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Souderton surges past Neshaminy for 9th straight win

Souderton's Megan O’Donnell goes in for a layup during the Indians' game against Neshaminy on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

FRANCONIA >> With just three seconds to go and her team clinging to a three-point lead over Neshaminy, Souderton Area’s Mikaela Reese smothered Kelli Kowalick’s inbounds pass, snuffing out the Skins’ final chance to tie and preserving victory for Big Red.

“It was crazy. I just did my best to keep the ball from going in so they couldn’t get a quick three,” said Reese, who recalled making a similar play back in her days in SHYBA (Souderton-Harleysville Youth Basketball Association). “I was just trying to get my hands on it. It was cool though.”

Reese was fouled, made the two ensuing free throws, and Souderton had wrestled away an impressive 44-39 victory over Neshaminy in a battle of two Suburban One League front runners.

“We were seeing where we stand after this game,” said Reese, who supplied tough defense, added seven points and was a crucial 4-for-4 from the foul line in the fourth quarter. “We all know we play really well together and it was just a really good game to play against this team.”

Souderton, winning its ninth in a row to raise its record to 10-1 (5-0 SOL Continental), rallied back from an eight-point deficit with 2 minutes, 20 seconds to play.

“I told the girls in the locker room, it wasn’t ‘a play’ that won us the game. It was our girls going out and making plays,” Indians coach Lynn Carroll said. “Megan (Walbrandt), Megan (Bealer) and Megan (O’Donnell) made plays in the fourth quarter.

“And, Mikaela, the way she finished the game…”

A jumper by Walbrandt cut the deficit to 39-33, and after a defensive stop, O’Donnell drained a three to bring Souderton closer, down 39-36.

Big Red forced a turnover and then drew to within a point when a drive by O’Donnell fell through, making it 39-38. Neshaminy (13-2, 5-0 SOL National), seeing its five-game win streak snapped, missed the front end of a one and one.

Souderton then surged into the lead when Bealer made a tough, off-balance shot, pushing the Indians ahead, 40-39.

Neshaminy’s Brooke Mullin pulls up to shoot against Souderton during their game on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Brooke Mullin (18 points), closely guarded by Walbrandt, drove hard but could not get it to fall, and Souderton extended its lead when Reese calmly sank a pair of foul shots, making it 42-39 with 13 seconds to go.

“They left her open in their press,” Carroll said. “She went and got the ball and they fouled her, and I was very confident — she makes foul shots in practice and makes them in games.”

Down by three, Neshaminy moved the ball down the court and called timeout with three seconds to go.

“At the very last second,” Carroll said, “we told (Reese) to turn and face the inbounder. And she made a great play.”

Neshaminy jumped out to an 8-0 lead early, a three by Allison Harvey, a layup by Olivia Scotti and a hard drive to the basket (for a three-point play) by Mullin fueling the run.

Neshaminy’s Kelli Kowalick goes strong to the basket as Souderton’s Mikaela Reese defends during their game on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

“It doesn’t get much better than Mullin,” Carroll said. “She’s got it all — the height, the speed, the handle. She can shoot from the outside and attack the basket.

“She’s just really, really good, and I think that Megan Walbrandt did a really good job on her.”

Souderton found its way.

Big Red moved the ball around and found open shots, a pair of threes by Meagan Bealer (9 points) slicing the deficit to 8-7 by the end of the first quarter.

Then, Souderton took control in the second quarter.

The bench provided a big boost, as Olivia Schneider took it to the hoop twice to help put the Indians in front for the first time, 14-12. Schneider had six points in the quarter and reserve Erica Stephens added a bucket, scoring on a rebound to widen the margin to 18-12.

Souderton’s Olivia Schneider drives to the hoop near Neshaminy’s Olivia Scotti during their game on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Souderton led by as many as eight until Mullin banked in a three and then hit one of two free throws just before the break, bringing the Skins within 20-16 at halftime.

Neshaminy led by three after the third quarter and by eight with 2:20 left, but Souderton roared back. Walbrandt led Big Red with 12 points and limited Mullin to two points in the fourth.

“All of the girls’ mentality is to never give up,” Reese said, “and I think that’s what drove us to get those final points.”

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