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McAteer helps Garnet Valley turn up intensity

PROSPECT PARK >> The message in the Garnet Valley locker room at halftime of their PIAA Class 6A opening game Friday night was simple and defiant.

The effort on the court in the first 16 minutes — the 6-for-29 shooting, the nine turnovers, the 10-point deficit — that wasn’t what got the Jaguars to a best-ever finish in District 1 and another state tournament.

So that brand of basketball, the Jags resolved, wouldn’t come back out of the locker room with them.

“We said, this is not the way we play basketball,” junior forward Emily McAteer said. “We were really focusing on playing with the seniors and helping them have a good end to the season. We just knew that we needed to bring up the intensity and switch around our defense.”

Garnet Valley, the third seed from District 1, made the necessary adjustments at the break to get by Elizabethtown, 56-53.

The Jaguars (24-4) advance to take on District 1’s ninth seed, Upper Dublin, which Friday stunned District 12 champion Cardinal O’Hara in double overtime, 42-35.

McAteer was brilliant, with 28 points and 13 rebounds, to weather a 1-for-12 shooting night from Brianne Borcky, the Jags’ other big scorer. But when it came to crunch time, Garnet Valley’s full complement showed up.

Morgan Falcone, who hadn’t attempted a field goal in 3½ quarters, knocked down consecutive 3-pointers from the top of the key when the Bears deigned to leave her open. The first put Garnet Valley up, 40-39, for its first lead since the first quarter, and she pegged back a three-point Elizabethtown possession to put GV ahead 43-42.

The basket that put the Jags up for good came at 2:10 of the fourth, when Madi McKee flashed to the elbow, watched McAteer draw a help defender and canned a 12-foot jumper to make it 49-47.

“During practice, we do a lot of things like that,” McKee said. “And we always know to be ready because they can pass to you at any moment. You just have to be ready for that. I just keep my eye on the ball wherever it went.”

“It sparks us,” McAteer said. “We can’t always rely on me and Bri. We’re all five on the court at the same time. We look for them in those moments most of the time.”

McKee also provided the star turn on defense against Marena Lonardi. The guard scored 15 points in the first half, outscoring GV 10-9 in the second quarter, and was the best player on the floor in the opening 16 minutes. But with McKee face-guarding and being more precise in calling out switches over screens, Lonardi finished with 24 points, needing 23 shots to get there.

To put an exclamation point on it, with Garnet Valley up three, McKee provided a resounding swat of an off-balance attempt by Lonardi that whistled out of bounds.

“It was difficult but we all just communicated,” McKee said. “I communicate with Bri a lot, we did a lot of switching and everything. But we all worked together.”

Defense is what sparked the turnaround in the second half. The Jags started the third frame with an 8-0 run, thanks in part to three straight turnovers by the Bears. The run extended to 13-3 to open the half (around a Lonardi triple) when Borcky cleaned up her own miss and threaded a pass to McAteer in the low block to lay-in off the glass and tie the game at 33.

Lonardi added seven rebounds and five steals. Amber Orban scored seven of his 10 points in the fourth quarter. Sydney Pierson added nine points and 10 rebounds.

McAteer was the only Jaguar in double-figures. Falcone, Nicole Barnes, and Borcky (with eight rebounds, four assists and three steals) chipped in seven points each.

The Jaguars only held a 35-32 edge on the glass, but nine second-chance baskets helped wear the Bears down.

“We knew that the big girls underneath, they were going to be good,” McAteer said. “We needed to box them out, and all of the games rely on defense and rebounds. And if you get rebounds, you can control the game.”

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