Aston >> Completing its second consecutive undefeated Tri-County Independent School League season, Collegium Charter used its trademark up-tempo defense to trigger a 44-28 win against Mercy Vocational in the Tri-County girls’ basketball championship final Thursday at Neumann University.
The win gave Collegium Charter (21-3) a perfect 10-0 record in the Tri-County League (21-0 for the last two seasons).
Thursday, the Cougars relentlessly pressured Mercy, causing numerous turnovers that allowed Collegium to hold the lead nearly the entire game, except for one brief period in the second quarter.
“We like to run, we’ve got good athletes, and the more up-tempo the game is, the better it is for us,” said Collegium head coach Jon Guarenta. “We like to press, trap, make it exciting.
“Today, our players did a good job reading the passing lanes, and with our player rotations, we can keep up the defensive pressure the entire game.”
Collegium had a balanced offensive attack Thursday. Freshman guard Ayanna Revnell led all scorers with 13 points, while junior forward Destyni Wood and sophomore guard Kiana Brown each tallied 10.
“While Destyni (who averages 11-12 ppg) is our go-to player when we need a basket, we have four or five players who can score in double figures for us,” said Guarenta. “We’ve had [at least] five different lead scorers in games this season.”
Just before the first half ended, Revnell, who is averaging more than three steals per game, made a nice steal and drive for a basket. Revnell finished the first half with 10 points as Collegium led at halftime, 21-18.
Mercy, the second seed in the tournament, was hanging tough, led by senior guard Elaisha Bagwell (10 first-half points). Trailing by three points, Mercy was closer to Collegium at halftime than any other Tri-County team has been against the Cougars at halftime this season.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Mercy sophomore guard Octavia Preston (who finished with eight points) penetrated Collegium defense for a layup to cut the Cougars’ lead to 32-26. It was the last field goal Mercy got, as Collegium closed the game with a 12-2 run.
The Collegium run began with two free throws by Revnell, then Wood pulled down a defensive rebound and drove the length of the court for a basket to make it 36-26. A couple of minutes later, sophomore guard Kiana Brown worked her way inside for a score; then her sister, junior point guard Kiara Brown, stole the ball and drive in for a basket to make it 40-26.
The Brown sisters have a variety of talents; Kiara averages half-a-dozen assists per game, and Kiana averages more than three steals per contest.
“Kiara is our rock at point guard, and Kiana is a great on-ball defender,” said Guarenta.
Collegium’s leading three-point shooter, junior forward Lacy Maclachlin, hit a trey that got the winners off to an early lead, and she finished with five points and several steals.
The Cougar cagers are starting to build a championship tradition at the Exton school. When Collegium captured the Tri-County girls’ basketball title last winter, it was the school’s first championship – in any girls’ sport. And the future looks bright too – this year’s Cougar roster has no seniors on it.
But first, Collegium must complete the 2016-17 season – the Cougars, in their first year in the PIAA, have qualified for the PIAA post-season, and will play their first-ever PIAA post-season game against host Pine Grove in the District 1/11 Class 3A tournament Feb. 24.
Collegium Charter 44, Mercy Vocational 28
Mercy Vocational: Preston 4 0-2 8, Bagwell 4 2-2 12, Edwards 1 3-6 5, Wheeler 1 1-2 3. Totals 10 6-10 28.
Collegium Charter: Maclachlin 2 0-0 5, Revnell 4 5-8 13, Wood 3 4-4 10, Kiara Brown 1 2-2 4, Kiana Brown 5 0-2 10, Rivas 1 0-0 2. Totals 16 11-16 44.
Mercy Vocational 7 11 6 4 – 28
Collegium Charter 13 8 11 12 – 44
3-point goals: MV – Bagwell 2; CC – Maclachlin.