MIDDLETOWN — When it comes to effort, Penncrest senior guard Kylie Chelo has no complaints. She has never questioned her teammates’ desire.
An integral member of the varsity team since her freshman year, Chelo played the penultimate game of her high school career Tuesday night, a Central League encounter with Harriton.
The Lions didn’t throw in the towel when they trailed by 15 points in the third quarter. They made a run, thanks to Chelo’s 15-point outing and senior guard Annalee Doyle, who caught fire in the fourth quarter and kept the Lions afloat.
It wasn’t enough.
Penncrest suffered a 45-41 defeat, dooming its hopes at a bid for the District 1 Class 5A tournament next month.
Effort, though, was not the problem.
“We’ve been giving it our all, but we’ve just been falling a little short of some wins,” said Chelo, who is averaging a team-high 11.2 points per game. She is garnering interest from Immaculata and Susquehanna. “Everyone has been fighting the whole game, but we just haven’t been able to get the win. We go out there and try our best every game.”
Penncrest (7-14, 4-11) began the year with a 3-10 record, then won four of its next five. Tuesday’s loss was the Lions’ third straight.
“It’s been amazing to see how far they’ve come,” Penncrest coach Tim Brown said. “I’ve been with these seniors for four years. I was the assistant the previous three years. We started this year and it was really tough, but our last seven or eight games we won four. Every single day in practice, they battle and work hard to get better. Unfortunately it just comes down to a couple of small things that don’t go our way, but watching them grow this year and fight this hard, it’s encouraging. We have one more game left and hopefully we can go out and get it.”
The Lions close the season at home Thursday against Springfield. But on Tuesday night, the Lions fell short of completing an impressive second-half comeback.
Doyle poured in 11 of her team-high 18 points in the final stanza. She banked a pair of 3s and a long 2-pointer with a minute to go to trim Harriton’s lead to four points.
“Annalee has been the rock that has kept this ship steady,” Brown said of Doyle, daughter of Lions boys coach Mike Doyle. “She’s vocal, she knows the plays inside and out. She has a great basketball background and her competitive spirit is what drives the team. Tonight, with her knocking down all those shots, there is no way we are in this game without her hitting those shots.
“In the beginning of the year she was a pass-first point guard, but in the last five, six, seven games … she has been stepping up and knocking down those big shots for us.”
After a Harriton turnover, with 22 seconds to go, Alexis Calloway streaked to the basket and went up for a shot, but the ball drew the back of the iron and rimmed out. The rebound was corralled by the Rams and they were able to hold on.
During the timeout preceding the Lions’ final possession, the scoreboard operator incorrectly had the Lions trailing by three points, 45-42, instead of four. This gave Brown the false impression that his team was down by one possession instead of two, and his playcall was designed accordingly.
Harriton was buoyed by senior guard Christina Brown, who tossed in a game-high 23 points. Brown, who has been the scoring leader for the Rams the
last few seasons, proved to be a tough assignment for Penncrest defenders. A drive-first guard, Brown said she is constantly working to improve her all-around offensive game.
“I’ve been working on my jumpshot a lot more,” she said. “It’s not my best, but I’m doing OK. I’ve had some bad games, but I’m always working on my shooting because that makes my game more deadly.”
Under first-year coach Chris Wielgus, who won nearly 400 games at Dartmouth, the Rams are poised to make a run in the District 1 Class 5A playoffs.
“It’s been a pretty satisfying season. With the new coaching and a lot of us getting used to it, it’s been nice as seniors coming out and getting a lot of wins,” Brown said. “We’re doing better than we’ve had in the past with the mix of coaches we’ve had. I’ve had a different coach pretty much since my freshman year, but it’s been a real satisfying season.”
Elsewhere in the Central League:
Garnet Valley 65, Upper Darby 40 >> The Jaguars (20-1, 17-0) clinched the No. 1 seed in the Central League playoffs. Emily McAteer scored 20 points and Morgan Falcone and Madi McKee chipped in with 10 apiece.
Jasmine Forrester and Angelina Koskinas paced the Royals (12-9, 6-7) with nine points each.
Haverford 32, Ridley 17 >> Lindsey Lane scored 10 of her 12 points in the second half and hauled in 11 rebounds for the Fords, who held the Green Raiders to seven points after halftime. Erin Doherty also tossed in 12 points.
Brenna Harrison paced Ridley with six points.
Springfield 76, Strath Haven 26 >> The Cougars (19-2, 14-1) racked up 23 assists on 28 field goals and hit 11 3-pointers. Alexa Abbonizio had five treys and a game-high 21 points, Belle Mastropietro netted 16 points and Jordan D’Ambrosio added 12 points and three assists. Alyssa Long had a stellar floor game with seven points, six rebounds and three assists.
Faith Raymond scored 13 points in the losing cause.
Radnor 59, Marple Newtown 36 >> The host Raiders (16-5, 10-5) blanked the Tigers in the first quarter, 19-0. Brienne Williams poured in a career-high 20 points and Ellie Mueller registered 19 points, six rebounds and three steals. Holly Holtsberg dominated the low post with six blocks.
Mackenzie Hilden tallied a team-high seven points for the Tigers.
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