PHILADELPHIA >> With 10 seconds left in overtime, the ball in her hand, and the game tied at 54, Berks Catholic junior point guard Abigail Gaffney didn’t know exactly how she was going try to win it, but she knew she wanted the chance.
As she took the ball at the top of the key, crossed over her defender, and finished at the hoop while the clock struck 0, her teammates poured onto the floor to celebrate their 56-54 win over Lansdale Catholic in the PIAA 4A tournament.
“We obviously knew we wanted the last shot,” said Gaffney of her last buzzer-beater. “I was able to make a little move and beat my girl and finish the layup to win the game. It it’s such an amazing feeling to be able to pull this off as a team.”
Early on, it didn’t look like the Saints’ night. As a matter of fact, it looked like the Crusaders might be able to coast to an easy victory, as they shot 7-for-9 from the floor and 6-for-6 from the line in the opening quarter, on their way to a 21-10 lead.
That’s when Berks Catholic head coach Bob Birmingham switched up the Saints’ defense, added some pressure, and gave Lansdale Catholic a different look, as his team crawled back in it and went into halftime down just 30-27.
“They (Lansdale Catholic) played really well to start the game and went up big on us early on,” said Birmingham. “We just needed to switch our defense a little bit and make some adjustments. Then we had them miss a couple of shots, and we got some steals, and then we started getting back into it by the end of that first half.”
As the Saints switched up their defense and displayed some full court pressure, LC began to get a little lackadaisical with the basketball. Multiple turnovers on inbounds plays led to points for Berks and allowed them to hang around.
“We shot the ball well in the first quarter and were patient offensively and it showed on the scoreboard,” said Lansdale Catholic head coach Joe Mack. “but it’s just the way the game flows, their defense started to get to us a little as the game went on.”
Another huge part of Berks Catholic’s comeback, besides the defensive adjustments, was the offensive play of Gaffney and Dejah Terrell. The duo finished with 41 of their team’s 56 points and made sure Lansdale Catholic could not take any breaks defensively.
Terrell, standing 6’0” tall, garners a lot of attention from opposing defenses and this one was no different. With LC fronting her in the post and bringing a backside defender over to help, her teammates found themselves wide open along the perimeter, and they took advantage.
That offensive dynamic has been a theme for Berks all season long, when they’ve managed to be healthy, and they expect to rely on it in the playoffs as well.
“We see help on Dejah a lot but not a lot of man, so that wrinkle from them was different for us,” said Birmingham. “With Gaffney back from her injury, we’re able to knock some shots down from outside as a team and that’s what we were able to do tonight.”
The loss stings for Lansdale Catholic, but it did not prevent the Cruasaders from acknowledging just how far they had come as a team in the past few years.
They battled hard and while the season now comes to an end, they won’t hang their heads.
“I’m so proud of this team,” said Mack. “Our execution, our effort, everything we did. We made some mistakes here or there but I can’t tell you how proud I am of this group for even making it this far.”
Junior Lauren Crim, who finished with a team-high 20, has been on varsity since she was a freshman and can remember when the state tournament was not even a reality for the team.
“My freshman and sophomore year we didn’t even make it to districts let alone states so this is a huge step for us,” said Crim. “It hurts now, but this was awesome, I love this team, and I know we’ll be back here next year.”
On the other side, Berks Catholic’s season continues Tuesday as they face Bethlehem Catholic in the second round.
Berks Catholic 56, Lansdale Catholic 54
Berks Catholic 10 17 14 6 9 – 56
Lansdale Catholic 21 9 8 9 7 – 54
Berks Catholic (56): Dejah Terrell 7 4-4 20, Taylor Keys 2 0-0 4, Abigail Gaffney 8 0-1 21, Megan Leininger 2 0-0 4, Molly Duncan 2 2-2 7. Totals: 21 6-7 56.
Lansdale Catholic (54): Carolyn Ferko 0 2-2 2, Emily Smith 4 0-0 9, Brady Wassel 4 1-2 10, Lauren Crim 3 10-12 20, Laura Vetter 1 2-3 4, Kristina Finkelston 3 3-3 9. Totals: 15 18-22 54.