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Quick start, passes help Upper Dublin top Springside Chestnut Hill in Cardinal Classic

UPPER DUBLIN >> Upper Dublin girls basketball coach Morgan Funsten was a little worried how the holiday break was going to affect his team’s rhythm.

Maggie Weglos made sure Funsten had nothing to worry about, assisting two quick baskets and burying a 3-pointer to spark a 12-0 game-opening run for the Flying Cardinals. The senior guard and her teammates were ready to get back on the floor and in a very sharing mood.

Upper Dublin assisted 18 of its 23 baskets Wednesday night in a 53-43 win over Springside Chestnut Hill in the nightcap of the opening round of the Cardinal Classic.

“That was the difference today, we were prepared and we came out ready to play,” Funsten said. “We had lost our rhythm of coming here every day with the holiday, but even I was surprised with how strong we came out. Coming out 10-0, we were ready, maybe they weren’t and at the end of the game, it’s 10 points (separating the teams.)”

Sophomore center Jackie Vargas led UD with 19 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks and two other players reach double-figures for the free-flowing Cardinals. Upper Dublin, which hasn’t lost since dropping its season opener to CB South, starts two freshmen and a sophomore and relies on another freshman and sophomore in its top four reserves.

The Cardinals don’t play to their youth and Funsten said what’s most impressed him is the team’s demeanor so far, showing the same whether it is up 10 or down 10. It also helps the team’s two senior starters in Weglos and Nicole Kaiser are plenty experienced.

“Our practices have been really consistent and our mindset for every game has been that we need to come out strong, keep focus and concentrate,” Weglos said. “After our break with Christmas and stuff, we came back ready to play and we knew we needed to concentrate on this game.”

It only took about four seconds to prove it was going to be a good night for UD. Vargas won the opening jump, tapping it to Weglos who then fired a strong outlet pass to freshman Dayna Balasa for a lay-up. Weglos, who led the passing show with six assists, then hit a rolling Vargas for another easy score and in a blink, UD was up 10-0 with the Blue Devils calling a timeout before UD scored again to make it 12-0.

The Cardinals have been a consistently strong program under Funsten, making states the last three seasons, but it’s the depth of the team that could set this group apart. Reserves Meghan Barbera and Kara Grebe could easily be starters and at any given time, the Cardinals have between three and five reliable outside shooters on the floor.

“This is a completely different team and with the way we have so many great shooters and Jackie in the post being so dominant, we don’t have to rely on sets as much,” Kaiser said. “We can work the ball around and get nice looks.”

UD’s hallmark under Funsten has been defense and while the Cardinals are good on that end, they aren’t quite all the way where they need to be just yet. On Wednesday, the Cardinals were called for significantly more fouls than SCH, but it didn’t affect the way UD was playing. When the Cards’ shots weren’t falling as consistently, Weglos pointed to the defensive end as what kept UD in front the entire time.

“We have to be better in transition and we’re still searching for an identity of our team,” Funsten said. “They’re a tough team, they have some good wins already and can score from all five spots. We knew we were going to have our hands full and I felt the difference was those first few minutes.”

SCH got within five at 35-30 with 5:45 left in the third, but Weglos found Kaiser for a 3-pointer and Vargas scored on a put-back to push the lead out again. Another stickback by Vargas, followed by a Weglos trey and a Vargas hoop off Jess Polin’s assist made it 47-32 late in the third and put UD in position to roll to the finish.

Upper Dublin’s December and January schedule is generally stacked with tests from teams routinely making long postseason runs. Funsten said he was elated to get Sprinside Chestnut Hill, Allentown Central Catholic and Gwynedd Mercy Academy into this year’s tournament and with two showcase games and the first meeting with SOL American rival Plymouth Whitemarsh coming up by January 15, he’s excited to see this team take the next step in its growth.

A four-year starter, Weglos has seen pretty much every scenario imaginable and is likewise anticipating how her teammates respond to the next wave of challenges this season. One thing the senior isn’t worried about is the moment getting two big for her underclassmen teammates.

“Their level of play is just so much more than what their age is,” Weglos said. “The girls coming off the bench too, I just think we have a really strong team this year where we can trust each other and not have to worry about inexperience or anything because everyone plays on a similar level.”

UPPER DUBLIN 53, SPRINGSIDE CHESTNUT HILL 43
SPRINGSIDE CHESTNUT HILL 12 14 7 10 – 43
UPPER DUBLIN 21 12 14 6 – 53
UD: Jackie Vargas 9 1-2 19, Nicole Kaiser 6 0-0 13, Dayna Balasa 4 0-0 11, Maggie Weglos 2 0-0 6, Sarah Eskew 1 0-0 2, Kara Grebe 1 0-0 2. Nonscoring: Meghan Barbera, Jess Polin, Lindsey Schreiber. Totals: 23 1-2 53
SCH: Davis 4 4-6 12, Clark 3 2-2 11, Seawright 2 5-6 9, Bridges 2 2-2 7, Rodgers 2 0-2 4. Totals: 13 13-18 43
3-pointers: UD – Balasa 3, Weglos 2, Kaiser; SCH – Clark 3, Bridges.

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