FRANCONIA >> Souderton’s defense was playoff-ready, spearheaded by Kate Connolly.
“She was like another level of determination on defense,” said Big Red coach Lynn Carroll. “She was getting up, full-court, getting some steals, getting some deflections, and that helps when you’re struggling to score, getting a steal like that and getting an easy score.
“It’s like, ‘finally.’”
Connolly blocked three shots in the first quarter while the Big Red offense gained steam, and once it did, No. 1 Souderton was on its way to a 46-25 second-round victory over No. 16 Haverford, a team on the rise out of the Central League.
“I think (defense is) what we always try to focus on,” Connolly said of Big Red, who got seven steals from Tori Dowd along with eight rebounds from Alana Cardona, “playing defense and that will roll into your offense.
“That’s always the focal point of what we do.”
Cardona scored a game-high 17 points for the Indians (23-2) and Connolly added 16. Big Red, who locked up a spot in states with the victory, will host Council Rock North Saturday at 1 p.m. in a District 1-6A quarterfinal.
Coming off its first-round bye, Souderton had to wait nearly five minutes for its first points of the night — a pair of free throws by Connolly — but that would start a 15-0 run that put the contest firmly in Big Red’s control.
A three by Megan Bealer (10 points) pushed Souderton ahead for the first time, and moments later Cardona got going, her drive to the hoop propelling Big Red further out in front.
“Our defense led to offensive chances,” said Cardona, “and once we made that first shot, we just kept the ball rolling.”
Bealer and Cardona would each have big first halves for Souderton.
A Cardona layup began the second quarter quickly for Big Red, and soon after Bealer would hit another three, increasing the Indian advantage to 13-3.
Haverford, which had opened the scoring with a three by Erin Doherty, finally ended the Souderton run with a basket by Lindsey Lane, cutting it to 15-5, but the rest of the half was all Souderton.
Cardona drove to the hoop again for another two then later grabbed an offensive board and passed to Bealer underneath.
Another Bealer basket widened the gap to 24-5 Big Red at the half.
Bealer had 10 in the first half, Cardona eight, and Souderton was on its way.
Big Red was winning on the scoreboard and in the trenches.
“One of our keys to the game was not getting outworked,” Carroll said. “What we saw from them on film was how hard they work and they’re really scrappy.
“They go hard after offensive rebounds. So not getting outworked was one of the keys and I think we accomplished that.”
Fittingly it was Connolly who turned out the lights, her trio of third-quarter threes complementing her defensive game, and putting this one out of reach.
Haverford will now enter district playbacks, Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Upper Dublin. The young Fords are loaded with nine juniors, including Lindsey Lane, who scored a team-high 14 points.
“It was a really tough game. We had been practicing really hard for this one but probably what got us was the second opportunities that (Souderton) got,” Lane said. “We didn’t box out. The second quarter killed us. We didn’t come out strong enough in the first half and that’s what we need to work on the most.
“Last year, we didn’t have an opportunity to be here in the playoffs and now that we do and it’s such a great experience — we have such a great group of girls — we plan on coming back.”
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