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Souderton starts fast, rolls past Owen J. Roberts in District 1-6A 2nd round

Souderton's Megan O’Donnell goes in for a layup as Owen J. Roberts’ Maddi Koury defends during their District 1-6A second round game on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. (Gene Walsh/MediaNews Group)

FRANCONIA >> The Souderton girls basketball team showed little rust opening the District 1-6A tournament after a 10-day layoff.

The sixth-seeded Indians scored the first 13 points in Tuesday night’s second-round contest with visiting No. 11 Owen J. Roberts and never let the lead dip below double digits from there, rolling past the Wildcats 49-28.

“We had so much energy,” Indians senior Megan Walbrandt said. “Obviously we haven’t played a game in a while. We were kind of antsy to play a game. And just knowing this was like one of the last games we have in this gym, so I think we just wanted to leave it all out on the court.”

Walbrandt paced a balanced Big Red scoring effort with 10 points while Mikaela Reese, Megan Bealer and Curran O’Donnell all added nine points as the Indians (21-3) advance to their second-straight district quarterfinal to visit No. 3 Abington — a 62-50 winner over No. 14 Central Bucks West — 6 p.m. Friday. Souderton also clinched a berth in the PIAA Tournament for the third consecutive season.

Souderton’s Mikaela Reese battles Owen J. Roberts’ Brooke Greenawald for a rebound during their District 1-6A second round game on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. (Gene Walsh/MediaNews Group)

“For the majority of my career it was within the grasp but then we just couldn’t get there,” said Souderton coach Lynn Carroll of reaching states. “And the team from the last two years got us over the hump and so far these girls are doing what they can to match that and they’re doing a pretty good job of it.”

The quarterfinal contest is a matchup between the last two District 1-6A champs as well as the teams’ second meeting this season — Souderton topping the Ghosts 67-57 at home on Feb. 4.

The victory over Abington was apart of a six-game win streak that was snapped when the Indians lost to Neshaminy 51-47 in the Suburban One League semifinals Feb. 9, giving Souderton a week-plus before districts to sharpen their gameplay.

“We were able to focus on ourselves which most teams really get to do cause you’re usually focused on the game that you’re playing,” Walbrandt said. “So we had a couple practices to focus on ourselves so I think that was really beneficial. We got to work on our team as rather than defending what they do.”

Olivia LeClaire finished with a game-high 11 points for Owen J. Roberts (19-6), which trailed by as much as 16 in the first half before getting to within 23-13 at halftime. But Souderton steadied its offense in the third and pushed the lead up to as much as 18 twice in the quarter.

The Wildcats are still alive for a PIAA bid but now must go through to ninth-place playbacks, which they begin Saturday host No. 14 CB West. The ninth, 10th and 11 place teams earn spots in states.

“They came out and they ran their stuff well and we did not make shots,” Owen J. Roberts coach Jeremy Mellon said. “It’s hard when you’re playing the defending district champs to go down 16 points”

O’Donnell got the Indians’ scoring going with a 3-pointer with another triple from Walbrandt making it 8-0. A layup by Bealer off an inbounds had the Indians up 10-0 while Reese’s 3-point play inside on another inbounds had Souderton up 13-0 at 3:17.

“We talked about nerves in the locker room before the game and obviously there’s always the potential to be a little bit rusty but our last three practices were three of the best all year,” Carroll said. “So I still felt pretty good that we were going to come in with the right mindset. But when you can get up early and have a lead that we had in the first quarter, it takes some pressure off.”

Owen J. Roberts’ Allie Lyoob reaches for a rebound during the Wildcats’ District 1-6A second round game against Souderton on Friday, Feb. 19, 2019. (Gene Walsh/MediaNews Group)

A Diana Rantz free throw at 2:42 put OJR on the scoreboard while a Rantz transition basket made it 13-3. But O’Donnell connected on a jumper while Walbrandt found Megan O’Donnell for a layup just before the buzzer for a 17-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.

“We banked two of them in and I feel like Owen J. missed everything they took in the first quarter, so I don’t think the game was as lopsided as the score was,” Carroll said. “I thought Owen J. actually played pretty well in the first quarter we just happened to be making our shots and they weren’t.”

A Walbrandt jumper put Big Red up 19-3 early in the second quarter. The Wildcats cut the margin to 19-7 at the free throw line before Souderton put the lead back to 16 after baskets from Reese and Erica Stephens. But the six points were all Souderton collected in the quarter and Maddi Koury’s back-to-back 3-pointers to end the half had OJR within 23-13 at the break.

“I really liked what we did in the second quarter, we made enough shots, we got out and ran a little bit more than we had,” Mellon said. “And we defended really well and rebounded. But they’re the best team I’ve seen offensive rebounding and they’re the best team I’ve seen playing together. They do that really well.”

Baskets by Walbrandt and Curran O’Donnell to start the third put the Indians up 27-13. The Wildcats cut their deficit to 12 twice, the last time at 29-17 after two LeClaire free throws at 4:22. But Souderton ripped off six straight points — Walbrandt hitting a three then finding a cutting Olivia Schneider inside for a 3-point play at 3:12 — to hold a 35-17 advantage.

“I think we focused more on our defense,” Walbrandt said. “The first half they had a lot of offensive rebounds so we really worked on boxing out and on fundamental defense and that obviously transitioned into our offense.”

A Rantz three got Owen J. Roberts within 37-22 before a Bealer basket had Big Read leading 39-22 at the end of the third. The Wildcats could only get as close as 15 in the fourth, the last time on two Avery White free throws with 3:59 remaining before Souderton scored the game’s final six points for its biggest lead of the contest.

Souderton 49, Owen J. Roberts 28
Owen J. Roberts 3 10 9 6 — 28
Souderton 17 6 16 10 — 49
Owen J. Roberts: Olivia LeClaire 3 5-8 11; Maddi Koury 2 0-0 6; Diana Rantz 2 1-2 6; Allie Iyoob 0 2-2 2; Avery White 0 2-2 2; Brooke Greenawald 0 1-4 1; Totals 7 11-18 28.
Souderton: Megan Walbrandt 4 0-0 10; Megan Bealer 4 1-2 9; Curran O’Donnell 4 0-0 9; Mikaela Reese 3 3-3 9; Olivia Schneider 3 1-1 7; Megan O’Donnell 1 1-2 3; Erica Stephens 1 0-0 2; Totals 20 6-8 49.
3-pointers: OJR-Koury 2, Rantz; S-Walbrandt 2, C. O’Donnell.

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