READING>> At the beginning of the season, if you had asked most people associated with the 2016-2017 Lower Moreland girls basketball team where they thought their season would take them, you’d have been hard pressed to find someone that said the quarterfinals of the PIAA 4A playoffs.
However, on Saturday that’s exactly where they found themselves. Unfortunately for the Lions, they fell 51-24 in a hard-fought game to Bethlehem Catholic but that didn’t take anything away from their Cinderella season.
“Honestly it’s a surprise for us to have gotten this far,” said Lower Moreland head coach Rich Becker. “At the beginning of the season we wanted to just compete for the league title and we ended up winning districts and making a run in states. To make it to the final 8 we exceeded our expectation and I’m proud of these girls.”
It was pretty apparent early on that it would be a tough game for the Lions. Bethlehem Catholic shot out to a 16-2 lead after the first quarter, using their athleticism to disrupt both the offense and defense of Lower Moreland.
Senior Rachael Millan finished with a team-high 11 points for the Lions, and had some success penetrating the lane, but the opposing defense swarmed and made it hard for anyone to do much of anything.
“They’re just much more athletic than we are and that’s why we struggled just even to get into our sets,’ said Becker. “We settled down a little bit as the game went on but that (Bethlehem Catholic) is a great team.’
That advantage in size and athleticism hurt them most down low. Bethlehem Catholic senior center Neila Luma gave them problems all afternoon, on her way to a game-high 15 points. She dominated the boards and defended the rim, preventing Lower Moreland from ever really getting their feet under them.
The Lions refused to hang their heads following the disappointing loss. Their ability to make a run through districts and states despite not having the star power of some of the other teams was truly impressive, and it wasn’t lost on them even after their season ended.
“That team (Bethlehem Catholic) is expected to win states, we can’t be mad about losing to them,” said Millan. “We’re just happy to have gotten this far. When I look back on the season it makes me happy. We weren’t expected to beat Gwynedd Mercy in districts, we weren’t expected to get this far but we came together and got it done as a team.”
Reflecting on the team’s future is tough to do after a loss so late in the season, but the Lions have a lot to look forward to. They’ll lose Millan and fellow starter Jordan Cohen to graduation, but every other player on the team will return.
That includes freshman point guard Jimia Davis who will look to take a larger role with the team. Davis had herself a nice game as well on her way to eight points as she drew fouls and got to the line often.
She’s incredibly quick, handles the ball with poise, and seems to show up in big games, something that will take her wherever she wants to go as her career continues.
“Jimia is a gamer,” said Becker. “She will go after you and take you on, she doesn’t care. She’s a freshman, number 33 (Nicole Castor) is a freshman, we have a great core to work with.”
Hopefully for the Lions, this run through states will help build the foundation of their teams to come down the road. These players now have valuable experience, and won’t be happy with just making the PIAA playoffs when they find themselves in this spot in the future.
Bethlehem Catholic 51, Lower Moreland 24
BETHLEHEM CATHOLIC 16 14 13 8 – 51
LOWER MORELAND 2 8 7 7 – 24
Bethlehem Catholic (51): Natalie Rhine 2 1-2 6, Solei Rodriguez 3 0-0 6, Hope Brown 3 1-2 9, Tessa Zamolyi 1 1-2 3, Morgan Orloski 0 4-4 4, Briana Barnard 2 0-0 4, Neila Luma 7 1-2 15, Abigail Brown 1 0- 2, Talia Peterson 1 0-0 2. Totals: 20 8-12 51.
Lower Moreland (24): Rachael Millan 4 3-4 11, Nicole Castor 1 0-1 2, Ceili Corduff 1 1-3 3, Jamia Davis 1 6-9 8. Totals: 7 10-17 24.
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