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Seniors leading Upper Dublin on historic run to PIAA-6A semifinals

Upper Dublin’s Nicole Kaiser drives to the basket as Abington's Britney James defends during their PIAA-6A quarterfinal at Bensalem High School on Friday, March 16, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

BENSALEM >> Nicole Kaiser and Maggie Weglos knew this Upper Dublin girls basketball team had something special.

The two senior co-captains though, didn’t know it would be this special. March is about surviving and advancing and a lot of times, that’s due to the efforts of a team’s seniors. Kaiser and Weglos didn’t know it at the time, but they set things in motion when they called a player’s only meeting during the district playoffs.

Now, they’ve led a Cardinals team further than any other after a 36-31 triumph over Abington in the PIAA 6A quarterfinals at Bensalem High School.

“It feels so weird that this is out last time playing so we’re trying to make it last as long as we can,” Kaiser said. “I can’t believe we made it this far, I never really thought we were going to.”

The story of UD’s regular season was agonizing close losses. After another to Council Rock North ended their chance at a district title, Weglos and Kaiser knew it was time to act and asked coach Morgan Funsten to address the rest of the team.

Funsten had never had captains ask to do that but trusted his captains would treat it the right way. They certainly did and Upper Dublin has gone 6-0 since, winning its way through the District 1 playback bracket to get into states, then upending Cardinal O’Hara and Garnet Valley in states before taking down Abington.

“We put the girls into perspective, we told them we’re a great team and they need to believe it,” Weglos said. “This is the last time for me, Nic, Lindsey (Schreiber) and Kayla (Wolf) playing basketball and we’re not going home early. I think we made the best out of it and the girls are all in, and that’s all you can ask for from a team.”

Kaiser had a tough night offensively on Friday, scoring just two points but the senior stepped up in other areas. She played tough help defense on Abington forward Kassondra Brown, had three steals and pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.

Weglos scored six points and played her usual stellar defense, limiting Abington’s Sam Brusha to just one point. The UD senior scored arguably the game’s biggest basket, a baseline drive that put the Cardinals up 30-29 with 2:51 left for a lead they wouldn’t give back.

“My girl was up on me really tight and if I stood out there and dribbled nothing was going to happen except a five-second call so I thought what the heck, drive in and see if you can get anything,” Weglos said. “It happened to go like that.”

Aside from Kaiser and Weglos, UD’s starting lineup features two freshmen and a sophomore and their first two players off the bench are another freshman and another sophomore. Funsten never talks about his team’s youth and the captains follow suit, telling the other girls they needed to be willing and confident to take shots in big moments of games.

Neither Weglos or Kaiser will be playing in college, so there’s a sense of finality in this run that’s been pushing them in states. They didn’t let the team splinter after all those close losses

“It’s a totally different style when you get to high school and we wanted to make sure they understood the importance of every single game,” Kaiser said. “It’s hard to wrap my head around. No other team has made it this far and it’s crazy that it’s us doing it.”

At worst, getting to the state playoffs was going to set a bar for the team’s returning core to build on next year. Then, the Cardinals started winning and now, they’re playing for a lot more than just something to use as a foundation.

Kasier said going into the fourth quarter, Weglos gave the team a little speech to settle them down. After her big bucket, Weglos had a pair of costly turnovers in the fourth that allowed Abington to get within 32-31. Instead of letting it linger, she collected herself and came back with a huge defensive stand against Brusha in the final seconds.

“I had to shake it off, I had to stay mentally tough for my team,” Weglos said. “I’m a captain. I need to be the leader because we knew going into this game it wasn’t going to be easy. The fact Nicole and I kept our mindset and believed in this team, nothing could get in our way after that.”

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