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Souderton tops North Penn for 11th straight win

TOWAMENCIN >> Ben Bowman may now be the one delivering it, but the message remains consistent for the Souderton girls basketball team.

“It’s always different when Coach (Lynn Carroll) is not here but I try to tell them, regardless of if it’s me or Coach, the message is still the same. We have to play our basketball,” Bowman said. “And whether I’m giving the speech or Coach is giving the speech. We have to step up and play our basketball.”

Bowman is acting head coach for the Indians with Carroll taking time off after giving birth last week and so far the one thing that has stayed the same is Souderton just continues to rack up wins.

Friday night on the road against North Penn, Big Red struggled to knock shots down but ended the first half with 13-0 run and from there had little trouble earning an 11th consecutive victory, topping the Knights 43-27 in their Suburban One League Continental Conference matchup.

“I tried to tell them that not every night you’re going to shoot well so the one thing we can control is our defense and that’s what we practice,” Bowman said. “It’s something that Coach Carroll really preaches and so we really dug in, got some steals there, got some easy baskets and went on from there.”

Megan Walbrandt scored a game-high 12 points for Souderton (17-2, 8-1 conference) while Kate Connolly collected eight of her 10 points before halftime.

“I think we really put the intensity on defense cause we knew that the defense would force the offense,” Connolly said. “And we just tried to work as hard as we could and get a few turnovers.”

The Indians trailed 16-14 in the second quarter before posting the half’s last 13 points to lead by 11. Alana Cardona added a three-point play 57 seconds into the third quarter to extended the advantage to 30-16 before the Knights finally ended the run with a Carley Adams basket.

North Penn had its deficit down to 32-21 entering the fourth after a Bri Hewlett 3-pointer but Souderton began the final quarter with sixth straight points, extending its advantage to 38-21 on a Walbrandt bucket. Big Red’s biggest least came at 43-25 when Walbrandt made two free throws with 1:16 left.

Jenny Hulmes finished with eight points to pace North Penn (5-15, 1-9), which lost it second straight. Alli Lindsay scored all seven of her points in the first half.

“Defense wasn’t really our problem, offense was our problem,” North Penn coach Maggie deMarteleire said. “We missed a lot of shots but not only did we miss shots, we missed opportunities to get shots off be cause our passes. We’d get somebody that would be wide open and the pass was not on target, not on point, so by the time the person corralled the pass in, the shot was no longer there.”

As first reported by Mary Jane Souder in The Intelligencer, deMarteleire announced to her team Monday that she is stepping down as head coach at the end of the season — her 11th with the Knights. Prior to North Penn, deMarteleire coached 16 season at Lansdale Catholic and Sunday she will be back at LC as North Penn and the Crusaders meet in a non-league contest at 1:30 p.m.

“That’ll be kind of weird, won’t it, cause that’ll be the first time I’m back there coaching,” she said. “I’m glad (the gym walls) are white and not yellow anymore, that’s what I understand.”

North Penn then ends the regular season hosting Central Bucks South Tuesday then visiting Pennridge Thursday. The Knights stand 28th in the District 1-6A rankings after the loss with 24 teams making the tournament. North Penn had not missed districts under deMarteleire.

Souderton, meanwhile, sit No. 1 in the district rankings and also leads the SOL Continental heading into Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. home game with Pennridge. The Indians visit Central Bucks West Tuesday before facing William Tennent at home Thursday.

“I told the girls it’s a special night, quadruple-header, they have a lot of things going on, you know the team was up to play. North Penn’s a great team, well coach and Maggie leaving, all those girls really wanted to push it tonight,” Bowman said. “It was tough to match their intensity, but we came through. We didn’t shoot well — I think we were 0-for-10 from threes — but our defense really set the tone.”

Souderton’s last five wins have come under Bowman. His first time in charge on the sideline was the 48-45 double-overtime victory over Central Bucks East Jan. 23. For Connolly, the midseason transition from Carroll to Bowman has been pretty smooth.

“He’s been doing really well,” the Drexel commit said. “You know, him and Coach have been together for so long, they just think very similarly so it helps. And it’s great cause he’s been here all year, he’s been working with us and now that we have him still here, it’s awesome.”

In the first quarter Friday, North Penn held a 11-7 lead after a Hulmes 3-pointer but Souderton finished the period with six straight points — the first four from Connolly before a Cardona basket off an offensive rebound had the Indians up 13-11.

“I thought defensively we played much, much better than we did the last time (a 55-27 loss Jan. 9),” said deMarteleire. “We knew we had to be much more aggressive cause they’re just a deliberate offensive team and if you’re going to let them run their sets against you you’re going to get killed. So we wanted to cause a little bit more, but a little more aggressive on the perimeter and work harder denying the pass to the high post and the low post.”

Jess McKenzie’s three-point play off a drive put NP back ahead 14-13 at 7:27 in the second quarter. A Walbrandt free throw tied things 12 seconds later but Lindsey scored off a drive for a 16-14 Knights lead.

But that ended up being the final points of the half for North Penn. Megan O’Donnell came up with a steal and fed Connolly for a layup while a Walbrandt jumper made it 18-16 Indians.

Tori Dowd’s three-point play at 2:32 pushed the margin to five with a Connolly putback and two Megan Bealer free throws giving Big Red a 25-16 advantage at 57.1 seconds. O’Donnell capped the half with a steal and layup for a 11-point lead at the break.

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