LOWER MERION >> Jordan D’Ambrosio keeps coming up with ways to inspire Springfield with her lockdown defense.
It’s her coverage skills that have made the sophomore such a highly respected player in the Central League, two seasons into her scholastic career.
When you’re tasked with following the other team’s best player, and your coaches have the utmost faith that you’ll get the job done, that’s the highest compliment a player of D’Ambrosio’s ilk could receive.
And she goes out, night after night, and shuts them down.
D’Ambrosio has been the go-to force on defense for top-seeded Springfield in its quest for a District 1 championship. She delivered once more Tuesday night in the Cougars’ 51-27 rout of No. 5 West Chester Rustin at Harriton High.
D’Ambrosio’s mission? Hounding the Golden Knights’ most dynamic player, forward Maggie O’Hare.
“Jordan is an excellent defender and I’m very proud of her efforts on defense the last three games,” Springfield coach Ky McNichol said. “She’s taking such pride in locking down the best player on every one of those three teams we have faced. She works really hard to deny the girl the ball, stays in front of her and does everything we ask her to do and follows the game plan to perfection.”
So, what was the strategy against the junior O’Hare?
“We knew she would pump-fake and drive, and we also knew she liked to post up,” D’Ambrosio said. “So our plan was to get on her in the post and just making sure we had weakside help.”
O’Hare was limited to no field goals in the half. She finished with nine points on 2-for-12 shooting.
— Matt Smith (@DTMattSmith) March 1, 2017
Defense was the theme again for the Cougars, who advance to the District 1 Class 5A championship to face seventh-seeded Mount St. Joseph’s Saturday at the Pavilion. Tip off is scheduled for Noon.
The Cougars (22-4) wasted no time against the Golden Knights (16-10). Senior guard Maggie O’Connell drilled two 3-pointers to spark a 10-3 run to begin the game. Belle Mastropietro, who played an amazing floor game, had three first-quarter steals.
That’s Springfield’s style. When the ball-hawks are buzzing, look out …
“Other than (O’Hare), we knew that (Erin Gallagher) and (Lexi Zavitsky) could both shoot the ball,” Mastropietro said. “Whenever they would drive, Amanda (Hopkins, senior forward) would kind of help out and double. We wanted to make sure we had the help.”
The Cougars’ stingy defense held Rustin to just 12 field goal attempts in the first half. Rustin made a little run in the third quarter to cut a double-digit deficit to six points, but after McNichol called a timeout, the Cougars were back in business. It was no surprise that D’Ambrosio and Mastropietro spearheaded the charge and put the Cougars back on the winning path. The Cougars closed the game on a 26-8 run.
Offensively, the Cougars put forth a balanced attack. Mastropietro led the way with 17 points to go with six rebounds, five assists and four steals — another sensational performance. O’Connell added 13 points and four assists, while D’Ambrosio tossed in 12 points and grabbed six rebounds.
“Once we get going on defense, it definitely shows on our offense,” O’Connell said. “We get more shots off and we feel the energy in the gym. And if we play defense as strong as we did today, we should be dominating on offense.”
Hopkins chipped in with seven points, three steals and two assists, while freshman guard Alyssa Long added two assists and a pair of steals.
Springfield shot a crisp 55.5 percent (20-for-36) from the field.
Dakiya Daniels scored a game-high 10 points for Rustin, which faces No. 6 Bishop Shanahan in the district third-place game Friday.
In less than three seasons, McNichol has guided the Cougars from the basement of the Central League to within a victory of a District 1 title.
Pretty neat, huh?
“We’ve come a long way,” O’Connell said. “It’s exciting.”