EASTON – It was a long ride on the bus to Easton Area Middle School – the site of Council Rock North’s PIAA opener against Nazareth – for Lady Indians point guard Becca Margolis. So, the CR North junior took some extra jump-shots before the long haul to the state playoff.
Turns out, the extra practice paid off. Margolis hit for a game-high 23 points including four 3-pointers, helping the Indians to a 45-38 win over the District 11 runner-up Lady Eagles. The win sends CR North to the PIAA Round of 16 against District 1 runner-up Plymouth-Whitemarsh Tuesday, March 14 at a time and place to be determined.
The Colonials topped Rock 56-48 two weeks ago in a district quarterfinal matchup. After the Indians claimed their first win in states, thoughts of any previous playoff loss to P-W were not at the forefront of Margolis’ mind, but rather a District 1 playback loss suffered by CR North in the 2016 D-1 Tournament.
Last year, in a game they needed to win to reach states, the Indians lost to Penn Wood on a bank-shot three at the buzzer. There’d be no such heroics on the part of Nazareth in this one.
This year, it’s Rock’s time to shine, said Margolis.
“This game reminds us that this year is our redemption,” said Becca. “This is our time to really take it to them,” “It kind of reminded me of Penn Wood and it was really awesome to win.
“I think we deserve it; we really do.”
If North deserves it, it’s because they played well enough to win.
Margolis hit a two-point jumper and a pair of treys in the second period, staking the Rock to a 22-16 halftime lead. After the break, she came right back with another 3-pointer on her opening shot of the third period then hit her last trey late to help give her team a six-point cushion heading into the final frame.
Her final trey in the game came at a good time. Bucknell-bound Nazareth senior Tessa Brugler had just hit a driving layup to draw the Eagles within two, 25-23, with less than two minutes remaining in the third period.
“Becca was really pivotal in this game,” said sophomore Dana Bandurick “She started us up on offense, getting a lot of points right out of the gate.”
While Margolis ignited North on offense, it was Bandurick who got the Indians started defensively, posting a pair of blocks early in the first period that led to Eagle turnovers.
“Dana always sets the tone for our defense,” said Margolis. “She’s really good at moving and she’s really good at getting the screens and really coming out.
“She’s so long, she’s able to cover so much ground.
“She really gets us going and she shows the intensity that she wants in our defense and I think that gets us all hyped.”
Rock’s staunch help defense limited Brugler to a lone field goal in the first 20 minutes of the contest. The Indians started to turn the ball over in the third period, however, and that allowed the Eagles to climb back into the contest.
Three straight layups by Nazareth sophomore Morgan Amy, senior Jess Durnin and Brugler along with a putback basket by senior Zoe DeAngelo drew the Eagles within three.
It was right around that time that North senior Emily Mackin exploded with back-to-back driving layups, both of which began on the opponent’s end of the court.
The first one gave the Indians a 31-25 edge going into the final frame and the second, canned in one-handed fashion, put Rock on top 33-25 a minute and a half into the fourth quarter.
“Emily really led the team tonight and I owe it all to her,” said Margolis. “She did a great job and she contributed a lot of effort to what she does best and that’s going to the basket.
“She was going up against three people and she’s still able to get up there and get the job done.”
A minute later, senior Megan Haggerty poured her second 3-pointer – she also hit one in the opening period – into the basket, putting the Indians up 36-27 with 5:30 remaining in regulation.
The fourth-quarter trey by Haggerty turned out to be a critical shot, especially after Nazareth launched an 11-3 run over the next four minutes that got the East Penn League runner-ups within a point – 39-38 – with 50 seconds to go in the fourth quarter.
“Megan is really good at getting key baskets when we really need them,” said Margolis. “When she starts making threes, it gets them shaken up and that sets the tone for the rest of us.
“It gets our confidence up even more.”
The Eagles got back into the battle, however, thanks to the efforts of Brugler, who canned a layup, a putback basket and a 3-pointer to cut her team’s deficit to two.
At the two minute mark, CR North junior Kaelin Mealy picked a good time to make her only basket. She took a feed from Bandurick and converted in the lane, then Margolis made 1-of-2 free throws to put the Indians back up by five.
Durnin then missed a pair of foul shots for the Eagles, though DeAngelo secured the rebound and this time, Jessica converted her shot from the floor. Yet another Council Rock turnover put the ball in the hands of Brugler and she turned that into a layup.
With 50 ticks remaining in regulation, this was a one-point game. While the players say they weren’t worried, there was enough cause for concern by Coach Lou Palkovics that the CR North skipper called for a timeout.
“We stayed composed and everyone was fine,” insisted Margolis. “We just needed to do what we did throughout the entire game and I think we did that.
Margolis helped seal the win from the foul line, making good on all six of her final six free throws. For the game, she shot 9-of-10 from the charity stripe.
PIAA Class 6A Tournament
Council Rock North 45, Nazareth 38
(March 10 at Easton Area MS)
CR North 12 10 9 14 – 45
Nazareth 6 10 9 13 – 38
COUNCIL ROCK NORTH (19-9) — Becca Margolis 5 9-10 23, Megan Haggerty 2 0-0 6, Dana Bandurick 0 2-4 2, Emily Mackin 4 0-0 8, Hannah Weiler 2 0-0 4, Kaelin Mealey 1 0-0 2; TOTALS — 14 11-14 45.
NAZARETH (22-6) — Amy Morgan 1 1-3 3, Amy Madison 3 0-0 7, Tessa Brugler 6 2-3 15, Jessica Durnin 2 5-8 9, Jaime Youngkin 1 0-0 2, Zoe Deangelo 1 0-0 2; TOTALS — 14 8-14 38.
3-POINT GOALS: CRN — Margolis 4, Haggerty 2; N — Madison, Brugler.