could never break the four-point barrier created by Rawls and Lochner’s foul shooting in the final minute.
For the second year in a row, Mechanicsburg goes home via heartbreak after coming up just short to eventual runner-up Spring-Ford in last year’s PIAA second round. Last year’s group may have been more talented, but this version of Mechanicsburg (24-4) took grittiness to a whole new level.
“You can name 10 to 12 flat our hustle plays that we made tonight,” McAllister said. “They love each other and they wanted to keep playing.”
Article by Kate Harman, Philly.com
For the full article, click here.
“We’re OK. We’re OK. We’re OK.”
Dan Marsh repeated that refrain to his Abington girls’ basketball team as they huddled on the bench at the end of the third quarter.
The Ghosts had cut Mechanicsburg’s lead from 11 points down to five.
They had overcome a slow start, poor shooting, and a seven-point first half to get themselves within two possessions.
So yes, compared to where they were at the start of the contest, Abington was most definitely OK.
Propelled by Deja Rawls and Lizzie O’Leary, the Ghosts mounted a gritty comeback at Coatesville, and defeated Mechanicsburg, 35-31, in the second round of the PIAA Class AAAA tournament.
“That’s a good basketball team,” Marsh said. “I’ll take that win. As ugly as it was, I’ll take it.”
The Ghosts (26-5) struggled offensively from the start, converting only three field goals in the first 16 minutes. But in the third, O’Leary scored nine of her team’s 11 points, igniting the comeback with some nice moves down low and sharp shooting.
“I knew I had to step up tonight, and everything I did was for the seniors,” the sophomore forward said. “They deserve one more game. It’s not their time to be done. They need more games – it’s their year.”
Rawls, a dynamic offensive threat in her own right, didn’t have the first half she was accustomed to on Tuesday night. So, the Siena recruit used her explosiveness to get to the hoop.
It paid off.
“I knew my shot was off in the first half,” said Rawls, who finished with 11 “So, I was like, attack, look for the kick and just make foul shots.
As they crawled back possession by possession, defense kept the Ghosts in the game. They swarmed the bigs for Mechanicsburg (23-4), while pressuring the guards.
O’Leary had the task of guarding American recruit Cecily Carl, a 6-foot-3 forward who can shoot the jumper. With some help-defense from Leah Simmons and Bre Bermel, they held the senior to three points.
“Lizzie was unbelievable,” Marsh said. “She shut that kid down – amazing job. I’m so proud of Lizzie.”
In Friday’s quarterfinals, the Ghosts will face off against Cumberland Valley, the defending Class AAAA state champions.
Abington got the ugly one out of the way Tuesday.
They’ll be OK.