Jennifer Kremp’s 3-point shot from the right wing hit the front of the rim, tapped high off the backboard, touched the back of the rim then returned to the front of the cylinder, where it finally dropped into the net.
“When it was rotating around the basket, I was like ‘Could this go in, could this not go in?’ And it did,” Kremp said. “And it was the best feeling cause it made the gap even bigger.”
Kremp and the Jenkintown girls basketball team got a few bounces their way Sunday afternoon. But with how the Drakes played defense, they weren’t really needed.
Jenkintown frustrated District 4 champ Our Lady of Lourdes Regional throughout their PIAA Class A quarterfinal contest at Liberty High School’s Memorial Gymnasium. The Red Raiders had just eight points at halftime and were shutout in the third quarter as the Drakes avenged last season’s second-round loss to Lourdes with a 34-17 victory.
“It’s the greatest feeling ever,” Kremp said. “We knew we were coming for Lourdes ever since the season started because we want to win the state and at this point I definitely think we can. And it’s just a great feeling because we had them in the back of our minds the whole entire season and used this as motivation every single practice.”
Kremp hit a trio of threes and was just one shy of matching the Red Raiders’ point total, the junior guard finishing with 16 points — eight in each half — while Amelia Mulvaney added nine points as the Drakes (25-6) advance to the PIAA semifinals for the first time in program history.
Jenkintown faces District 3 champ Lebanon Catholic for a spot in the state championship 6 p.m. Tuesday at Garden Spot High School. Lebanon Catholic beat District 11 champ Nativity BVM 58-38 Saturday.
“They bought into it, like I said, at the beginning of the year we were a full-court press team and then near the last month we decided to go half court because of the legs and getting tired – it’s a long season, we’ve been going at it since November,” said Jenkintown coach Jim Romano of his team’s defense. “They’re into it, they’re in great shape, they love the game. They have so much respect for the game this group, it’s just unbelievable.
Lourdes Regional (21-6) beat Jenkintown 43-29 in the 2016 Class A second round on the way to reaching the state final. But in the rematch a year later, the Red Raiders held the lead just twice in the first quarter – the last at 4-3 before the Drakes ended the period with the last nine points.
“I think we’re more experienced this year,” Jenkintown sophomore Mia Kolb said. “I definitely think our defense has grown this past year.”
It was the sixth time this season the Drakes held an opponent in the teens. In Jenkintown’s last six games – the first three in the District 1 tournament, the last in the PIAA playoffs – the Drakes are allowing 27.2 points per game.
“As you can see, they’re all built the same. It isn’t like we do have a 6-2 girl that only plays defense and then offense,” Romano said. “I mean, they’re so well-rounded. They’re a joy to coach, I just love watching them play.”
Jenkintown's Caroline Arena jumps for a rebound against Lourdes Regional in their PIAA Class A quarterfinal on Sunday, March 19, 2017. (Debby High/For Digital First Media)
Jenkintown’s top defensive priority Sunday was Lourdes senior guard Carmella Bickel, who posted 14 points and seven assists in squads’ states matchup last year. The Drakes worked to limit Bickel’s driving lanes and with Bickel not connecting on her attempts from three, she had a team-high eight points before fouling out in the fourth.
“We knew they had a really quick guard and she would generate all their points so we put our best defender, Mia (Kolb) on her,” Kremp said. “And she did a great job. We just had to shut her down because she could shoot, she could drive, she could pass and everyone could finish on that team so we just had to shut her down.”
Jenkintown was up 15-8 at halftime and began the third with a seven-point burst. Lourdes, meanwhile, could not find a point against the Drakes’ D in the quarter – the District 1 champs extending their lead to 26-8 heading to the fourth.
“It felt awesome,” Kolb said. “Our defense was really there in the third, so we just had to put it out there.”
Lourdes Regional finally broke through in the second half on a basket from Jessica Milewski that made it 26-10. Two free throws from Bickel with 6:43 remaining cut the deficit to 27-14 and after Jenkintown missed three straight 1-and-1 front ends, Mary Komara knocked down a three to get the Red Raiders within 10.
But Jenkintown was effective enough in running clock and began to make enough free throws – the Drakes went 8-for-15 from the line in the quarter – to extinguish any real comeback hopes for Lourdes.
“As much as you practice and tell them and this and that, they got out there, these girls play so much I call it party mix, they get into a little party mix type of thing, like the want to do their own deal,” Romano said. “I let it go a little bit because of their experience and we want to have fun also. But when it comes down to here and you’re in a state game, you want to hold the ball and you want to make your foul shots. And I was more upset about the foul shooting.”
Down 4-3 in the first quarter, a Kolb free throw tied the game at 3:20 while Jenkintown went up for good on a Kremp triple. A Caroline Arena corner three made it 10-4 with a Mulvaney jumper giving Jenkintown an eight-point edge after eight minutes.
The Drakes could only collect three points in the second quarter, but Lourdes could not take advantage, posting only four. A Milewski bucket made it 13-8 before Kremp’s two foul shots at 1:37 gave Jenkintown the 15-8 halftime lead.
Mulvaney had the Drakes up by double digits 55 seconds into the third quarter – connecting on a jumper then hit two free throws for a 19-8 lead at 7:05.Kremp’s three thanks to the favorable bounces had Jenkintown ahead by 13. Kolb’s two free throws at 5:22 then a Kremp basket off a drive gave the Drakes a 26-8 lead at the end of the third.
Jenkintown 34, Our Lady of Lourdes Regional 17
Jenkintown 12 3 11 8 — 34
Our Lady of Lourdes Regional 4 4 0 9 — 17
Jennifer Kremp 4 5-7 16; Amelia Mulvaney 2 5-6 9; Caroline Arena 1 1-3 4; Mia Kolb 0 4-7 4; Natalie Kolb 0 1-2 1. Totals 7 16-25 34.
Our Lady of Lourdes Regional:
Carmella Bickel 3 2-2 8; Jessica Milewski 3 0-0 6; Mary Komara 1 0-0 3. Totals 7 2-2 17.
J-Kremp 3, Arena; L-Komara.
Top Photo: Jenkintown's Jennifer Kremp looks to pass against Lourdes Regional in their PIAA Class A quarterfinal on Sunday, March 19, 2017. (Debby High/Digital First Media)