BOYERTOWN >> The Methacton girls basketball team had experience. Unwelcome experience, but experience nonetheless.
After seeing their 12-point lead in the second half evaporate to resilient Upper Merion in the opening round of the Pioneer Athletic Conference playoffs, the Warriors could have gone into a meltdown.
But Methacton had endured games in the regular season where it surrendered big leads but still came out victorious, and Thursday night joined the trend.
Tied with 7.6 seconds remaining, Sydney Tornetta’s driving layup rimmed up, but Abby Penjuke got the offensive rebound and the ball fell back to Tornetta whose buzzer-beating putback made Methacton a 48-46 winner over Upper Merion at Boyertown Area High School.
“We’ve come down to that in a lot of games this season. It was very nerve-wracking because it’s a playoff game obviously,” Tornetta said. “I felt unlucky to miss the shot but luckily (Abby Penjuke) got the rebound and … I’ll call it a pass to me and I was able to put it back up.”
Sophomore Tornetta scored 12 points while senior Olivia Pennypacker carried the Warriors with 19 points and seven rebounds.
“It was the atmosphere (of the playoffs),” Pennypacker said of her hot-shooting night (7-for-10, 4-for-4 from 3-point range). “I don’t think about it, I just let it go. For some reason I have more confidence when we’re in these kinds of situations.”
The No. 5 seeded Warriors (13-10) also became PAC semifinalists and will meet No. 1 seed Spring-Ford in the Final Four on Saturday (7:30 p.m.) back at Boyertown.
Upper Merion (12-11) was a hard-luck loser after showing fight to get back into the game after Pennypacker’s 3-pointer with 2:30 left in the third quarter gave Methacton a 36-24 lead.
Tymeriah Stanton and Jordan Wilson each scored 10 points for the Vikings while Stanton had a team-high eight rebounds. Amya Anthony gave UM its first tie since 0-0 when she went 1-for-2 at the line with 4:07 left for a 41-41 tie. Wilson gave UM its first lead, 43-41, on a baseline jumper with 3:41 to play.
“When we were up there may have been thoughts that we beat them the first time (Methacton defeated Upper Merion 52-44 on Jan. 16) and we don’t need to worry about it,” Tornetta said. “I honestly didn’t even realize we were losing in the fourth quarter until (my team) pointed it out to me. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’
“I think that really hit everyone, that if we lose we’re done. That’s when we really started to kick it up and play our best.”
An audacious half-court pass from Nicole Cooper (eight points) to Penjuke (four points, 12 rebounds) got Methacton the lead back 45-43.
Methacton’s size advantage – the Warriors won the rebound battle 42-21 – forced Upper Merion into almost exclusive outside shooting. It almost made it work thanks to crucial 3s by Stanton, Maddie Harvey (eight points) and Megan Gebhart, whose triple tied the game 46-46 with 7.6 seconds left in the contest.
But the composure of the Warriors, who were PAC finalists a season ago, carried them through.
It’s a different group than last year after three starters graduated, but the former ‘role players’ have worked their way to being a win from returning to the league championship.
“In the beginning of the season we were working out the kinks. Now we’ve had to step up to bigger roles and I feel like I’m finally stepping up to mine,” Pennypacker said. “I know I need to make big plays.
“We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve come through them and are stronger because of it.”
NOTES >> Methacton entered the night No. 17 in the District 1 Class 6A power rankings; Upper Merion was No. 10 in the 5A rankings. … Senior Jillian Zerbe had four points and nine rebounds for Methacton. … Upper Merion had just eight turnovers versus Methacton’s 19.
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