MALVERN >> When Bishop Shanahan ventured into Villa Maria’s intimate, packed, noisy gym Friday afternoon for its PIAA District One 5A quarterfinal, Eagles head coach Fran Burbidge knew the type of challenge his team faced.
“Villa Maria’s a tough, well-coached team,” said Burbidge. “I told our players [before the game] that if you want this game, you’re going to have to fight for every rebound, every loose ball – Villa isn’t the type of team that’s going to hand it to you.”
No. 6 seed Shanahan got an early scoring surge from 1,000 point scorer Courtney Warley for a 22-19 halftime lead; then the Eagles’ defense allowed the third-seeded Hurricanes only 11 second-half points. It added up to a 37-30 win for Bishop Shanahan, and clinched a berth in the PIAA Class 5A state tournament for the Eagles (18-8).
Shanahan now advances to the District One semifinal Tuesday to play No. 7 seed Mount St. Joseph’s. Mount knocked off No. 2 seed West Chester Henderson Friday. Meanwhile, Villa Maria (16-10) drops into the district consolation bracket, and still has a shot at a PIAA Class 5A state tournament berth.
Villa Maria was having trouble connecting on its shots, particularly in the third quarter, when the Hurricanes didn’t score a single point until late in the period.
Burbidge said, “I thought we defended well in the second half, did a great job finishing off [Villa possessions] after they missed shots by getting the rebound.”
Warley, who led all scorers with 17 points (11 of them in the first half), credited her team’s resourcefulness.
“The atmosphere in this gym is very loud, it can be hard to hear your teammates when trying to communicate, but we did a very, very good job working together today,” said Warley. “When we made a turnover, we made sure we got back on defense; when Villa took a shot, we tried to get the rebound.”
Warley took charge early in the game, breaking inside three times for layups in the first few minutes as the Eagles built an 8-0 lead.
“We play inside-out, where we try to hit the person who is open on the outside, but early on I was finding [space] inside,” said Warley.
Villa Maria came right back with an 8-0 run of their own at the end of the first quarter, highlighted by treys from the right corner by sophomore guard Julia Samar and freshman guard Morgan Warley (younger sister of Courtney Warley).
Shanahan fell behind 12-11 early in the second quarter (it was the only time the Eagles trailed the entire game), then roared back with a 9-0 run capped by treys from sophomore guard Sammie McCarter and senior guard Jen Sendi, and led 20-12.
Villa Maria head coach Kathy McCartney said, “We were getting [defensive] help on [Courtney] Warley, but then she’d kick it out to someone else who would hit a shot. It was like picking your poison.”
Burbidge said, “Jen Sendi hit a couple of big shots and came up with some big rebounds, Sammie McCarter had a good game for us, [freshman forward] Kathryn Greenhut rebounded well, and [senior guard] Kelly Basile played a great second half. They all had to play well for us to beat Villa.”
The resilient Hurricanes, who were missing star sophomore forward Abby Walheim (out for the rest of the post-season with a fractured foot), battled back, getting a trey from Morgan Warley and a drive inside by freshman guard Paige Lauder to whittle Shanahan’s lead to 22-19 at halftime.
Coming out of the locker room after halftime, Villa Maria did not score a single point until late in the third quarter, and meanwhile Shanahan controlled the ball and the clock with a patient passing game. The Eagles held a 29-19 lead late in the third period.
“It wasn’t for lack of effort, but our offensive execution against [Shanahan’s] zone defense needed work,” said McCartney. “We did nothing on penetration, and instead we were taking shots at 19 feet.”
Bishop Shanahan was charged with only six personal fouls the entire game, and Villa Maria stepped to the free throw line only three times – all in the first half.
Villa Maria rallied at the end of the third quarter. Senior forward Marissa Picinich hit a short jumper just before the buzzer ended the period; then early in the fourth quarter Samar drove inside for a basket; and a minute later Samar swiped an up-for-grabs loose ball and nailed a trey from the top of the key to cut Shanahan’s lead to 33-28 with 4:26 left.
The Hurricanes’ aggressive man-to-man defense continued to force some Shanahan turnovers, but the hosts failed to close the five-point deficit when their shots came up short. With 2:21 left and Shanahan leading 35-30, Basile made a steal and subsequent free throw to give the visitors some breathing room.
Burbidge said, “We made some second-half turnovers by trying a few things that we hadn’t practiced a lot [earlier]. But our players gutted through it.”
Bishop Shanahan 37, Villa Maria 30
BISHOP SHANAHAN: McCarter 2 0-0 6, Sendi 2 0-1 6, Basile 1 2-4 4, Greenhut 2 0-0 4, Warley 7 3-6 17. Totals 14 5-11 37.
VILLA MARIA: Samar 3 0-0 8, Picinich 3 2-2 8, Tague 1 0-0 2, Lauder 2 0-1 4, Warley 2 0-0 6, DeMutis 1 0-0 2. Totals 12 2-3 30.
Bishop Shanahan 8 14 9 6 – 37
Villa Maria 5 14 4 7 – 30
Three-pointers: BS – McCarter 2, Sendi 2; VM – Samar 2, Warley 2.