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Jenkintown’s defense stifles Lower Moreland to win 2nd straight BAL title

The Jenkintown girls basketball team poses with the BAL championship trophy after defeating Lower Moreland in the league tournament final on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019. (Andrew Robinson/MediaNews Group)

MORRISVILLE >> Jenkintown girls basketball coach Jim Romano had a little history lesson for his players Saturday.

Since the Bicentennial Athletic League started a league tournament in 2008, it had taken the Drakes seven years to even reach the final, then Jenkintown lost twice in the championship game before winning it last year. The point of the lesson was that a tournament win that comes with a trophy of any kind is a valuable one, and one that doesn’t come easy.

Thanks to an airtight defensive effort, the Drakes made sure history repeated itself as they topped Lower Moreland 40-16 to win the BAL tournament Saturday at Morrisville.

“We felt that we press a lot, so they probably worked on the press and to save our legs and save fouls, we can play half-court,” Romano said. “We had minimal turnovers, they like transition and we covered that well by getting back so it was a real team effort on the defensive side of the ball.”

The score tells its own story, but it’s not a fair indicator of how well the Lions had been playing coming into Saturday’s contest. It’s also a credit to the Drakes’ defense that the Lions looked so out of whack offensively.

Lower Moreland also caught a bad break in the first quarter when junior forward Nicole Castor picked up her third personal foul, limiting her impact the rest of the game. With one of their top scorers on the bench, the Lions struggled to create the looks they’d been getting in the earlier rounds of the BAL tournament.

“The reality is, they’re more athletic than us at every position and when they decide to turn it on like that, it’s tough to get open,” Lower Moreland coach Richard Becker said. “You give Jenkintown credit for that, they got us out of our comfort zone and forced us into some bad decisions.”

All five Drakes starters scored at least a point by the end of the first quarter, which was also their worst defensive quarter statistically. Jenkintown led 15-6 after one, then gave up four points, four points and two points in the following three quarters.

Jenkintown (24-1), also the defending PIAA Class A champion, is known for its defensive prowess but it wasn’t a typical Drakes game. Normally heavy on the full-court press, Jenkintown played much half-court defense but still got the same results.

“To get ready for this game, we mainly worked on our defense, which I think won us the game,” Drakes senior Mia Kolb said. “It’s a really cool feeling getting this a senior.

“We came out harder, we wanted the ball more and made a lot of our shots, but again, our defense really won us the game. We wanted to save our energy so we could play that hard all four quarters and win the game.”

There’s nothing more demoralizing for a defense to see a great possession spoiled by not securing the rebound at the end. Jenkintown didn’t have to worry much about that, giving up just one offensive board and limiting Lower Moreland’s second chances.

Mia Kolb, who missed a double-double by one point, had 13 rebounds while her twin sister Natalie had seven. The Kolbs, the only seniors on Jenkintown’s roster and the only returning starters from last year, combined for 11 second half boards.

“At practice, we all fight over getting rebounds,” Mia Kolb, who has committed to Dickinson, said. “It’s our main focus, either getting an offensive rebound and putting it back up or getting a defensive rebound and not letting the other team have another shot.”

Lower Moreland (18-7) earned the No. 1 seed for the District 1-4A playoffs and hosts Villa Joseph Marie as part of a girls-boys doubleheader on Wednesday. Becker noted if the Lions want to reach states for the third straight season, they’re going to have to get through teams that defend like Jenkintown.

“That’s what’s disappointing, we said after the game we should be angry because this is not the team we are,” Becker said. “You have these games, a lot of the credit goes to Jenkintown for their preparation. It’s all execution and making better decisions.”

Jenkintown, which has no juniors, has watched its group of underclassmen come into their own during the course of the season. Mia and Natalie Kolb are the leaders, but Lauren Brockwell, Molly Walsh and Cady Westkaemper have found their roles and execute them well. While they don’t have the experience of last year, Mia Kolb said this year’s crew is similar and they’re able to interchange roles easily which also helps on defense.

Leading 22-10 at the half, Jenkintown got all the offense it would need in the second half from sophomore Carley Mulvaney. A bench player for the state title run last year, Mulvaney came on strong after halftime, scoring 13 of her 15 points after the break.

“She’s tough as nail and doesn’t back down from anybody,” Romano said. “But it’s like my ’55 Chevy; sometimes you have to warm it up for a half an hour before you can move it anywhere. You have to stay with her because once she gets going, you know what she can do.”

Advancing through a tournament of any kind is invaluable, especially for Jenkintown’s players who watched but didn’t get to factor much into all of last year’s success.

“It’s not easy to get here,” Romano said. “To get here from our side, you’re probably going to play the second place team from the larger division then the first place team. For us, this is great. It’s a good environment and gives them an opportunity and understand what it is to play for a title.”

Jenkintown 40, Lower Moreland 16
Jenkintown 15 7 10 8 – 40
Lower Moreland 6 4 4 2 – 16
Jenkintown: Mia Kolb 4 1-2 9, Lauren Brockwell 1 1-2 4, Molly Walsh 1 2-2 4, Natalie Kolb 1 5-7 8 Carley Mulvaney 5 4-4 15. Totals: 12 13-17 40.
Lower Moreland: Phoebe Lynch 3 1-4 9, Nicole Castor 0 1-4 1, Maggie McGarry 1 0-0 2, Alexandre Krutsinger 1 0-0 2, Kerri Kennedy 1 0-0 2. Totals: 6 2-8 16.
3-pointers: J – Brockwell, N Kolb, Mulvaney; LM – Lynch 2.

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