TOWAMENCIN >> Abington’s Kassondra Brown went to the foul line, looking to extend the Ghosts’ four-point lead with just a few minutes remaining in the game.
She missed the front end of a one-and-one, but the 6-foot-2 center corralled the rebound, again drawing the foul and heading to the line.
The free throw did not fall, but again Brown came up with the rebound, this time putting it back up and in for a crucial basket, boosting the Abington lead to six and firmly pushing them towards the district semifinals.
“She’s a great rebounder, she really is,” Abington coach Dan Marsh said. “She’s got a nose for the ball. As soon as that kid learns how to finish a little better, she’s unstoppable.”
Collectively, the Ghosts finished off Saturday’s District 1-6A quarterfinal in commanding fashion, putting away a 51-44 victory over top-seeded North Penn.
“This team has really come together,” Marsh said, “so I’m really proud of them. We just wanna keep going.”
Next up for the ninth-seeded Ghosts (20-5) is a semifinal date with No. 5 Central Bucks West, Wednesday night at Bensalem High School.
Sam Brusha hit a trio of threes, 6-foot-2 senior Elizabeth O’Leary and Brown — the Ghosts’ towering duo — added 14 and 10 and Abington’s press was a constant throughout.
“I think it gives us an advantage in the fourth quarter, when teams are just worn out,” coach Marsh said. “I think we wore them down. They missed shots that they normally make.”
Several missed threes were a problem for the Knights but after Brown’s big basket midway through the fourth, Bri Hewlett did connect from the outside, bringing the Knights (21-4) within 42-39.
True to form, Brown scored down low to stretch the Abington lead to 44-39 but the Knights (21-4) came right back, a three by Sam Carangi (team-high 11 points) slicing it to 44-42.
Two free throws by Sam Brusha provided Abington a 46-42 edge with 1:37 left and O’Leary made it a more comfortable lead with 40 seconds to go, sinking a pair to make it 48-42.
Hewlett scored at the other end to tighten things to 48-44, but two more foul shots by Britney James and a pair of defensive rebounds by O’Leary locked things up tight for Abington.
“Those bigs are tough and (Brusha) hit a lot of shots and (James) does a nice job of managing the floor,” said Knights coach Maggie deMarteleire, whose team suffered a heartbreaker in the quarters a year ago as well but went on to make it to the state semis.
“We knew it was a game of matchups,” coach Marsh said. “We knew their guards were really good and our posts were really good, and we had to figure out which matchup was gonna win out.
“We liked our chances coming in here, especially the way we’ve been playing.”
The two teams were tied after one, Abington led by a point at the half, and then North Penn controlled the third, going up by six on a jumper by Irisa Ye.
“We were up by six, starting to pull away,” deMarteleire said, “and then two quick fouls on (Carangi) and now she’s on the bench. The momentum just totally shifted.”
Abington closed the third on an 8-0 run, climaxed by a Brusha three.
“I think our guards really stepped up today, moved to the open spots,” O’Leary said.
Abington took a 33-31 lead into the fourth but then North Penn drew even, a steal by Carangi leading to a drive to the hoop by Jess Huber.
A basket by Camryn Lexow propelled Abington into the lead for good.
“In the second half we knew they were in foul trouble,” O’Leary said, “so we drove it in, took it at them, and we just wanted to make our free throws and put this game away.”
Brown and O’Leary loomed large in this one.
“She had good minutes last year but I think this year she’s really stepped up,” O’Leary said of her sophomore counterpart. “At the beginning of the year, we were getting to know each other and as the year has gone on, our connection on the court has developed so well.
“It’s just working out so well for us.”