FORT WASHINGTON >> Upper Dublin needed something to go right early in the third quarter when guard Maggie Weglos made it happen.
To that point, the Flying Cardinals had been struggling mightily against Harry S Truman in their first round District I 6A playoff game Saturday afternoon. Truman, making its first playoff appearance in over 30 years, certainly didn’t play like it. As UD coach Morgan Funsten put it, Truman looked like the squad of players with 15 prior games of postseason experience and his team looked like the one new to the stage.
But on that pivotal third-quarter possession, on a fourth-chance shot, Weglos buried her lone make of the day and turned the game around for the Cardinals. A hot streak by Josie Barrett and another quietly effective game from Nicole Kaiser then carried Upper Dublin to a comeback 49-39 win over the Tigers.
“I felt like in the third quarter we had a little momentum but my 3 maybe tipped it over,” Weglos said. “It helped getting us focused and telling us this was our game and we should just play.”
Truman, backed by a nice-sized crowd of supporters, played a tremendous first half and showed a lot of fight in the fourth quarter that made it anything but an easy win for No. 11 Upper Dublin. The No. 21 Tigers aren’t very tall, but they have a lot of reach and a lot of speed. That, coupled with their press defense, caused plenty of trouble for Upper Dublin.
The first half was set up almost perfectly for Truman, with a lot of fouls, a lot of jump balls and a lot of Cardinal turnovers. Being able to get stops while also halting the clock is exactly the kind of thing a pressure defense team dreams about, so Truman made sure to cash in.
“We have to, we don’t have that much height but we’re long,” Tigers coach Collette Munford said. “When we stick out our arms, we’re long. And we’re quick, so that’s the type of game we have to play. We have to get it and go and run. We missed a lot of easy layups too and that cost us.”
The Tigers hit three 3-point shots in the first half, attacked the basket, got offensive rebounds and drew fouls, all helping to build a 14-10 lead after one and a 19-12 lead with 3:23 left in the second quarter. Had it not been for Kaiser, who scored half of her 18 points before intermission, the Cardinals could have been quite far behind.
Barrett, the Cardinals’ long-range specialist had a rough shooting half, but her foul shots with 17.2 seconds left cut the Truman lead to 22-16 at the break. For whatever reason, in four of Funsten’s five years helming the team, it has turned in a poor first half in its first playoff game. It was the case Saturday, but the Cardinals were still right in it.
“It felt like more than six, at least to me,” Barrett said. “I hate being down. It felt like they had more energy and momentum going into the half. It was good that is was six and no more than six or we would have been in trouble.”
Weglos said the team felt that Truman’s outside shooting would even out, but the Cardinals had to take care of their end if they wanted to get back in the game. With guards very good at creating steals, that’s just what UD did.
Barrett, Weglos and reserve guards Meg Barbera and Lindsey Schreiber got after it on the defensive end and forced Truman into three turnovers to start the third quarter. Yet, the Cardinals weren’t really scoring, save for a basket by Demi Balasa on the first play of the period. That all changed when, after three UD misses, Barrett gathered up a long offensive rebound and passed to Weglos at the top of the arc.
It was all cotton and the Cardinals were within 22-21 with 5:46 left in the third.
“Maggie Weglos played under control and I thought that was the biggest shot of the game that she made,” Funsten said. “We were getting them to turn the ball over and we were getting good shots but nothing was falling. That was the fourth attempt and it was like ‘finally.’ It got us to relax, got us in our press and it went from there.
“That was the biggest play of the game, Maggie making that 3 from the top of the key.”
A driving score by Kaiser put the Cardinals up 23-22 with 4:40 left in the third and they would not trail again. Freshman Jackie Vargas scored a possession later, then Barrett finally got rolling over the final 3:05 of the third.
It started with a long 3-pointer as the senior went 4-of-4 to close out the quarter, hitting a trio of treys and knocking in 11 of her 16 points to hand Upper Dublin a 36-26 lead with eight minutes left.
“I think some of our players were overthinking it in the first half and I was just kind of out of it, I wasn’t really thinking at all,” Barrett said. “It was a confidence booster and I needed that.”
Just as important during that stretch was a foul called on Truman. An offensive foul with 1:51 left wiped out a Jayda Campbell 3-pointer.
“That hurt us too, it kind of took a little bit out of the girls,” Munford said. “We were trying to get on a run, but I told them just to keep their heads in it.”
Little did Upper Dublin know, but it was going to be glad it had that lead. After playing a near-perfect third quarter, the Cardinals looked more like their first-half selves in the fourth, making bad passes, fouling and turning the ball over enough to let Truman hang around.
Funsten said his team had its best week of practice leading into Saturday’s game so the uneven performance was quite unexpected. While Truman made a couple shots, it missed a couple more and struggled at the foul line, so the Tigers never really cut too far into the Cardinal lead.
Upper Dublin also helped its case by going 11-of-12 at the foul line in the final frame, but the end of game execution is still something that needs to be polished up.
“We can’t make excuses, we had 24 turnovers today and we work on taking care of the ball and we pride ourselves on taking care of the ball,” Funsten said. “To have 24 turnovers is really inexcusable. I, as a coach, have to better prepare them for that pressure and the girls have to be better at executing.”
Wednesday’ second round game will bring its own kind of pressure when Upper Dublin travels to No. 5 seed CB West. A loss sends either team into the playback bracket.
“During halftime we talked about how this could possibly be our last game and I think it really hit the team hard,” Weglos said. “We didn’t want it to be our last game and that really helped us focus and we knew if could get past this round, we would have a second chance but only if we utilized this first chance.”
Upper Dublin 49, Truman 39
HARRY S TRUMAN 14 8 4 13 – 39
UPPER DUBLIN 10 6 20 13 – 49
Truman (39): Daria Moore 2 0-1 5, Jayda Campbell 1 0-2 3, Alexis McCoy 5 3-6 13, Sabrina Lyles 2 6-7 10, Dashia Campbell 3 0-0 8. Nonscoring: Jones, Ciney. Totals: 13 9-16 39
Upper Dublin (49): Nicole Kaiser 6 6-8 18, Josie Barrett 5 2-2 16, Demi Balasa 1 2-2 4, Maggie Weglos 1 0-0 3, Jackie Vargas 2 4-4 8. Nonscoring: Kara Grebe, Meg Barbera, Lindsey Schreiber. Totals: 15 14-16 49
3-pointers: HST – D Campbell 2, Moore, J Campbell; UD – Barrett 4, Weglos