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Connolly scores 1,000th, Souderton returns to PIAA-6A semis with win over Neshaminy

Souderton’s Kate Connolly lines up her shot as Neshaminy’s Brooke Mullin defends during their PIAA-6A quarterfinal at Bensalem High School on Friday, March 16, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

BENSALEM >> It was quite a night for Souderton girls basketball.

Kate Connolly scored her 1,000th point. Alana Cardona celebrated her birthday. The Indians had a big crowd posted up right behind their bench that gave them a standing ovation as the game ended. They went shot-for-shot with Neshaminy in an entertaining game.

Most important, Souderton won 54-34 in the PIAA 6A girls basketball playoffs and advanced to the state semifinals for the second straight year.

“I knew it was coming, but I was more focus on the game,” Connolly said. “If it happened, it was fine, if not then hopefully the next time if we won. We just focused on getting the best shots all game. It still felt good.”

Souderton’s Megan Walbrandt goes strong to the basket as Neshaminy’s Olivia Scott defends during their PIAA-6A quarterfinal at Bensalem High School on Friday, March 16, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Connolly joins older brothers Jimmy and Ryan as 1,000 point scorers with Jimmy hitting the mark in both high school and college and Ryan getting it last year at Kutztown. The senior was excellent all game, scoring 19 points with five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and three steals.

After making the semis a bit unexpectedly last year on a magical run, the Indians (29-2) brought everyone back and set their sights higher. Getting back to the final four though, required taking down a potent Neshaminy team that has some similarities to Souderton from a year ago.

“I’m really, really impressed with how Neshaminy played,” Souderton coach Lynn Carroll said. “They executed, they made shots, the role players made shots for them, their kids they rely on made good plays. They were tough and we knew they would be. Look out for that team next year.”

The first quarter saw both teams pretty much trade basket after basket. Cardona scored, Brooke Mullin answered. Megan Walbrandt hit a shot, Kristin Curley hit a shot. Allison Harvey hit a three, Tori Dowd rifled a pass to Cardona for two.

After playing to a 13-13 tie in the first quarter, Souderton got seven points from Connolly in the second frame but managed just a 27-21 lead at the break. The Drexel recruit, who played her first two seasons at Archbishop Wood, hit a 3-point shot to put herself over the 1,000 point mark.

“Kate and her family knew and the coaches knew but nobody else really knew it was going to happen,” Carroll said. “It was probably a relief to her to get it out of the way. She played great all game, I’m happy for her, she deserves it and she earned it. The entire time she knew about it, she’s been ‘I don’t care, I want to win,’ and she means it, which makes it more special.”

The District 1 champs knew they were going to be pushed by Neshaminy (20-9) and it brought out their best.

“We played really hard this game, not that we don’t want to play well in every game, but to get back to the final four, it’s really exciting,” Cardona said. “With what happened last year, we’re motivated to get past this game and keep it going.”

Throughout the season, Souderton has been able to keep its sights on the immediate future and has blocked out the big picture stuff for the most part.

“To be able to focus on this game and this game only and play our hearts out and make it to the next game is something really special,” Walbrandt said.

Souderton’s Alana Cardona goes to the hoop during the Indians’ PIAA-6A quarterfinal against Neshaminy at Bensalem High School on Friday, March 16, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Friday was a good bounce-back for both Walbrandt and Cardona, who struggled a bit in the second round against Easton. Cardona finished with 10 points on her birthday and got an assist on one of the biggest shots of the game when she found Meg O’Donnell in the corner for a fourth quarter trey.

Walbrandt scored 12 points, getting seven during a crucial third quarter where Souderton finally put some space between Neshaminy.

“We just looked for the open person,” Walbrandt said. “They really packed it in, so driving they all collapsed in on us so we just kept looking to kick out. No one cares who shoots, as long as it’s a good shot and that’s what makes this team special. No one’s selfish.”

“We also have full confidence when a shot goes up, it’s going to go in or we have a good chance of getting a rebound,” Cardona added.

Mullin scored five of her team-high 16 in the fourth as she tried to will Neshaminy back into the game.  Neshaminy got within six at 42-36 before Cardona found O’Donnell. The three was the only Souderton basket of the fourth, but Big Red made its foul shots.

Souderton will face Upper Dublin in the semifinals on Monday. Both teams will be playing for the chance to go to their first state title game. Friday night though, the Indians were just focused on all they had to celebrate.

“It was a good game, a fun game to play in,” Cardona said. “It was exciting the whole way through and I’m really glad we got to come out with a win in a game like that.”

SOUDERTON 13 14 15 12 – 54
NESHAMINY 13 8 9 13 – 43
Souderton: Kate Connolly 6 6-8 19, Tori Dowd 2 0-2 2, Megan Bealer 2 2-4 8, Alana Cardona 5 0-0 10, Megan Walbrandt 4 3-4 12, Meg O’Donnell 1 0-0 3. Nonscoring: Sami Falencki. Totals: 19 11-18 54.
Neshaminy: Brooke Mullin 6 3-4 16, Scotti 3 0-0 6, Curley 3 3-3 9, Kowalick 1 0-0 2, Harvey 1 2-2 5, Tantala 2 0-0 5. Totals: 15 8-9 43.
3-pointers: S – Bealer 2, Walbrandt, Connolly, O’Donnell; N – Mullin, Harvey, Tantala.



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