KENNETT SQUARE >> The Kennett-Unionville girls’ basketball clash on Thursday at Reynolds Gymnasium will be remembered quite differently from each side of this Southern Chester County rivalry.
The host Blue Demons will look back fondly on the incredible start, on forcing a bunch of turnovers and getting red-hot as a squad from the perimeter. In short, the 61-33 triumph over the Indians was a blast.
“It was a great performance by us,” said Kennett head coach Vince Cattano. “Look, we are not this good. We just had one of our better games. When we are hitting shots like that, we are scary. But we have to work to get those shots.”
For Unionville, on the other hand, it was a nightmare that started with turnovers on its first six possessions and then, improbably, got even worse.
“It was a humbling experience,” said Indians head coach Fred Ellzy. “For the first time I felt helpless. We just struggled to take care of the ball.”
How lopsided was it? Unionville managed to hit just two field goals in the first half and 12 overall. Kennett wound up knocking down 11 from 3-point range.
“It surprised me,” Ellzy acknowledged. “We knew Kennett would come out and go hard. You don’t want to get behind and give them too much confidence. Once Kennett started to get confidence, it seemed like more and more shots started dropping in.”
Now 4-0 in the Ches-Mont American (9-3 overall), the Demons are all alone in first place in the division. The Indians fall to 1-3, 7-6.
“But we are in the grind next week,” Cattano pointed out. “We have (West Chester) Rustin and Great Valley back-to-back on the road. We will find out where we really are after those games.”
On Thursday, Kennett’s great start encompassed all but the final two minutes of the first half, forcing Ellzy to call three timeouts. It was 15-2 after the first quarter, and when senior guard Andrea Prestianne hit a 3-pointer followed by a steal another bucket, the Demons were in front 33-3 with 1:09 on the clock.
“It was definitely a dream start, especially against our rival at home,” said Prestianne, who scored 16 points, all in the first half.
“It’s a big rivalry,” Ellzy added. “All we hope for as coaches is that the girls are ready to step up to the challenge. And we didn’t do that.”
Unionville was much more competitive in the second half, but it was far too late to recover. Especially with the way junior point guard Gina Lusvardi and sophomore forward Ellie Matthews were connecting from distance for Kennett. Each buried a pair from 3-point range in the third as the lead grew to 51-15.
“It was awesome to see how we played as a team,” said Lusvardi, who finished with a career-high 22 points, including a career-best six 3-pointers. “Everybody was getting rebounds, playing defense and hitting shots.
“I thought this was definitely our best performance of the season. It was a fun atmosphere.”
Matthews scored 10 of her 15 points in the third quarter. She combined with Lusvardi and Prestianne to score 53 of the Demons 61.
“We talked about getting Gina (Lusvardi) more touches and (Prestianne) did a nice job of making sure that happens,” Cattano said. “If you have two guards like we have, you are going to be in games.
“And one thing we do is we play hard. Everybody likes to say they play hard but we have to. We’re not very big so we have to work to establish the tempo and pace that we want.”
In all, Kennett forced a total of 26 turnovers, with 18 coming in the decisive first half.
“Once we lost our point guard (Sam Ciccarelli) to another knee injury, I knew we were going to struggle,” Ellzy explained. “She is missed and we haven’t had anybody else step up.”
Anna Iacocca paced the Indians with 10 points, but all came in the final quarter when the outcome was assured. It also didn’t help that Unionville was able to hit just eight of 16 from the free throw line.
“The girls work hard, but some of the basic fundamentals just aren’t there,” Ellzy said.
The road to the Ches-Mont American may go through Kennett right now, even though there is a lot of basketball to be played. But the Demons would be lying if they denied thinking about it.
“We know it’s possible, but we have some tough games coming up,” said Prestianne, the team’s lone senior. “It’s definitely within our reach.”
Kennett 61, Unionville 33
UNIONVILLE – Iacocca 4 1-1 10; Dempsey 3 0-0 6; Towler 0 0-4 0; Heldt 1 0-0 2; Cresta 1 0-0 2; Brown 1 1-2 3; Budow 1 5-7 7; Robbins 0 1-2 1; Barrett 1 0-0 2. Totals 12 8-16 33.
KENNETT – Lusvardi 7 2-2 22; Prestianne 7 1-1 16; Matthews 2 1-1 15; Fowler 2 1-1 5; LaCosta 1 0-0 3; Ehrgood 0 0-1 0. Totals 22 6-9 61.
Unionville 2 5 8 18 – 33
Kennett 15 18 18 10 – 61
Three-point goals: Iaccoca, Lusvardi 6, Prestianne, Matthews 3, LaCosta.
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