ABINGTON >> Abington senior Sam Brusha has come a long way as a player from her freshman year.
The one constant through her development from standstill shooter to future PSAC guard was when her season ended. For three years, Brusha and her Galloping Ghost teammates made it to states and Tuesday, they were trying to go 4-for-4 getting to the last dance.
Thanks to a double-double from Brusha, the No. 5 Ghosts did just that by topping No. 12 CB East 59-48 in the second round of the District I 6A playoffs.
“We were just really excited and energized to get our playoffs started,” Brusha said. “We know the feeling of getting to the end and playing in that big of a game, so we were excited to chase that again.”
Brusha, who has signed with Millersville, led all scorers with 19 points then added 13 rebounds, an assist and a couple of blocked 3-point jumpers for emphasis.
“I just had a coach from Towson say she was the best player on the floor, she just played great,” Abington coach Dan Marsh said.
Of course, getting to states was only stage one for the Ghosts, who are the defending district champion. Thanks to the Ghost boys also hosting a home game, the girls got a day start on everyone else and will await the winner of No. 4 Garnet Valley and No. 13 Conestoga in the quarterfinals.
Abington topped CB East in the last week of the regular season 58-52, so they knew exactly what the Patriots were bringing to the gym. Brusha noted East’s perimeter shooting ability while Marsh noted how hard the Patriots play, a given coming out of the SOL Continental.
“They can pull it from anywhere, so that was our concern, to dig down and lock them down,” Brusha said. “We played a really tough schedule and been in a lot of close games, so this was no surprise for us. We just played our game and we were used to it.”
Abington scored the first nine points of the game and spent the rest of the game basically managing that lead. Every time CB East strung a couple hoops together, the Ghosts were able to stay solid and just work the lead back up to three or four possessions.
Marsh felt from the first meeting that East could be pressed, so Abington broke out its fullcourt defense and was able to create some turnovers out of it.
“They made us earn it and that’s what it’s all about this time of the year,” Marsh said. “We made some mistakes but we can fix those. I’m proud of our effort because East is well-coached and plays hard.”
Brusha had a quiet first half as she and the Ghosts suffered from some yips around the basket but Abington kept pounding the glass and using those second chances to keep itself in front. Center Kassondra Brown had seven of her 15 points in the first half, with Tamia Wessels, Jordyn Allen, Brit James and Cam Lexow helping to carry the scoring.
As her game evolved the past few seasons, Brusha has been able to create her own shot more and it showed in the second half.
“Kassondra is such a huge presence in the paint that there’s two, maybe three girls on her all the time and it opens up so much for the rest of us,” Brusha said. “I thought that opened up my game.”
CB East will now drop into the playback bracket for the second straight season. District I sends 11 teams to states, so the Patriots will have another chance to extend their year.
The senior scored Abington’s first nine points of the third quarter, driving for a three-point play and adding two more threes to her school-record register, then added six more points in the final stanza as Abington held off a final surge by the Patriots. Aside from aiding Brown (15 rebounds) on the glass, Brusha played solid defense down the stretch, guarding East leading scorer Sophia Mancuso in the fourth quarter.
Brusha is as proud of her defensive improvements as anything and Abington’s ability to play good man defense was a huge part of their strong second half of the season. Lexow and Miranda Liebtag are Abington’s top defensive duo, but Brusha showed she can hold her own on that end too.
“I worked on the rebounding and defense because in these district games, you have to do everything,” Brusha said. “You have to bring it all to the court. Coach Marsh said before the second half the first five minutes are the most important part and we came out ready to play and extend our lead.”
ABINGTON 18 10 15 16 – 59
CB EAST 10 10 14 14 – 48
A: Sam Brusha 6 5-5 19, Brit James 2 0-0 5, Cam Lexow 2 0-0 4, Miranda Liebtag 2 1-2 3, Tamia Wessels 3 2-2 9, Jordyn Allen 1 0-0 2. Totals: 20 13-16 59
CBE: Sophia Mancuso 5 3-4 14, Gina Russo 3 0-0 6, Caolina Pla 3 0-0 9, Bailey McManus 3 0-0 7, Elyse Shine 2 0-0 4, Audrey LaBouliere 2 0-1 4, Skylar Krause 2 0-0 4. Totals: 20 3-5 48
3-pointers: A – Brusha 2, Wessels, James; CBE – Pla 3, McManus, Mancuso
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