LIMERICK >> The Gwynedd Mercy girls basketball team attempted to attack the Bethlehem Catholic defense is almost every conceivable way Tuesday night.
Nothing worked for the Monarchs.
“They stayed in their 3-2 (zone) and we tried everything, it just didn’t happened for us today,” GMA senior Megan Dougherty said. “Which is pretty upsetting because it’s one-and-done for now on.”
Bethlehem Catholic’s length and size kept Gwynedd Mercy from scoring and from a spot in the PIAA Class 4A championship game. GMA was shutout in the second quarter to finish the half with just three points, had only six through 24 minutes as it fell to the Hawks 34-15 in the state semifinals 34-15 at Spring-Ford High School.
“Usually we’re quick-paced and we like to push the ball, this game our strategy was to slow it down and see what we could make of that,” Gwynedd Mercy senior Danielle Senour said. “When it didn’t start to work out for us, people got a little nervous and I think started to doubt it. Once that happened, it didn’t really work for us as much as we hoped it would.”
GMA worked to get the ball inside in the first quarter but when it did shots would not go down. The Monarchs elected to stall in the second quarter to pry the District 11 champs out of the zone. The Hawks, however, didn’t budge.
“That’s what we were hoping, they’d would come out (of their zone) and quite honestly I don’t know what I would have done if I were in his shoes,” GMA coach Tom Lonergan said. “Cause if I’m thinking I’m the better team I might come at you and that what I kept thinking that he was going to try to do.”
GMA (20-9) trailed 14-3 at halftime and when Becahi scored the first five points of the third quarter, the Monarchs were left with trying to shooting over the Hawks, but their 3-pointers did not fall.
“We’ve shown all year we haven’t shot extremely well against zones. And that was another reason why I didn’t want to go up against them,” Lonergan said. “Not only are we going against a zone, we’re going against a very good zone with length, athleticism, height.”
Taliyah Medina made a trio of 3-pointers in scoring a game-high 13 points for Bethlehem Catholic, which advances to the PIAA final for the first time since 2013.
The Hawks (29-2) face District 10 champ Villa Maria – which beat District 3’s third seed Lancaster Catholic 62-50 at Clearfield High School in the other semifinal – for the 4A crown 6 p.m. Thursday at the Giant Center in Hershey.
Carly Heineman’s eight points paced Gwynedd Mercy, which was held in the teens for only the second game this year — the other time being its 40-19 loss to St. Basil Dec. 13.
And while the offensive struggles stopped the Monarchs’ postseason run, they did not damper the team’s achievements for Senour, who joined Dougherty as the only two seniors on GMA.
“Some people didn’t even think we’d make it this far, so just going into every game and showing that we really can do it,” Senour said. “I’m so proud or our team and even though we didn’t make it to our final goal, which was the state championship, to make this far and to still get everything we’d had, I couldn’t ask for anything more.
After Lower Moreland denied Gwynedd Mercy a third straight District 1 championship, the Monarchs rolled past Audenreid in their state opener then knocked off a pair of district winners — Greater Nanticoke (2) and Northern Lebanon (3) to reach the semifinals a year after making the 3A quarterfinals.
“I am so happy with everything we’ve accomplished, everything we’ve been through and all the games,” Dougherty said. “Especially my teammates, I couldn’t of gotten here without them. It’s an amazing experience.”
Gwynedd Mercy did hold a lead in Tuesday’s contest, as Heineman scored off a drive to put the Monarchs up 2-0 in the first quarter. After a Hope Brown 3-pointer, Maura Conroy’s free throw at 4:03 made it 3-3.
Medina put the Hawks up for good with a three then hit another triple to giving Becahi a 9-3 edge heading to the second quarter.
Still down six, Gwynedd Mercy went to a stall in an effort to coax Bethlehem Catholic out of their zone. But when the Hawks stayed pat, the result was a bunch of time off the clock and the Monarchs no closer.
“Our team is really strong at driving and when we couldn’t drive cause they were in the zone we tried to get them to come out of it,” Senour said. “And when they didn’t — we thought they would, they didn’t so we ended up wasting a lot of time there that we could have been using to get points back. But there’s nothing you can do there.”
Quintessa Zamolyi proceeded to hit a three from the top of the arc then scored off a GMA turnover for the only five points of the second quarter and a 14-3 Becahi lead at the break.
Neila Luma — who collected all eight of her points in the second half — hit a jumper while Medina’s third trey of the game had Bethlehem Catholic up 19-3 in the third quarter. Heineman’s transition basket finally stopped the Hawks’ 16-0 run before Medina and Luma extended Becahi lead to 23-5.
A Conroy free throw at 20.8 seconds made it 23-6 at the start of the fourth.
Brown began the final quarter with a three for a 26-6 Hawks lead. Bethlehem Catholic pushed its advantage to as large as 24 twice, the last time at 34-10 after two Luma foul shots at 2:17.
Bethlehem Catholic 34, Gwynedd Mercy 15
Gwynedd Mercy 3 0 3 9 — 15
Bethlehem Catholic 9 5 9 11 — 34
Gwynedd Mercy: Carly Heineman 4 0-0 8; Danielle Senour 1 0-0 3; Bridget Casey 0 2-2 2; Maura Conroy 0 2-4 2. Totals 5 4-6 15.
Bethlehem Catholic: Taliyah Medina 5 0-0 13; Neila Luma 3 2-4 8; Quintessa Zamolyi 3 0-0 7; Hope Brown 2 0-0 6. Totals 13 2-4 34.
Three-pointers: GMA-Senour; BC-Medina 3, Brown 2, Zamolyi.
Top Photo: Gwynedd Mercy Academys Maura Conroy drives to the hoop during the Monarchs’ PIAA Class 4A semifinal against Bethlehem Catholic on Tuesday, March 21, 207. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)