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Bonner & Prendie takes team approach to shutting down Borum, Lake-Lehman

Bonner & Prendergast's Dakota McCaughan, seen in states action last year, had eight points and five assists in a Pandas' rout, 54-34, over Lake-Lehman in the second round of the PIAA Class 4A Tournament Wednesday. (DFM File)

BETHLEHEM — By process of elimination, you could’ve easily arrived at Bonner & Prendergast’s approach against Madison Borum Wednesday.

What the Pandas wouldn’t do, in their PIAA Class 4A second-round contest with Lake-Lehman at Bethlehem Freedom High, was allow the 6-1, 1,000-point scorer to match up with any Panda one-on-one. They wouldn’t try in vain to match her height. So the only logical choice was a variety of zone looks that allowed every Panda, from 5-4 Dakota McCaughan literally on up, to get a chance to stem the tide.

Together, they assembled a superlative performance, Bonner & Prendie muting the District 2 champ into a 54-34 thumping to advance to the state’s Elite Eight.

“It was either to have Alexis Gleason or Ariana McGeary to get in front of her and definitely try to keep her out as much as we can and to block any passes that they were looking for her in the middle,” guard Maeve McCann said. “Every passer was looking for the middle. So the guards were trying to jump and help the big girls, because they were definitely having a game with her. They did a great job on her.”

At the half, Borum had eight points and eight boards. She finished with eight and 10. Sarah Salus had six and eight at the half. She had just two second-half points and nothing more on the glass. And with the Pandas (18-9) holding the Knights to 2-for-14 from 3-point range, there was no stopping Bonner & Prendie’s march to the quarterfinals against District 3’s Bishop McDevitt Saturday.

The Pandas frustrated Lake-Lehman all night, exacerbated by a team that didn’t sub until the fourth quarter. Bonner & Prendie coach Tom Stewart answered by rotating bigs every few minutes. So it was no issue when McGeary picked up two fouls in the first quarter, then Gleason, in just her seventh game back from an ankle injury that had cost her the entire season, stepped up.

“At first, I was a little nervous. I’m not going to lie,” Gleason said. “At first it was a challenge. But I had my hand up, and I just played her tough.”

Even the point guard McCaughan got into the act by swiping the ball away from Borum on a couple of occasions, contributing to 14 LL turnovers, 11 in the first half.

“I’ve always been taught that when the big brings it down, that’s my time to jump on it,” McCaughan said. “We had attention on the bigs so I knew I had to be aggressive down there to help out Ariana and Alexis.”

Offensively, the Pandas’ execution was just about as good as could be. They shot just shy of 50 percent from the field (20-for-42) and 3-point land (7-for-16). McCaughan orchestrated it with five assists, but the balance was devastating.

Bridie McCann ended up on top with 12 points. Maeve McCann and Alexis Eagen scored 10 apiece, Gleason chipped in nine, McCaughan eight and McGeary five, collectively running Lake-Lehman’s five-player rotation ragged.

“We ran it very well today,” Maeve McCann said. “I think we can all agree we had a great moving of the ball. We were definitely a lot of teamwork today because we knew they had a height advantage, so we definitely wanted to be quicker and move the ball as much as we can.”

“When everyone’s hitting, it takes that weight off your shoulders that I have to hit this shot,” McCaughan said. “It makes us easier to just catch it and shoot without having to worry.”

Aesthetically pleasing as the offensive execution was, it all stems from the dirty work on defense. And the Pandas appreciated that.

“Defense always fuels our offense, so it was really helpful to have that many force turnovers,” McCaughan said. “It got us going with momentum and from there, we just took off.”

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