FRANCONIA >> For the last two months it was pretty much impossible to beat Abington. As a matter of fact, only one team had been able to do so, as the Ghosts went 18-1 over that stretch, including a run through the District 1-6A tournament and an eventual district championship.
However, Thursday night they met their match and fell 73-68 to Northampton in the second round of the PIAA playoffs, ending their season for good and squashing their hopes of an eventual state title.
“They just outplayed us from start to finish and they were the better team,” said Abington head coach Dan Marsh. “I don’t know really what else to say other than they just beat us and were the better team tonight and that’s why they were able to win.”
In the first half, Abington came out wanting to try and force turnovers and dictate the pace. They played a full-court press the entire first two quarters and while it had some success, the quickness of Northampton’s guards eventually gave them fits.
Victoria Keenan, who finished with a game-high 26, was an especially tough matchup for the Ghosts. The 5’7” sophomore was incredibly shifty, and when Abington looked to press her she almost always broke free and either found the open shooter or finished it herself.
That elusiveness helped Northampton jump out to a 22-16 lead after the first quarter and sustain that lead through the second on their way to a 39-34 advantage at half.
Not only did the Ghosts now have to try and battle back after the break, but they went into halftime knowing they also needed to completely change what they were doing defensively.
“We want to speed teams up and try and force some things but they were just too good in transition and we weren’t getting back fast enough from that press,” said Marsh. “Honestly, we looked like a tired team tonight and that’s not how it has worked for us all season long. They didn’t wear down as the half went on and we had to adjust.”
As Abington transitioned into more of a traditional half-court defense in the second half, Keenan’s impact on the game began to lessen but they weren’t making any dent in the deficit.
Northampton took a 54-48 lead into the final quarter and used the strong interior play of Aja Blount, who finished with 22 points of her own, to close it out and advance to the quarter-finals.
It was a little surprising that Blount found the success that she did, seeing as Abington’s core is their frontcourt.
Both Lizzie O’Leary, who is committed to play at Delaware next year and sophomore Kassondra Brown were expected to be too much for Blount but she proved otherwise.
O’Leary finished with 16 points while Brown ended up with a team-high 20 points, but it wasn’t enough to keep pace with the Northampton offense.
“We wanted to use that press to speed them up and make bad decisions but they’re a smart team and a fast team,” said O’Leary. “they were able to break it down and we struggled to retaliate to that and struggled to beat them in the half court set.”
The season now comes to an end for the Ghosts, but they’ll look back on it as a huge success despite the loss. After coming into the District 1-6A tournament as the No. 9 seed they ran the table, upsetting Souderton, North Penn, Central Bucks West and Plymouth Whitemarsh on their way to the title.
They gave their matchup with Northampton everything they had, they just couldn’t manage to keep up with them in the end.
“I’m proud of these girls you know, I told them ‘you’re district champions and there is only one of those,’” said Marsh. “We got down to the final 16 in the state, we just have to learn from this and hopefully we’ll be back next year.”
Northampton 73, Abington 68
Northampton 22 17 15 19 – 73
Abington 16 18 14 20 – 68
Northampton (73): Aja Blount 8 6-12 22, Devon Saul 0 2-2 2, Jade Rindock 3 3-4 9, Victoria Keenan 9 7-10 26, Jenna Rogers 7 0-0 14. Totals: 27 18-28 73.
Abington (68): Britney James 7 2-2 16, Camryn Lexow 1 0-0 2, Lizzie O’Leary 6 4-4 16, Kassondra Brown 7 6-7 20, Sam Brusha 5 2-4 14.
Totals: 26 14-17 68