NEW HOLLAND>> Berks Catholic is making its return to the PIAA semifinals for the third time in four seasons, this time with a different dominant star in charge.
Berks Catholic (24-5) punched its ticket to the state 4A semifinals Saturday afternoon with a 51-42 conquest of District 3 and Mid-Penn Conference foe Bishop McDevitt in a 4A quarterfinal clash, held at Garden Spot High School.
It is BC’s inaugural visit to the PIAA semifinals under the new 4A classification. The Saints previously reached the state semis in 2015 and 2016 under the former 4-class system, as members of the old 2A. They lost both times.
Tuesday’s site and time are to be determined; if the Saints pass muster they’ll play for the program’s first state title at Giant Center in Hershey next Saturday, March 24.
“It’s a neat group,” BC head coach Bob Birmingham said of his current squad. “Every group we’ve had get to this point has been different. There’s been different leaders and different role players.
“This is completely different team than we had two years ago. It’s a great group that gets along well. They celebrate a little bit and then they walk off the court all calm. They have pride in themselves and pride in one another and I’m just happy for them.”
The star of those earlier BC teams was forward Devon Merritt. Merritt’s understudy at the time led the way back on Saturday: Dejah Terrell played perhaps her finest game of her final high school season against McDevitt, scoring 26 points and looking every bit the unstoppable force she can sometimes portray.
McDevitt tried everything and nothing worked. Terrell against man-up coverage was as lopsided a car on three tires; Crusaders Miranda Keller and Mercedes Cheatham alternately drew that unfortunate assignment to no avail. When the Crusaders doubled down in the post, Terrell either muscled through it, over it or found the open teammate for more than a smattering of pretty assists.
What Terrell faced Saturday was nothing new. What was different, perhaps, is how she approached the multi-player attention she always seems to draw.
“I think one of the big things is that she’s starting to square up more to the basket when she has (the basketball) and see the other things,” Birmingham said of Terrell. “I think sometimes earlier in the season she would get focused on just scoring or making a move and now, she’s seeing the double-team and she’s looking for those teammates.”
McDevitt played BC to a draw after the first period, a 14-all stalemate. The saints made their bones during the second stanza, a 13-4 run of dominance that firmly established control of the ballgame.
Not much was discussed at the quarter break to get the run going. “We needed to pick it up a bit, but I don’t really have to tell them a whole lot,” Birmingham said. “We made some slight adjustments with things, pinching in here or getting out a bit quicker. But for the most part, they knew what they have to do.”
The Crusaders hung around just enough to not make the outcome a certainty after the break; a 6-0 run late in the third quarter brought the game to within 38-32 before Abbey Gaffney hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from 25 feet to push it back up to nine entering the fourth.
Gaffney, also a senior, was a member of those ’15 and ’16 squads who, like Terrell, has stepped front and center this time around. She had to switch uniform numbers in the fourth quarter from her usual No. 10 to No. 34 when blood from a scratch she sustained to her arm was detected on her jersey.
“I can’t describe how happy I am,” Gaffney said. “I was a member of those other teams, but now as a senior, like, it’s our team now and nothing can compare to that.”
BC saw its offense back to its flowing ways after a pair of successful, but stilted efforts, earlier in the tournament. Gaffney’s point efforts and her 16 supplemental points were a big reason why.
“We know they throw out a lot of different (looks) and so we went over (in practice) everything that they could have possibly done,” Gaffney said. “So nothing surprised us. We were ready for everything and we handled it pretty well.”
PIAA 4A quarterfinal
At Garden Spot High School
Berks Catholic 51, Bishop McDevitt 42
Bishop McDevitt – 14 4 14 10 — 42
Berks Catholic – 14 13 11 13 — 51
Fasick 5 0-0 11, Chisholm 2 2-2 7, George-Morrow 7 0-0 14, Keller 4 0-0 8, Thomas 0 0-0 0, Cheatham 1 0-0 2. Totals: 19 2-2 42.
3-pointers: 2 (Chisholm 2)
Terrell 12 2-4 26, Gaffney 6 1-2 16, M Leininger 2 2-4 7, Duncan 0 2-2 2, Holt 0 0-0 0, S Leininger 0 0-0, Kirwan 0 0-0 0. 0. Totals: 20 7-12 51.
3-pointers: 4 (Gaffney 3, M Leininger)
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