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Jenkintown follows Walsh’s lead to win PIAA opener

NORTHAMPTON >> Molly Walsh saw an opportunity for her teammates and made sure it came to be.

Last year, as freshmen on the Drakes’ state title team, Walsh and Carly Mulvaney were able to get spot minutes during the PIAA playoffs, which proved invaluable as they moved into the starting lineup this year. Walsh came out in attack mode and opened the door for the reserves to get ample playing time Saturday.

Jenkintown did what it needed to, running away from Harrisburg Christian 68-15, to win their PIAA Class A opener at Council Rock South.

“The whole week, we worked on shooting and our whole team was focused on it so I knew we just had to come out and knock down shots early,” Walsh said. “I just wanted to be the one to get us started.

“I love our freshman and wanted to get them playing time, so I knew if everyone played hard from the start, they’d get a chance to play.”

Since winning their fourth straight District I A title, the Drakes spent nine days in the gym practicing. Coach Jim Romano said a couple days were focused strictly on shooting, something the team has tried to hone all season.

Walsh showed it was worth the effort, hitting a 3-pointer to open scoring as part of a team-high 14 point night. The sophomore had half the Drakes points as they took a 20-6 lead after the first quarter, but it wasn’t just her scoring.

“She’s one of our most complete players,” Romano said. “She’s very vocal. She’ll fill the stat sheet up, assists, steals, rebounds and she’s fine only putting up five points if the other kids are scoring. She does all the other things right and to have her come out and open up a little bit with scoring I think really set the pace for us.”

Jenkintown held the Knights to four total points in the next two quarters as Romano started to filter more players off the bench and into the rotation. Even though they built a considerable lead, the Drakes followed the lead of senior Natalie Kolb on the floor and played hard until they were subbed out.

Natalie and twin sister Mia, the only upperclassmen on the roster, each scored 12 points. After a slow start shooting, Natalie got rolling in the second quarter with seven points in the frame while adding five steals to her stat line.

Having the chance to play with and practice against the Kolbs the last two years, Walsh feels some of their innate sense for the game is rubbing off as the sophomore poked away four steals of her own.

“Last year, Carly and I didn’t have a lot of playing time as the season went on, but during practices we got really close,” Walsh said. “We really work well together.”

Romano also noted the impact last year’s playoff experience had on Walsh and Mulvaney, so he was also eager to get his reserves into the game. Sarah Cummings came in and hit a trio of 3-pointers, Katie McGrath had five points, Tanner Lafferty knocked in a trey and Molly Stevenson knocked down a pair of free throws.

“They need to play, they need to find their way through this as far as offense and taking their shots,” Romano said. “It was a good workout for them, but they’re going to have to realize it’s not going to be this type of game the rest of the way through. They played pretty well today.”

Jenkintown will face Sullivan County, the District 4 runner-up, in Wednesday’s second round. Sullivan County topped Coventry Christian 65-30 on Saturday.

The Drakes will get back to the gym for a few more days before the second round, but it’s exactly where they want to be this time of the year.

“We know where we want be at the end of our season,” Walsh said. “We have to keep working, we want to go back to Hershey so every practice counts and every game counts because we don’t know when it’s going to be our last.”

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