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Great Valley tops Unionville in prep for showdown at Rustin

EAST MARLBOROUGH – Great Valley head coach Alex Venarchik doesn’t want to hear that his girls’ basketball squad is poised to challenge West Chester Rustin for supremacy in the Ches-Mont American. But then again, the Patriots are certainly rolling up the wins and making a strong case right now.

On Tuesday, Great Valley captured a key road win, 48-36, over Unionville in a battle between two squads in the top-14 of current District 6A Power Rankings.

“No,” Venarchik said at the suggestion. “We still have to go through the league another time. We still have to go to Oxford, and to Kennett. Just because a team starts out slow doesn’t mean that they are going to finish slow.”

Great Valley’s start, however, has been anything but slow. Now 4-0 in the league (8-2 overall), the Pats will take some momentum into Thursday’s showdown at Rustin, who is also unblemished in divisional play.

“Don’t get me wrong – we’ll take 4-0,” he said. “We learned our lessons from last season. These girls want to win and they played like it (Tuesday).”

It was a defensive battle on Tuesday, and a true test of focus for the Indians (1-1 5-4), who were forced to defend the deliberate Great Valley offense over lengthy possessions. It didn’t go well, particularly in the second half when the Patriots scored 30 points.

“Great Valley is patient, they don’t make many mistakes, and that’s their strength,” said Unionville head coach Fred Ellzy. “And if you don’t capitalize or you make a mistake, they are ready to take advantage. And they did (Tuesday).”

Senior guard Sadie Buzan scored seven of her team-high 13 points in the final quarter to lead the Patriots, who broke a two-game losing skid (against powerhouses Garnet Valley and Downingtown East). The offense was efficient, but Great Valley won it on the defensive end, forcing 17 turnovers and keeping Unionville standout Grace Schrof under control in three of the four quarters.

“I really think our defense is helping us win most of our games,” Buzan said.

“We kept track of (Schrof), and she still had 15,” Venarchik added. “As much attention as you can give her, she is still going to find ways to impact the game. But we did get out on the other girls and we rebounded the ball.”

Teammate Sarah Covert, also a senior, chipped in 11 for the Indians, but the rest of the roster combined to score just eight points.

“That’s been an issue so far,” Ellzy acknowledged. “We have some younger players who are playing varsity for the first time and they have to get it together. Our younger girls have to come along more.”

With Buzan leading the way, the Pats scored six of the last eight points to take an 18-13 edge into the halftime break. When Great Valley scored the first six points of the third quarter, the lead suddenly ballooned to double digits. And it would have been much worse if not for Schrof, who poured in nine in the quarter.

And after the Pats scored seven of the first nine in the final period, it was 41-27. The Indians came right back with a 9-1 rally to pull within six – thanks to consecutive 3’s by Covert — but never got any closer.

“We don’t want to be so boring and deliberate that we lull (opposing defenses) to sleep, but we do concentrate on the fundamentals,” Venarchik pointed out. “And our girls do a good job of being patient and waiting for the shots that they get within the offense, rather than trying to go one-on-one.

“We work a lot on setting screens, protecting the ball, making good passes and coming of screens ready to score. We did a good job running the offense.”

It also helped that the Patriots bench outscored their counterparts 15-5, led by Tessa Liberatoscioli’s eight points.

“Just staying calm on offense, and everybody looking to score is helping,” Buzan said. “It’s nice when everyone is tired on the court and we can bring in a bunch of fresh people, and they can score just like the people that left the court.”

Verarchik added: “Bench scoring was a factor in December and then we just kind of lost it. So (Tuesday) we kind of stressed that everybody’s got to be aggressive. We need whatever five girls are on the court to score, and they were all looking for their shots, and that helped.”

Maggie Flynn chipped in 10 points for Great Valley, who outscored Unionville in all four quarters.

“This was a good win, but it doesn’t mean anything if we don’t keep pushing through,” Buzan said.

Great Valley 48, Unionville 36

GREAT VALLEY – Porreca 2 2-3 6; Libertoscioli 4 0-0 8; Pedulo 2 0-0 4; Flynn 4 2-2 10; DeRobertis 1 0-0 2; Buzan 4 3-6 13; Heins 0 1-2 1; D’Imperio 2 0-0 4. Totals 19 8-15 48.

UNIONVILLE – Ciccarelli 1 0-0 2; Heldt 1 0-0 2; Megill 0 1-2 1; Covert 4 0-0 11; Cresta 0 0-2 0; Schrof 6 5-5 15; Towler 0 3-4 3. Totals 12 9-13 36.

Great Valley             8 10 17 13 — 48

Unionville                 7 6 12 11 — 36

Three-point goals: Buzan 2, Covert 3.

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