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Upper Dublin can’t close game in 3OT loss to Lancaster Catholic

PHILADELPHIA >> It was a very trying 24 hours for Upper Dublin.

After dropping a double overtime heartbreaker to Plymouth Whitemarsh in two overtimes on Saturday, the Cardinals trekked down to Jefferson University to face Lancaster Catholic as part of the Blue Chip Basketball Showcase on Sunday. UD found a way to play even more, going three overtimes with the Crusaders.

The day didn’t end on a high note, as LC’s standout junior Kiki Jefferson and the Crusaders handed Upper Dublin a 49-41 loss.

“These last two games will definitely test your mental strength and sanity,” UD coach Morgan Funsten said. “I said to the girls, with playing three overtimes today and two overtimes today, add in the fourth quarter of each of those games and there’s seven chances to close a game out.”

Upper Dublin (8-3, 3-1 SOL American) led 11-4 after the first quarter, with Jefferson not scoring in the frame. But the junior, who reached her 1,000th point as a sophomore, came alive in the second period as Lancaster Catholic slowly rallied to take a 15-14 lead at the break.

The Cardinals’ deliberate style certainly kept them in the game, but they also seemed to struggle with the length of Crusaders defenders like Jefferson and Lauren Mills.

Sunday, the problem wasn’t so much scoring as it was closing the game out. Upper Dublin missed the front end of a 1-and-1 in a tie game late in the fourth quarter, missed another up two in the first overtime and with a 41-40 lead in the second overtime, turned the ball over with Jefferson splitting a pair at the line to extend it again.

“Of those seven opportunities, we had the lead with about a minute or so to go in at least five, maybe six of those seven,” Funsten said. “We have to figure out ways to close out games. We’re so close, but we’re just not there yet.”

UD struggled from the foul line in Saturday’s loss but Sunday it was more the inability to capitalize on chances to take or build on leads. Funsten said the teams that can play leads are able to make their foul shots but also sound decisions with the ball, something Upper Dublin didn’t do its last two contests.

After losing the first game of the season, Upper Dublin ripped off nine straight wins before the last two, so this isn’t a team completely lost in the woods. A lot of it comes down to the youth or lack of experience permeating the roster, with Funsten starting two freshmen and bringing another off the bench, with two sophomores also being counted on for big minutes among the top eight in the rotation.

“We’re very happy with our group and they’ve been doing everything we’ve asked and I just feel bad for them because they deserve better,” Funsten said. “The effort and preparation they’ve been putting forth, they deserve better outcomes than we’ve had the past two days.”

By the third overtime, it appeared the heavy toll of minutes started to catch up to the Cardinals with players not having the same kind of lift on their shots. While Funsten noted his team was drained mentally and physically, he wouldn’t use it as an excuse, instead going back to the point his group was in position to close out the game prior to the third extra frame.

Upper Dublin has one practice day Monday before returning to play on Tuesday, so there’s not a lot of time to recharge.

“This is territory we’ve never been in before,” Funsten said. “Though, I don’t know how many coaches have been in back-to-back games where you play double overtime and triple overtime games in less than 24 hours. It’s new to all of us and my message to the girls was we have to have a good practice tomorrow.”

Nicole Kaiser led the Cardinals with 12 points, with sophomore Jackie Vargas scoring 11 and freshman Jess Polin posting 10. Vargas had five blocks while guard Maggie Weglos had three steals.

No coach ever wants to lose, but Funsten did see some value in the last 24 hours. Winning tends to mask a lot of ailments and had UD been able to eke out one or both games, it might not have been able to see areas in need of improvement.

“I think we will be a better team as a result of these two games,” Funsten said. “Every mistake is magnified and forces yourself to look in the mirror and fix what went wrong. If we would have escaped the last two games with wins, maybe we don’t take those mistakes as seriously.”

UD has a three-game week coming up, finishing with another trip to Jefferson next Sunday to face Imhotep Charter.  How the team responds to its last two games will shape how the second half of the regular season will play out.

“If there begins to be negative attitudes or finger-pointing based off the last two games, we’re not going to be ok this year,” Funsten said. “If we are mentally tough, and every team I’ve had so far has been mentally tough, in my opinion, we’re going to have a great practice tomorrow and come out Tuesday and have a great game on Tuesday.”

LANCASTER CATHOLIC 49, UPPER DUBLIN 41 (3 OT)
LANCASTER CATHOLIC 4 11 9 7 4 6 8 – 49
UPPER DUBLIN 11 3 8 9 4 6 0 – 41
Lancaster Catholic: Kiki Jefferson 6 13-25 25, Lauren Mills 3 4-4 11, Peyton Jaquis 1 0-0 3, Cassie Paris 2 0-0 4, Kenzie Misel 2 2-2 6. Totals: 14 19-31 49
Upper Dublin: Nicole Kaiser 4 3-4 12, Jackie Vargas 5 1-3 11, Jess Polin 3 2-2 10, Dayna Balasa 1 2-3 5, Maggie Weglos 1 0-1 3. Nonscoring: Kara Grebe, Meg Barbera, Sarah Eskew. Totals: 14 8-13 41
3-pointers: UD – Polin 2, Kaiser, Weglos, Balasa; LC – Mills, Jaquis.

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