MALVERN >> Battling back from a 10-point deficit late in the third quarter, Villa Maria used a fullcourt press to turn the tables, hold Penncrest scoreless for the next 91/2 minutes, and prevail in overtime, 48-40, in its PIAA District 1 Class 5A tournament opener Tuesday evening.
The third-seeded Hurricanes were trailing No. 14 seed Penncrest, 32-22, with 2 minutes, 24 seconds left in the third quarter when Villa Maria head coach Kathy McCartney called a timeout.
“I told the team that it was going to be the defense that turns the game around,” said McCartney. “And, to their credit, my kids didn’t quit.”
For the next 91/2 minutes Villa Maria went on a 15-0 run, gradually chipping away at Penncrest’s lead, and cashing in on some of the Lions’ turnovers. When Villa sophomore guard Julia Samar hit a 3-point field goal from the left side with 2:32 left in regulation, it was the Hurricanes’ first lead of the second half.
Villa senior guard Murrin Tague then hit a trey from the right corner to give the Hurricanes a 36-32 lead, but with three seconds left in regulation and the hosts leading 38-35, an inside basket by Penncrest sophomore Megan Arndt, coupled with a free throw, sent the game into overtime.
Three minutes into overtime, Villa broke a 40-40 tie with a trey from the right side by freshman guard Megan Warley. Fourteen seconds later, Warley was fouled and made both free throws to give the Hurricanes a solid cushion.
Villa Maria freshman forward Paige Lauder, who pulled down 17 rebounds, said, “I felt relieved when (the final buzzer sounded). This was a scary game, and we got sloppy with the ball at times. At halftime, the seniors told us that this was not going to be their last game.”
With the victory the Hurricanes (16-9) advance to the second round, where they will host No. 6 seed Bishop Shanahan. The Eagle defeated No. 11 seed Pottsgrove, 43-39.
The whole night wasn’t a comeback struggle for the Hurricanes. In the first quarter, Villa rolled to a 15-5 lead as both Lauder and senior forward Marissa Picinich scored several times underneath.The second and third quarters basically belonged to Penncrest (10-13). In the second quarter, Lions junior guard Kat Mullaney exploded for eight points, getting inside several times for baskets.
“(Mullaney) makes us go,” said Penncrest head coach Bob Higgins. “We have a young team, and the girls really came through in the second and third quarters. Julia Eckels (who had four steals) did a good job creating turnovers, and when she got hurt on a layup in the third quarter, that hurt us, as we go seven deep. And Villa is a good team.”
Arndt broke free of the Villa Maria press a couple of times for layups, giving the visitors a 32-22 lead with 2:24 to go in the third quarter, but the Lions then struggled with the Hurricanes’ press and did not score another point until sophomore guard Kylie Chelo hit a 3-pointer with 35 seconds left in regulation.
“Villa is a good team and I’m proud of my kids’ effort,” Higgins said. “They’ve worked hard every day in practice, we have a young team and we will continue to get better next season.”
Villa Maria 48, Penncrest 40 (OT)
Penncrest: Mullaney 3 6-7 12, Arndt 5 2-3 12, Chelo 1 0-0 3, Eckels 1 0-3 2, Harding 2 7-8 11; Totals: 12 15-21 40.
Villa Maria: Samar 2 3-9 8, Picinich 2 2-4 6, Tague 2 0-0 5, Lauder 5 3-8 13, Warley 2 4-9 9, DiDonato 1 2-2 4, Gillin 1 1-3 3; Totals: 15 15-35 48.
Penncrest 5 15 12 6 2 — 40
Villa Maria 15 4 6 13 10 — 48
3-point goals: Chelo, Warley, Tague, Samar.