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Upper Dublin rallies past Souderton, clinches PIAA berth

FRANCONIA >> After a rough first half Wednesday night, Upper Dublin simply reset the modem.

“We just refocused,” said Cardinals senior shooting guard Josie Barrett. “We had to restart our whole mindset because we kind of had a rough practice (on Tuesday) — not a lot of energy and that’s kind of how we came out in the first half.

“I was just chucking up shots in the first half, I don’t know what I was doing. And then in the second half we started making shots, had a lot more energy.”

The Cardinals rode Barrett’s hot second-half shooting and allowed Big Red just a single field goal and four points total in the second half to rally for a 34-30 victory on the road in a District 1-6A Playback contest, securing Upper Dublin’s third consecutive trip to the state tournament.

“Great second half,” said Cardinals coach Morgan Funsten, whose team outscored Souderton 15-4 in the third to overcome a 10-point halftime hole. “I thought the biggest thing was we did a great job of taking it one possession at a time. And defensively, we were as good as we’ve been all year.

“We got them in the half-court and we were able to defend them in the half-court.”

Alana Cardona scored underneath for Big Red’s only basket of the third. Meanwhile, Barrett went to work for the Cardinals.

She scored the first points of the second half to get things going, cutting the margin to 24-16, then later hit a three to slice it to 26-22.

The senior buried another three from up top to even things at 27 apiece then finished off the third with one of the niftiest plays of the contest. A three by Maggie Weglos fell short but Barrett caught the shot and got a reverse layin to fall through, beating the buzzer and sending the Cardinals into the lead for the first time, 29-28.

“Josie had a dynamite third quarter,” Funsten said. “In just about every playoff win we’ve had, Josie’s had a stretch where she kind of put us on her back and carried us through. And for her to have 10 points in the third — in a game that combined for 64 points — is big.”

Barrett snapped a pass out to Nicole Kaiser, who buried it from the elbow to start things off strong in the fourth and extend the Upper Dublin lead to 31-28.

The 12th-seeded Cardinals (20-6) later had a crisp passing sequence that led to an open shot underneath by Kaiser, making it 33-28, and defense did the rest — Demi Balasa, Weglos and Jackie Vargas all pulled down crucial defensive boards in the final moments to lock up the victory. Barrett’s 15 points led all scorers.

Upper Dublin plays for Ninth Place Friday at home against No. 15 CB East while Souderton plays for a states spot, hosting No. 14 Coatesville at Quakertown High.

“I felt like we did a good job of defending their sets in the first half and then they executed their sets really, really well in the second half,” Big Red coach Lynn Carroll said. “We stopped communicating and defending the back screens the way we did in the first half.”

Souderton would hit just 1-of-15 shots after the break, but Megan Walbrandt got Big Red off to a hot start, burying a three and scoring seven points in the opening quarter. Alana Cardona also connected from deep, helping the Indians get out to a 16-6 first-quarter lead.

The Cardinals launched a barrage of threes in the second quarter in trying to cut into the deficit, with Barrett hitting to bring the visitors within 21-14.

However Kate Connolly answered at the other end, immediately boosting the Big Red lead back up to 10 at 24-14. Both defenses would clamp down in the final minutes of the first half, keeping the Big Red advantage at 10.

Walbrandt’s seven points led all scorers in the first half, with Barrett’s five leading the Cardinals.

In the second half, everything changed.

“Third year in a row we’ve gone to states and the feeling never gets less,” Funsten said. “It’s always a great feeling.”

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