HERSHEY >> Balanced scoring and a smothering defense sent the Jenkintown girls basketball team rolling into the PIAA Class A quarterfinals Thursday night.
The Drakes had all five of their scorers record at least eight points — four finishing in double figures — while holding Southern Fulton to just 18 points through three quarters in cruising past the Indians 57-27 in their state second round matchup at Milton Hershey School’s Spartan Center.
“I think that our defense is our backbone. It’s the most important part and I think that creates our offense” Jenkintown sophomore Caroline Arena said. “So when we’re having a good defensively game we just, again, we start feeding off of each other and helping each other out so then we start getting going.”
Jenkintown started slow, taking almost five minutes to find its first points. But the Drakes ended the first quarter on a 10-0 run and never trailed from there in advancing to the state quarters for the first time since 2014.
“Our whole team is built on defense,” Jenkintown coach Jim Romano said. “We know going in that the beginning of the game we miss a couple of shots, our defense will turn the ball over and then we can score on layups and get us going there a little bit.”
In the quarterfinals, the Drakes face either District 4 champion Lourdes Regional or District 2 champ Susquehanna Community — which meet 7 p.m. Friday at Pittston Area High School. Jenkintown fell to Lourdes in last season’s Class A second round.
“It’s really exciting because we’ve only been to the third round twice in our coach’s career, so it’s a lot of pressure but it’s really exciting for the whole team,” Arena said.
Southern Fulton, the third seed from District 5, pulled to within 14-12 in the second quarter, but the Drakes ended the first half with an 11-0 run then scored the first six points of the third quarter to go up 31-12. The closest the Indians could get from there was 15.
Arena and Amelia Mulvaney paced District 1 champ Jenkintown (24-6) with 13 points. Arena was 9-for-11 from the foul line — 7-for-7 in the fourth as the Drakes made 13 of their 15 free throws in the last quarter to balloon the final margin to 30.
Jennifer Kremp had nine of her 12 points after halftime while Ashley Kremp scored 11 points, nine coming in the first half. Mia Kolb added eight points.
“Jen had a great game last game (scoring 28 against Greenwood in the first round), but I definitely think that this game, it was great game for all of us,” Arena said. “And I think this is how we need to play the rest of the states.”
In its last five games – three in District 1, two in PIAA – Jenkintown has not allowed more than 33 points, with the last three opponents unable to crack 28.
“I definitely think we’ve had the momentum the past few games and we’re excited to keep going with it,” Arena said.
The focus of Jenkintown’s defensive plan Thursday was slowing down Olivia Mottern, Southern Fulton’s all-time leading scorer who went for 18 points in the Indians’ first-round win over Halifax. Against the Drakes, Mottern collected 13 points, but 10 of those came after Southern Fulton went down by 19 in the third quarter.
“We knew everything goes through her,” Romano said of Mottern. “If they need a shot, they’re going to try to get for her to shoot the ball. And C.C., which is Caroline Arena, she’s all year played their number one, the opposing team’s number one player.”
Arena said it takes a team effort to quiet top scorers.
“My teammates are great, they’re always there when I can’t pick her up and we’re always doubling the best player most of the time, so I really have to rely on them too,” she said.
Jenkintown trailed 4-0 before getting its first points at 3:06 in the first quarter when Kolb was scored and fouled — she missed the free throw — after the Drakes forced a backcourt turnover.
Ashley Kremp knocked down a 3-pointer then connected on a jumper for a 7-4 Jenkintown advantage. Jen Kremp’s trey from the wing had the Drakes up 10-4 going to the second quarter.
“We’ve only seen film of this team, we’ve never seen them play in real life, so we’re kind of just feeling it out in the first quarter,” Arena said. “But once we got started, everyone started feeding off of each other.”
An Arena basket had Jenkintown’s lead at 12-4 but Southern Fulton scored eight of the next 10 points, slicing the margin to 14-12 after Lindsey Hollenshead’s bucket off an offensive rebound.
Jenkintown, however, responded by capping the half with an 11-0 run.
Arena made two free throws at 3:50 put the Drakes up four. A Mulvaney basket off a drive then Kolb’s three extended the lead to 21-12.
With 1:02 left in the half, Arena missed two free throws, but grabbed the rebound and the ensuing possession ended with an Ashley Kremp basket. Two Mulvaney foul shots with 13.3 seconds to go in the half had the Drakes’ lead 25-12 at the break.
Jenkintown again started a half slow, but kept Southern Fulton from gaining ground. Jennifer Kremp collected the third quarter’s first points at 4:36, fouled scoring on a drive — she did not complete the And-1 — then hit a jumper for a 29-12 lad.
Ashley Kremp’s two free throws had the Drakes up 19 at 3:17 before four straight points from Mottern made it 31-16.
A Mottern bucket had the Indians again within 15 at 33-18 but Jenkintown scored the third quarter’s last three points – Jennifer Kremp’s runner just before the buzzer putting the Drakes’ advantage at 36-18.
Jenkintown began the fourth with seven straight points — Arena starting the run with a three-point play – to lead by 25. The Drakes went up 30 when Kolb’s free throw at 1:05 made it 57-27.
Jenkintown 57, Southern Fulton 27
Southern Fulton 4 8 6 9 — 27
Jenkintown 10 15 11 21 — 57
Southern Fulton: Olivia Mottern 4 4-4 13; Emily Bradshaw 2 0-0 5; Drew Hann 1 0-0 3; Madison Baker 1 0-0 2; Drew Gordon 0 2-2 2; Lindsey Hollenshead 1 0-0 2. Totals 9 6-6 27.
Jenkintown: Caroline Arena 2 9-11 13; Amelia Mulvaney 5 3-4 13; Jennifer Kremp 4 3-5 12; Ashley Kremp 3 4-4 11; Mia Kolb 2 3-4 8. Totals 16 22-28 57.
Three-pointers: SF-Bradshaw, Hann, Mottern; J-Kolb, A. Kremp, J. Kremp