NETHER PROVIDENCE — Senior night often means underclassmen begin the game on the bench, even if they’re considered starters on a nightly basis.
Strath Haven thus rolled out a lineup without sophomore power forward Faith Raymond, sophomore shooting guard Danielle McNeely, and energetic junior guard Cayden Frazier in Wednesday’s Central League tilt with Marple Newtown.
By the time they checked in, the host Panthers found themselves in a bind, trailing by double digits.
Strath Haven, which is eyeing a first-round home game in the District 1 Class 5A tournament, needed to do better.
“Once we got our mojo, we started making shots, passing the ball well and working together,” McNeely said. “We finally got it together.”
Strath Haven recovered from a sleepy start and rallied to win on the night its seniors were honored pregame. The 53-45 final gave the Panthers victory No. 13 on the season.
All three of Haven’s temporary starter-subs made a difference. McNeely caught fire in the fourth quarter, scoring all 11 of her points in that eight-minute span. Raymond was a force in the low post, tallying nine points, six rebounds and two blocks. Frazier had a solid floor game with four points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Smack-dab in the middle of Strath Haven’s resurgence this season is senior guard Alisha Lewis, who dazzled Wednesday night. The Georgia Tech signee, who transferred to her home school prior to senior year, poured in 16 points on 6 of 13 shooting, dished out four assists, and made three steals. Lewis is a masterful ball distributor and involves her teammates, all of whom have developed into better players because of her Division I talents.
“It makes us all happier. We get the ball more and we all just play together so much better,” Raymond said. “It’s Alisha. She’s different. It’s … I can’t even explain it. She’s just really good. In a game, she’ll surprise all of us.”
Lewis drilled a 3-pointer from near half court as time expired in the first quarter to cut Marple’s lead to four points. Strath Haven (13-5, 9-5) went on a 16-2 run in the second quarter thanks in large part to Raymond, who had five points, two steals and a block in the period. Haven held a one-point edge at halftime.
Keeping the Tigers alive were senior guard Lindsay Kane, senior forward Olivia Coary and freshman forward Haley Levy. Kane, a combo guard, sank four 3-pointers and led all players with 19 points. Levy tossed in 11 points and grabbed six rebounds, while Coary finished with nine points and two assists.
If not for 28 turnovers, Marple Newtown (5-13, 3-10) could have pulled out the upset.
“We’re a younger team and still learning, we lost a lot of our starters from last year, but we really overcame that and started playing better,” said Kane, who shot 4-for-8 from beyond the arc. “We’ve got a lot of freshmen and sophomores on the team who are learning new plays. But we’re getting better.”
Kaely Cristello did a good job defending Lewis, a superb ball handler who likes to drive and dish, or pull up quickly and hit from long distance.
“You’ve got to try and keep her in front of you, you’ve got to keep an eye on her because she makes good passes,” Kane said. “We’re not going to deny that she’s a good player.”
Lewis’s third 3-ball of the night, with 1:15 left in the third quarter, gave Strath Haven a one-point lead. That advantage blossomed to five a minute into the final stanza when Jazmeen Harper hit a baseline jumper and McNeely made a layup off a Raymond block. Marple just couldn’t catch up.
Strath Haven wants to place among the top three in the Central League and qualify for the league playoffs, which get under way next weekend. Grinding out a tough win over a much-improved Marple squad should help the Panthers in the long run.
“I think playing (in close games) are giving the girls a chance to figure out how to finish games,” Strath Haven coach Allison Price said. “They work hard and they’re competing every single night of the season. Those close games are really going to make the younger players better. … We had some bumps in the road lately, but I think we’re really starting to hit our stride.”
Elsewhere in the Central League:
Upper Darby 58, Lower Merion 57 >> The Royals (11-7, 6-7) climbed all the way back from a 15-point deficit in the third quarter to win in overtime. Jasmine Forrester (23 points) drilled a 3-pointer to tie it and made a free throw to give UD the victory.
Aubrey Ennis scored 10 points and Gabby Liberio finished with nine for the Royals.
Garnet Valley 65, Ridley 33 >> The Jags (18-1, 13-0) received scoring contributions from nine players. Jillian Nagy, who made four 3s, and Emily McAteer each netted 17 points. Brianne Borcky added 10 points for GV.
Morgan Chapman paced Ridley with nine points.
Radnor 57, Penncrest 32 >> Cierra Hopson scored a career-high 12 points and Ellie Mueller posted a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Raiders (14-4, 9-4).
For the Lions, Kylie Chelo scored 18 of her game-high 20 points in the second half.
Springfield 53, Harriton 21 >> Belle Mastropietro collected 24 points, eight rebounds and three steals as the Cougars (17-2, 13-1) cruised past the Rams. Springfield made 10 3-pointers, including four by Rachel Conran (12 points), three by Mastropietro and two by Jordan Postiglione (eight points).
Haverford 42, Conestoga 15 >> Eleven players got in on the scoring fun for the Fords, who led 18-2 at halftime. Erin Doherty tallied seven points, a game high.
In the Catholic League:
Archbishop Carroll 58, Little Flower 24 >> Ten players scored at least two points for the Patriots (14-5, 9-1), who won their 12th straight game. Harlem Jennings had 14 points and Erin Sweeney added 12. Karli Dougherty grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
In the Del Val League:
Interboro 41, Chester 37 >> Madison Diehl’s 18-point effort led the Bucs (3-14) to their first victory of 2019. Gianna Frangelli contributed 10 points and Riley Szatny added nine.
Deasia Smith and Monique Colbert had 10 points apiece for the Clippers.
In nonleague action:
Sacred Heart 42, Morrisville 19 >> Kyra Quigley powered the Lions with 14 points, while Carina Fichera and Kayleigh Doyle scored six each.
In the Ches-Mont:
Kennett 69, Sun Valley 30 >> Abby Seasock hit four 3s and scored a team-high 14 points in defeat for the Vanguards.
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