CONCORD >> The entire purpose of Nicole Barnes’ game Wednesday night was to ensure that her Garnet Valley teammates were as chill as possible.
No ill-advised shots. No crazy, no-look passes. No panicking.
The No. 4 Jaguars had to stay calm against 13th-seeded Methacton in their District 1 Class 6A second-round game. No matter what.
And it was on the junior point guard and co-captain’s shoulders to make everything all right.
“All week during practice, the coaches were telling me that I had to control the game,” Barnes said. “We knew they were going to come out strong and be right up on us, so they told me that I had to make sure that I controlled the game and controlled the tempo. That’s what I’ve been working on in practice.”
Barnes was the calming presence the Jaguars entrusted. Sophomore forwards Emily McAteer and Brianne Borcky were the X-factors.
Despite a spirited comeback attempt by Methacton, Garnet Valley stayed together and maintained control throughout, earning a 51-42 victory and a berth in the PIAA Class 6A tournament.
Garnet Valley (22-2) hosts No. 5 Central Bucks West in a district quarterfinal game Saturday at 1 p.m. CB West claimed a 54-42 decision over 12th-seeded Upper Dublin.
“We know they are a quick team, they like to get the ball and go and they like the full-court press,” GV coach Joe Woods said of Methacton. “We knew we had to control the basketball, and for the most part, we did that in the first half and had a nice lead.
“Nicole did a very good job of handling that. It’s something we practiced and she did a really great job of slowing things down for us.”
The Jaguars led 14-3 after the first quarter and their advantage ballooned to 19-5 in the early minutes of the second. Alas, Methacton chipped away at its sizable deficit, overcoming a disastrous opening eight minutes to outscore the Jags, 15-9, in the second period.
A steal by Sydney Tornetta and a quick basket as time ran out in the quarter cut Garnet Valley’s lead to eight at intermission.
The momentum was starting to swing, but the Jaguars never lost their grip on the game.
“Most teams do make a comeback, especially in playoffs. You really can’t take anything for granted,” said Barnes, who had five points and a game-high seven assists. “We knew it would be a good game. We were getting tired at the end, but we ended up pulling through.”
McAteer, who is the third-leading scorer in the county, paced the Jaguars with 17 points to go with nine rebounds, three steals and two blocks. McAteer, Borcky (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Maddy Sorokanych (eight points, nine rebounds) ignited the Jags in the opening period. They were able to jump out to a big cushion by breaking through Methacton’s full-court press and pesky man defense.
What also benefitted the Jags was the fact that Methacton (19-7) shot a woeful 1-for-14 from and the field and committed seven turnovers in the opening quarter.
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“We always want to start off fast and make sure we’re winning in the beginning. That leads us off for the rest of the game,” McAteer said. “We knew they had outside shooters and they weren’t as big as us, so we wanted to get out on the shooter and kind of know where the shooter is at all times. We wanted to get in their way and play strong defense.”
After Methacton’s Sydney Thompson drilled a 3-pointer to make it a 39-35 game early in the fourth, the Jags responded with field goals from Camryn Faith (eight points) and Sorokanych. Borcky swished a 3-pointer to make it a 47-37 game, and McAteer made three free throws down the stretch to help ice things for the Jags.
Ryan DeOrio led the Warriors with 14 points. She scored 12 in the second half. Jackie Cerchio added seven points, 10 rebounds and three steals. Methacton falls into the playback bracket with a chance to earn one of 11 state berths.
The Jaguars move on to the quarterfinals to face C.B. West for the second time this season. The first time didn’t go so well. In a Jan. 29 meeting at the Blue Chip Super Showcase at Harriton, the Jags had a difficult time of keeping pace with C.B. West’s run-and-gun, up-tempo style. While they were within striking distance at halftime, the Jags ultimately dropped a 67-50 decision that day, despite 22 points from McAteer
“We know how to get ready to go against them now and what to focus on in practice,” McAteer said.
“Their tempo is at another level,” Woods said. “We played them at the Blue Chip Showcase and the kids know they’re an excellent team. We’re fortunate that we earned a higher seed, so they have to come here. We’ll have to come out prepared.”