JENKINTOWN >> Jenkintown’s girls basketball team found itself in a position it hadn’t been many times this season.
The Drakes’ opponent, Lower Moreland, had put together a nice run and cut Jenkintown’s lead to eight points late in the third quarter. Using the clock to its advantage, Jekintown got the ball to senior co-captain Jen Kremp and she delivered by hitting a runner in the lane to put the Drakes back up double-digits heading to the final frame.
Jenkintown extended its lead and topped the Lions 53-39 Tuesday in a clash between the BAL’s two division leaders.
“They’re coached really well, we knew they would be prepared, they have some really good ball players and we knew we were going to be tested tonight,” Drakes coach Jim Romano said. “Tonight, we passed the test. It was something we were looking forward to. The tradition between Lower Moreland and Jenkintown is unbelievable, we don’t have it as much anymore with the divisions, but it was nice for the girls to experience that.”
It was a meeting of continuity against new image. Jenkintown (12-0, 6-0 BAL Constitution), the defending back-to-back District 1 Class A champion is in its third season with the same group of core players. Lower Moreland, last season’s District 1-4A champion, has turned to a youthful lineup after the graduation of leading scorer Rachael Millan.
The Lions (10-3, who start five sophomores and bring a freshman off the bench as one of their top reserves, have put together a great opening half of the season, and are 6-1 in the BAL Independence division. On Tuesday, they couldn’t quite replicate that start in the game.
“We were down 7-6 and four minutes into the game we had five fouls and six turnovers and were only down one and at that point I thought we were going to be ok, because how much worse can you get,” LM coach Richard Becker said. “Then they started making some threes.”
Jenkintown, which reached the state semifinals last season, has been without injured senior Amelia Mulvaney the last few weeks but junior Natalie Kolb said the rest of the team wanted to win Tuesday’s game for her. Kolb, a junior, started alongside her twin Mia, junior Caroline Arena and senior twins Jen and Ashley Kremp.
That core six has played a lot of games together the past three seasons and their strength lies in their defensive pressure and their balance. Natalie Kolb led the Drakes with 18 points on Tuesday, but noted in any given game, any of her teammates can be the top scorer. Natalie and Mia came out looking to attack in the first quarter, scoring eight and seven respectively as Jenkintown took a 17-8 lead.
“We did our research, watched them a lot, this game got moved a couple times but we were really looking forward to it,” Kolb said. “We wanted to focus on our press but also keep track of each girl defensively. We opened up our offense, got ourselves out wider, had a lot more passing and slowed the game down a little bit.”
With her sister on the bench with two fouls, Natalie Kolb and the Drakes opened the game up from the outside. Kolb buried a pair of 3-pointers, Jen Kremp hit one and freshman Carly Mulvaney drilled one while Jenkintown continued to create turnovers on defense and carried a 32-14 lead into the half.
The BAL is top-heavy this season, so both teams were anxious to use Tuesday’s game as a measuring stick. Not wanting the first half to reflect the whole game, the Lions switched into a zone defense and started to claw their way back in.
Nicole Castor (12 points, 12 rebounds) and Ceili Corduff (13 points) led the charge as LM opened the half on an 11-1 run. After a Natalie Kolb put-back, Corduff found Riley Malone for a three to cut the lead down to 35-28.
“We got it down then they held it out,” Becker said. “At that point, we were down 10 and they could just hold it out so we had to pinch up and they were able to get past us. We really just dug too much of a hole too early.”
Molly Walsh split a pair of free throws with her team up seven and after a stop, Kremp hit her shot in the lane with four seconds left in the quarter and the Drakes went into the final quarter 40-30.
“Jen Kremp set us up in a different offense and she really led us there,” Kolb said. “It was a little bit of a relief. Lower Moreland had a couple of good runs, so when we were able to finally pull away from them, it was pretty exciting.”
Walsh’s free throw kicked off an 11-0 Drakes run that bridged into the fourth, capped when Natalie Kolb found Mia Kolb for a 48-30 lead with 4:33 to play. So far this season, the Drakes have been the team engineering big runs, so being on the other side of one was something they were able to gain experience dealing with.
“We really didn’t have a chance to work on trying to break runs or stop the bleeding in some of our games,” Romano said. “With the type of team and players they have, they weren’t going to go home easy. That was key for us being able to stop the bleeding those couple times. Jen’s a senior, she’s the leader and she took it upon herself to make that play.”
Becker felt his team would learn a lot from Tuesday’s setback and noted their postgame huddle didn’t include any blaming or finger-pointing, but plenty of “we” and team emphasis. Lower Moreland has played well in most of its games, so one result shouldn’t change the players’ belief they can keep doing that.
For Jenkintown, the second half of the season will be able trying to test themselves as much as possible and getting ready for the postseason. The Drakes host Souderton next Wednesday and are hoping a game with Council Rock South that was postponed by snow can be made up soon.
Romano joked he’s basically moral support for this year’s group but added it’s a pleasure coaching them and seeing how much they’ve grown the last three seasons. Kolb added they’re all friends coming from a small community and they don’t care who the leading scorer is on a given night.
“It’s pretty amazing and that’s how you look at a veteran group, they’re thinking what I’m thinking and sometimes, they’re thinking way ahead of me,” Romano said. “They’re basically calling their plays. They understand what we have to do it and are comfortable doing it.
“There’s going to be a time where we have to say goodbye, but I knew that four years ago and our plan is to ride with this as long as we can.”
JENKINTOWN 53, LOWER MORELAND 39
LOWER MORELAND 8 6 16 9 – 39
JENKINTOWN 17 15 8 13 – 53
Lower Moreland: Riley Malone 2 0-0 5, Jimia Davis 3 1-4 7, Nicole Castor 5 2-6 12, Ceili Corduff 6 1-2 13, Phoebe Lynch 0 2-2 2. Nonscoring: Aexandre Krutsinger, Macy Morozon. Totals: 16 6-14 39.
Jenkintown: Jen Kremp 2 1-3 6, Mia Kolb 4 3-6 11, Ashley Kremp 1 2-2 4, Natalie Kolb 7 2-4 18, Caroline Arena 1 0-3 2, Carly Mulvaney 2 2-2 7, Molly Walsh 2 1-2 5. Totals: 19 11-22 53.
3-pointers: J – N Kolb 2, J Kremp, Mulvaney; LM – Malone.
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