FRANCONIA >> A 10-2 run capped by an Irisa Ye corner 3-pointer gave the North Penn girls basketball a 22-15 halftime lead over Central Bucks West in Monday night’s Suburban One League tournament championship game.
There was, however, no scrapping of plans in the Bucks’ locker room during the break.
“Nothing different. Just play the West way,” West senior Maggie Rakowsky said. “Play defense. And I think that’s what we did.”
After giving up 15 points in the second quarter – 12 to Ye – the Bucks locked down on the Knights in the second half at Souderton. West outscored North Penn 18-4 in the third, turning a seven-point deficit into a seven-point advantage entering the fourth.
“We always know third quarter you either win the third quarter or the third quarter, that’s a very determining factor,” Rakowsky said. “So I think we definitely came out played our defense and hit those shots. Just really got the momentum going.”
West led 33-26 after the third and a Maggie Burke bucket had it up nine early in the fourth. And while North Penn cut the margin to three late, the Bucks made their free throws to claim their second SOL title in three seasons with a 43-25 victory.
“Yesterday, at defense we really worked on defense cause against (Plymouth Whitemrash in the SOL semis) we were lacking a little,” Rakowsky said. “So I think today we really showed what West basketball is.”
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) February 14, 2017
And while the Bucks’ performance ended in a trophy, North Penn’s finished with questions after being denied a second straight conference title – the Knights beat West in overtime in 2016 – and had its 14-game win streak snapped.
“I have no idea. Our lack of energy was, I can’t even explain it,” North Penn coach Maggie deMarteleire said.”
Both sides have first-round byes in the District 1-6A tournament with their opening games coming Wednesday, Feb. 22. The Knights are the top seed and West fifth, meaning a possible fourth matching between the two SOL Continental sides – each team won on the other’s home court the first two matchups – would come in the semifinals.
Rakowsky, who finished Monday with nine points, was a sophomore other last CB West side to win a SOL crown, that 2014-2015 group the best in school history, going on to win districts and reach the PIAA Class AAA championship game. Now see provides veteran leadership as a senior captain to a young and talented side that looks poised to make their own mark.
“It’s really different,” she said. “Going from (Nicole) Munger and them, I was like a role player and now I’m still obviously a role player but I have a little more. It’s a hard transition but with this great group of girls it’s so easy.”
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) February 14, 2017
Like West, Rakowsky was at her best in the third, chipping in six of the Bucks’ 18 points in the quarter. After an Izzy Treon three cut the margin to 24-20, Rakowsky’s defense on the inbounds forced an overthrow intercepted by Tori Abelson, who found Rakowsky for a short banked-in jumper.
Two Ye free throws at 5:16 made it 26-22, but those were the last Knights points of the quarter. Rakowsky knocked down a three from the wing then made 1-of-2 from the line at 4:19 to tie the game.
“My job, I feel as a senior, is to make sure we’re composure cause sometimes the young energy we can (get) really frantic and stuff,” Rakowsky said. “Just like pull the ball back out, calm down, make sure we’re not turning the ball over. I think we did a great job.”
Abelson gave West the lead for good on a putback while Burke had the final five points – the last on a buzzer-beating three – as the Bucks finished the third with an 11-0 run for a 33-26 lead. A Burke two to start the fourth made it a 13-0 run and a nine-point edge before a Bri Hewlett three.
West was fine running clock but turnovers allowed North Penn to pull within three at 38-35. So, the Bucks were required to seal the game from the foul line, which they did going 5-of-6, Rakowsky making the last one with 17.2 seconds left.
“I just think holding our composure the whole game – a little in the fourth quarter there we lost it for a little but I think overall our young team, we really held our composure,” Rakowsky said.
Top Photo: The Central Bucks West girls basketball team poses with the Suburban One League championship trophy after beating North Penn 43-35 in the tournament final on Monday, Feb. 13, 2016. (Mike Cabrey/Digital First Media)