TOWAMENCIN >> It was just one basket in a Saturday afternoon game, but it was exactly the kind of basket the North Penn girls basketball team knows it should be scoring.
In the third quarter of their game against visiting Upper Dublin, senior guard Sam Carangi rebounded a miss, looked up the floor and fired a long outlet pass that found its target in Bri Hewlett under the Cardinals hoop. Instead of forcing up a shot with a defender coming, Hewlett kicked out to a wide-open Jenny Hulmes on the wing.
Hulmes knocked down the 3-pointer, adding another bucket off an assist to the register in the Knights’ 50-32 win over UD as part of the SOL Challenge on a snowy afternoon.
“We made much better decisions today,” North Penn coach Maggie deMarteleire said. “With what happened Thursday (in a 48-34 loss to Central Bucks South), we had to put that in a column that it was an anomaly and we had to make sure we learned from it. Today was a step in the right direction.”
North Penn assisted on 15 of its 19 made baskets on Saturday after assisting just three of 10 against the Titans. It wasn’t a case of selfishness on Thursday, just bad decision-making against a good defensive team. While Upper Dublin is a sound defensive squad, the Knights were just cleaner and smarter with what they were doing.
They also frustrated the Cardinals on defense, forcing Upper Dublin into 18 turnovers, which hurt the visitors in the first quarter and especially the third. UD, which is still adapting to life without Allison Chernow running point, had some stretches where it went right at North Penn and matched the Knights score for score.
“When you have (Irisa) Ye on the court, you have to try to play four on four and keep her out of the game because she pressures the ball so well,” Cardinals coach Morgan Funsten said. “What was frustrating was in the second quarter, we started to get some momentum and we got hit with some silly turnovers. We shot 63 percent in the first half, and if you told me that, I would have told you we were winning, but we had 11 shot attempts and 11 turnovers in the first half.”
Nicole Kaiser scored the first basket of the game for Upper Dublin and the Cardinals wouldn’t score again until the second quarter. North Penn led 8-2 after one and added to that advantage at the break when it took a 26-18 lead into the intermission.
A 6-0 spurt by UD cut the North Penn lead to 16-15 at one point, before Carangi assisted two baskets and freshman Carley Adams converted a three-point play to stretch the lead and Carangi closed the period by drilling a 3 with 6.8 seconds left. Senior Jess Huber also got on a roll in the second, canning three 3s as part of her team-high 14, tied for the game-high with Kaiser.
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) January 8, 2017
“Thursday was one of the worst games we’ve ever played, I think we all needed to take a look in the mirror, step back and think what did we all individually need to do better,” Huber said. “CB South passes so well and I think we learned from that, saw how they did it and applied it to this game with how to pass better.”
Huber dished four of her six assists out in the fourth quarter, which helped prevent Upper Dublin from ever cutting the lead down to single digits.
As important as moving the ball and scoring was, keeping Upper Dublin from doing the same was just as important. Between 6-foot-3 freshman Jackie Vargas and 6-foot senior Demi Balasa, the Cardinals had a size advantage inside and North Penn wanted to make it as difficult as possible for the Cards to give it to them.
There wasn’t much room for UD sharpshooter Josie Barrett to get free for shots and whichever Cardinal was on the ball usually had a North Penn player hounding them.
“We picked up our defensive intensity on the perimeter, we were trying to pressure their guards because they out-sized us,” deMarteleire said. “He runs nice plays, a lot of isolation plays and back screens, so I thought we did a nice job. We need to expose other team’s weaknesses. If one player is better with one hand, we need to be forcing them the other way, all those things.”
Funsten said his team came in with the expectation it would win Saturday, but he had no issues with his players’ effort. Managing the turnovers is still something the Cardinals will have to get better with in the second half of the season, but games like Saturday are meant to prepare the Cardinals for the postseason.
“Against Abington, we didn’t turn the ball over but we couldn’t make a shot and today, we made shots but we couldn’t take care of the ball,” Funsten said. “We think this is going to help us improve and hopefully be ready for the postseason. If you look at some of our younger players, their improvement from the beginning of the season to now is tremendous.”
Carangi added five assists with nine points while Hewlett and Ye each had a pair of helpers for North Penn. Kaiser added six rebounds and two assists to her line for the afternoon.
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) January 8, 2017
Both teams close out the first half of SOL play this week, then have contests at the Play-by-Play Classic held at PhillyU next Sunday.
North Penn has games with Pennridge and Central Bucks East before facing Episcopal Academy, so the Knights are hoping Saturday’s effort carries over while Thursdays remains an anomaly.
“We always try to make the extra pass,” Huber said. “I think doing it in the flow of the offense will lead to us knocking down more shots.”
North Penn 50, Upper Dublin 32
Upper Dublin 2 16 5 9 – 32
North Penn 8 18 13 11 – 50
Upper Dublin (32): Nicole Kaiser 4 6-10 14, Josie Barrett 2 0-1 6, Demi Balasa 2 0-0 5, Jackie Vargas 2 1-3 5, Meghan Barbera 0 2-2 2. Nonscoring: Weglos, Grebe, Schreiber. Totals: 10 9-16 32.
North Penn (50): Irisa Ye 5 0-0 10, Jess Huber 5 0-0 14, Sam Carangi 3 0-0 9, Jess McKenzie 0 2-2 2, Bri Hewlett 2 0-0 5, Kate Early 2 0-0 4, Jenny Hulmes 1 0-0 3, Carley Adams 1 1-1 3. Totals: 19 3-3 50.
3-pointers: UD – Barrett 2, Balasa; NP – Huber 4, Carangi 3, Hewlett, Hulmes.
Top Photo: North Penn’s Jess Huber fakes Upper Dublin’s Demi Balasa during their game on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)