WYNCOTE – Sometimes, there are just moments in a battle where you can point your finger and say, “There! That’s where this one got away.”
Thursday night, March 16 in a PIAA Round of 16 matchup at Cheltenham, Council Rock North was trailing District 1-6A runner-up Plymouth-Whitemarsh by four points with less than two minutes to go in the third period. While Colonials leading scorer Taylor O’Brien registered five field goals for 11 points in the first quarter, the Indians – to that point – had limited the junior standout for P-W to two free throws in the second period and two field goals in the third.
With time winding down on the third period, a missed 3-point shot by the Colonials seemed rather innocuous. That is until O’Brien raced to the left sideline for the rebound then banked her next shot in off the glass in one-handed fashion.
O’Brien hit her next shot much the same way only this time, she drew the foul and made good on the and-one with 7.5 seconds left in the third quarter. As if that wasn’t enough, O’Brien pulled the ball out from a Lady Indian then turned and canned a 3-pointer at the buzzer, sending P-W to the final frame with a 38-26 lead.
“It was a turning point,” admitted CR North head coach Lou Palkovics.
“It gave them a lot more confidence.
“It’s a lot easier to play with a 12-point lead then it is with a 6-point lead. That allowed them to open things up a little bit and we got a little bit tighter.”
To their credit, the Indians came up with 21 points in the fourth quarter, their best period in the battle. P-W answered with 22 fourth-period points of their own, however, including 13-of-14 from the foul line.
O’Brien finished with a game-high 31 points.
“She throws the team on her back; I give her credit for that said CR North junior point guard Becca Margolis. “She also has very good shooters who are always ready to play.
“They’re a good team; I really thought we wanted it more but good for them. I’m happy that they are moving on.
Defensively, the Indians struggled.
“We had trouble getting momentum and trying to shut them down on defense was hard,” admitted Margolis. “We didn’t communicate as well as we should have.”
From the start, it was obvious the Colonials were keying on Margolis with double- and sometimes, triple-teams.
To her credit, 6-1 Indians’ forward Mackenzie Tinner stepped up, hitting for eight of the Rock’s 11 first-quarter points. She scored six more in the final frame and led the team with 16 points.
“Mackenzie played great,” stated Palkovics. I brought her in the huddle one time and said ‘take over this game.’ Mackenzie can do that.
“Mackenzie can shoot – she can step out and shoot 15- and 17-footers.”
He didn’t come right out and say it but it seemed the coach was not happy with the disparity in fouls called in the state playoff. P-W went to the foul line 14 times in the battle while the Indians went to the stripe just four times.
“There were a lot of fouls tonight and we got into some foul trouble,” said Palkovics. “We got to the foul four times; that usually doesn’t happen. We usually get to the foul line a lot more.”
Senior Emily Mackin was charged with defending O’Brien, a challenging assignment on any given day but one made more difficult by a recent knee injury suffered in the PIAA-opening win over Nazareth.
“We tried different things on (O’Brien),” explained Palkovics. “We tried a little tandem so we had help for her whenever she did get by Mackin. But our help rotated over too slow.
“We got an extra day to work on it but we didn’t really execute what we wanted to do.”
The coach was satisfied with the effort he got from the senior class, especially Mackin.
“She lost a little bit of a step but man, she gave me 120 percent,” he said. “That sets a huge tone for next year.”
The Rock canned seven of their 17 field goals including three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter when they enjoyed their best output – 21 points. The Colonials countered with 22 points of their own, however, tallied on four shots from the floor and 13-of-14 from the foul line.
With the win, P-W advanced to face District 1 11th-place finisher Souderton, which stunned CB South 40-27 mere days after upsetting District 3 champion Central Dauphin in a PIAA opener.
Rock North gave the Colonials a hard time in a district quarterfinal matchup a few weeks earlier, possessing a fourth-quarter lead before P-W pulled away with a 56-48 triumph.
The Indians finish the season 19-10, a win away from a state quarterfinal berth and their first shot in states in six seasons.
“I told them, ‘it was kind of nice. You got to within a week of going to Hershey,” said “We set some goals this year and I think this group reached a lot of them.
“But I think they saw it in front of them and knew they had a chance to actually do a lot more than they did.
“And that hurts.”
Council Rock waves goodbye to seniors Emily Mackin, Megan Haggerty, Hannah Weiler and Abby Jett.
PIAA Class 6A (second round)
Plymouth-Whitemarsh 60, Council Rock North 47
(March 16 at Cheltenham)
Council Rock North 11 9 6 21 – 47
Plymouth-Whitemarsh 15 9 14 22 – 60
COUNCIL ROCK NORTH (19-10) — Becca Margolis 5 0-0 13, Dana Bandurick 3 2-2 8, Emiy Mackin 0 2-2 2, Mackenzie Tinner 7 2-2 16, Olivia Boyle 2 2-2 8; TOTALS — 17 8-8 47
PLYMOUTH-WHITEMARSH (28-2) — Taylor O’Brien 11 8-11 31; Lauren Fortescue 2 0-1 5; Lauren Coscia 2 3-3 7; Ali Diamond 2 7-9 12; Lauren Suchsland 1 0-0 3; Victoria Betterly 1 0-0 2. TOTALS — 19 18-24 60
3-POINT GOALS: CRN — Margolis 3, Boyle 2; P-W — Diamond, Suchsland, O’Brien, Fortescue.