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PIAA Girls Basketball: Upper Dublin faces tall task in Cardinal O’Hara

Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Taylor O’Brien battles Upper Dublin’s Maggie Weglos for a loose ball on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

The Upper Dublin girls basketball team’s 2017 season ended on a low note.

The Cardinals lost in the first round of the state tournament to Cardinal O’Hara, 53-25.

When the 2018 PIAA Class 6A playoff bracket was finalized Sunday, Upper Dublin found its name and its opponent — Cardinal O’Hara.

The game is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Archbishop Carroll High School.

“Looking back on (last year), we weren’t too happy,” Upper Dublin coach Morgan Funsten said. “We were a little embarrassed on how we performed in that first round of states. We didn’t really give them much of a game. We thought, going in, that we could give them a game and we could compete with them, but we were unable to. We return three starters from last year and the girls are extremely excited about this opportunity to prove to ourselves that we can compete with the (Philadelphia) Catholic League champs.

“Before we worry about winning the game, we have to prove to ourselves we can compete with them. If we’re able to do that early, then I think we have a great chance in the game. The first thing we need to do is we need to prove to ourselves that we can compete with them.”

Since Funsten took over the Cardinals (1-9) program six years ago, they’ve won with defense. This season they’ve held opponents to 30 points or less 15 times in 28 games.

The Catholic League champion Lions (12-1) will certainly put that defense to the test. They’ve scored 60 or more points seven times this year — including a season-high 79 points in their most recent game — the District 12 championship against Olney.

“They have (Maura) Hendrixson who’s going to Drexel who’s got unlimited range, a quick release, she’s turned into their point guard after graduating Hannah Nihill last year,” Funsten said. “She does it all. She’s also a good defender. They also have Mackenzie Gardler who’s going to Villanova. She also is a great shooter, she’s great at getting to the rim, she’s a great defender. Their third returning starter is Molly Paolino who is just a flat-out winner … The three previous years Paolino has been a role player and a defensive stopper. They’ve asked her to play a bigger role on the team this year.”

To prepare for the rematch with O’Hara, the Cardinals scrimmaged Archbishop Carroll Tuesday. Funsten said the idea to warmup against the Patriots was more about finding a quality, non-Class-6A opponent than it was learning from another Catholic League squad. Carroll lost to O’Hara, 36-33, back in January.

“Knowing a little bit about how Carroll plays and knowing how O’Hara plays I think it will be a good warmup to what we’re going to see Friday night,” Funsten said Tuesday afternoon before the scrimmage. “I think they’re similar teams. They played each other this year and it was an extremely close game. They have similar tendencies and similar size. I think it’s definitely going to benefit our girls going up against one of the top Catholic League teams in a scrimmage.”

Class A

Jenkintown vs. Christian School of York >> District 1 champion Jenkintown faces District 3 fourth-place finisher Christian School of York at Cheltenham High School Saturday at 5:30 p.m.

The Drakes are having a fantastic season this year with a 26-1 record.

They crushed The Christian Academy, 45-20, in the Bicentennial Athletic League championship game and did the same with Sankofa Freedom, 66-30, in the District 1/12 championship.

Senior guard Jen Kremp is a 1,000-point scorer and head coach Jim Romano earned his 600th win in December.

Jenkintown’s only loss came against District 1-6A champion Souderton.

If the Drakes handle the Christian School of York, which went 17-8 this season, they’ll face the winner of Linden Hall and Southern Fulton in the second round Wednesday.

Class 4A

Lower Moreland vs. Audienried >> District 1 runner up Lower Moreland faces District 12 runner up Audenried at Jefferson University Saturday at 5 p.m.

Lower Moreland comes into this game off a 59-23 loss to Gwynedd Mercy Academy in the district championship after winning four of thie rprevious five games.

Audienried finished this season 15-10.

The winner will face the winner of Scranton Prep and Wyomissing Wednesday.

Gwynedd Mercy vs. Carver E&S >> District 1 champion Gwynedd Mercy Academy faces District 3 fourth-place finisher Christian School of York Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Upper Dublin High School.

Kaylie Griffin scored 21 points in the Monarchs’ 59-23 blowout win over Lower Moreland in the district championship game.

GMA appears in good position to reach the second round with a matchup against a Carver E&S school that went 3-14 this season.

The winner will face the winner of Nanticoke and Danville Area Wednesday.

Class 5A

Upper Merion vs. Harrisburg >> District 1 sixth-place finisher Upper Merion faces District 3 champion Harrisburg at 3 p.m. Saturday at East Pennsboro High School.

After losing in the District 1 quarterfinals, Upper Merion split playback games against Penncrest and Springfield.

The Vikings will need leading scorer Jordan Wilson to be on to have a chance to top a Harrisburg team that went 23-4 this season.

The winner faces the winner of Abington Heights and Solanco in the second round Wednesday.

Archbishop Wood vs. Springfield-Delco >> District 12 champion Archbishop Wood faces District 1 fifth-place finisher Springfield Delco Friday at 3:30 p.m. at Archbishop Ryan High School.

Wood’s run at a Catholic League title ended with a 39-35 loss to eventual champion Cardinal O’Hara. Following that, the Vikings won the District 12 Class 5A championship game over Mastery Charter North, 66-47.

Kaitlyn Orihel and Birdget Arcidiacano will try to lead the Vikings in the first round against Springfield Delco.

The winner will face the winner of Mount St. Joseph and Twin Valley in the second round Wednesday.

Mount St. Joseph vs. Twin Valley >> District 1 third-place finisher Mount St. Joseph faces District 3 third-place finisher Twin Valley Saturday at 7 p.m. at Upper Dublin High School.

The Mount lost to eventual champion WC Henderson in the district semifinals.

They responded with a win over WC Rustin to earn third place in the district. In that 52-47 win, the Mount outscored Rustin 17-2 in the fourth quarter. Megan Dodaro and Kelly Rothenberg each scored 12 points and Grace Niekelski added eight.

The Magic have a good combination of skilled youth and older experience to lead them against Twin Valley.

The winner faces the winner of Archbishop Wood and Springfield Delco Wednesday.

Villa Maria vs. Archbishop Carroll >> District 1 runner up Villa Maria faces District 12 third-place finisher Archbishop Carroll Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Downingtown West High School.

Villa, the Catholic Academies champ, lost to West Chester Henderson its last time out in the District 1 championship, 41-32.

Carroll has played good teams tough all season in the Catholic League. The Patriots lost to eventual league champion Cardinal O’Hara, 36-33, and lost to runner-up Neumann-Goretti, 48-47.

The winner will face the winner of Lower Dauphin and WC Rustin in the second round Wednesday.

Class 6A

Souderton vs. Manheim Township >> District 1 champion Souderton faces District 3 seventh-place finisher Manheim Township Friday at Council Rock High School South at 7:30 p.m.

Souderton is coming off a triple overtime win in the district championship game against Central Bucks South. Kate Connelly led the charge with 18 points, Alana Cardona had 13 and Tori Dowd 12. It was the program’s first district championship.

The Indians will look to keep the momentum going against a Manheim Township team that went 19-7 this season.

The winner will face the winner of Easton and Olney in the second round Tuesday.

Plymouth Whitemarsh vs. Central York >> District 1 sixth-place finisher Plymouth Whitemarsh faces District 3 second-place finisher Central York Friday at Northern York High School at 7:30 p.m.

The Colonials lost in the District 1 quarterfinals to Spring-Ford and enter the state tournament after splitting playback games with Neshaminy and Abington.

Senior Taylor O’Brien — the all-time leading scorer at PW — will lead the Colonials offense against a Central York team that went 23-4 this season.

The winner of this game will face the winner of Hazleton and Neshaminy in the second round Tuesday.

Abington vs. Wilson >> District 1 fifth-place finisher Abington faces District 3 third-place finisher Wilson Friday at the Geigle Complex in Reading at 6:30 p.m.

The Ghosts enter the playoffs on a two-game winning streak. They won playbacks against Council Rock North and Plymouth Whitemarsh.

They’ll look to extend their winning streak to three games against a Wilson team that went 17-9 this season.

The winner will face the winner of Freedom and Perkiomen Valley in the second round Tuesday.

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