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Souderton hits on all cylinders, throttles Plymouth Whitemarsh in SOL semis

BENSALEM >> If there’s a level past the one her team played with Saturday, Souderton girls basketball coach Lynn Carroll is going to be quite happy.

The Indians played close to flawless on both ends of the floor as they dismantled Plymouth Whitemarsh in the SOL tournament semifinals at Bensalem High School. From offense to defense, the Indians were just on point all game long.

Souderton rolled to a 66-26 win over the Colonials the way they’ve played all season, with ferocious defense and teamwork on offense.

“It was kind of a junk defense and you don’t practice against stuff like that but our kids are so intelligent, the way they play, the way they shared the ball, it’s almost like that kind of defense is helpful to us because we don’t need a particular person to score,” Carroll said. “They don’t care who scores, it’s not something we have to enforce. It’s just the kind of kids they are.”

Midway through the first quarter, it was a 4-4 game. By the end of the frame, Souderton led 20-6 and had PW out of sorts on both ends. It started with the defense, with Tori Dowd and Megan Walbrandt guarding the Colonials’ dynamic senior guard, Taylor O’Brien.

O’Brien ended up with half of her team’s points by scoring 13 but only made three shots from the floor. This isn’t anything new for Dowd and Walbrandt, who have been playing lockdown defense all season.

“We came out with a lot of confidence and a lot of extra motivation,” Dowd said. “We were making the extra pass, it felt like we were making all of our shots and we played as well as we could on defense and as well as we could on offense.”

On the offensive end, it was a committee approach with Alana Cardona heading up the committee. The senior forward had 22 points and 13 rebounds while guard Megan Bealer chipped in 13 points and seven rebounds, Kate Connolly had nine points and Dowd posted seven points with eight boards.

Cardona had 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting from the floor and five rebounds alone in the third quarter. The 6-foot senior, who has improved her shooting range with each passing season, did a lot of damage in close and by following up her teammates’ shots.

“All around, you could just see the connection we all have on the defensive end and the offensive end,” Cardona, who has committed to IUP, said. “If somebody tipped it, somebody else was getting it. It was a really successful game.”

It’s the second year together for this group, so naturally the Indians are extremely comfortable playing together. They zip the ball around until they find an open player and there are plenty of San Antonio Spurs-esqe possessions where all five players touch the ball before a basket.

“We’re really started to see the open player a lot more and our cuts are a lot better too,” Cardona said. “With the level we’re playing at and the speed we’re playing at, the passing is a lot sharper too. I think it comes from that blending all together.”

Dowd said the team gets excited when it gets to review film and see one of those passing sequences.

“None of us are selfish and we all what’s best for our teammates,” Dowd said. “We always have someone open, we always look for the next player and we don’t have many deflections when we’re passing it around.”

Souderton (21-2) is likely to claim the No. 1 seed in the District 1-6A bracket Sunday morning but Cardona said the Indians haven’t been playing with any pressure on their shoulders despite holding that mark for the last few weeks.

After just making it into the state tournament last season, the Indians got all the way to the semifinals in a surprise run that set the foundation for this year. Cardona felt getting so close provided the team the formula to this year’s success.

“We saw what it was like and be that close to a championship,” Cardona said. “All we’re trying to do is perform better than we did last year and leave a positive mark on the school. We saw how the community came together when we started winning and you can see it again already and it’s awesome to be a part of.”

Connolly, a 6-foot-2 Drexel recruit, also covered the back end of the defense with seven blocks and seven rebounds.

About the only blemish by Souderton turned into a rare highlight for PW (20-3). An errant inbounds pass with 2.1 left in the second quarter was thrown right to O’Brien a few steps inside half-court. The Bucknell-bound guard tossed up a shot at the horn that swished through.

Even with that, the Colonials were still down 38-16 at the break with Souderton showing no signs of stopping.

“We know how good of a player (O’Brien) is, so we wanted to keep her above the foul line and if she got below it, have help defense behind it,” Dowd said. “Kate and Alana did a great job helping us.”

Souderton will face Central Bucks South in Monday’s title game, set for 6 p.m. at Souderton with the boys final between Plymouth Whitemarsh and Central Bucks West to follow. It will be the third meeting between the Indians and Titans this season, with each winning on the other’s home court.

“Last year we struggled throughout the season with confidence,” Carroll said. “Alana and Megan Walbrandt were always willing to try and take over a game, where this year, anybody will do it. Last year, were figuring some stuff out but this year we started out knowing what the team was and our identity was.”

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