SPRINGFIELD>> In basketball, if you can’t play a complete four quarters then you’re going to have a hard time winning, especially in the playoffs.
Tuesday night, Pottsgrove found that out the hard way as they fell 52-46 to Springfield-Montco in the first round of the District 1-AAA tournament, despite leading for almost the entire contest.
“They just were able to get a couple steals off their press late and make a couple of easy baskets,” said Pottsgrove head coach Mike Brendlinger. “that just turned the game right around even though we had been playing well for the most part all game. Our passes were slow and telegraphed and they did a good job of jumping out and making steals.”
Right from the opening tip, Pottsgrove looked to be the more confident team, despite this being their first district playoff game since 2010, as they controlled the pace and forced Springfield into numerous turnovers.
“We looked jittery and nervous in that first half,” said Springfield head coach Bill Krewson. “But then we settled in and started to play some basketball. The hardest thing for this team offensively is to get them to settle down a little bit, move the ball so they back off, and it took a while for us to do that.”
The first quarter came to an end with the score tied 8-8, but in the second Pottsgrove started to gain some separation.
Point guard Diana Randleman, known for her scoring, was the main reason the Falcons looked so comfortable, but it wasn’t necessarily because she was knocking down shots.
Randleman finished the opening half with a game high five assists, driving the lane, drawing defenders, and finding the open teammate for an easy two points, on the way to a 23-17 halftime lead.
Another reason the Falcons looked so good in the first half was their ability to hold the Spartans’ leading scorer, Molly Dugan, under wraps.
Dugan didn’t score her first point until there was just 1:11 left in the second, and finished the first half with a modest three points, but unfortunately for Pottsgrove the player they saw in the first two quarters was nowhere to be found in the second.
Dugan exploded for 15 points in the final two quarters to finish with 18 points, as she used her rebounding for second chance opportunities and shot a ridiculous 19 free-throws throughout the course of the game.
“We just didn’t do a very good job with what we wanted to do.” Said Brendlinger. “Our goal was to not put them on the foul line and we just put them on the foul line way too many times. We had three girls foul out, they were all legitimate calls, and we just kept reaching instead of moving our feet.”
Dugan added 9 rebounds to go with her 18 points, and showed why she’s considered the leader of this team, even as a junior.
“She’s my rock on this team,” Said Krewson about Dugan “if we would have settled down on offense and gotten some good looks in the first half it would have been different. But we didn’t.”
Even with Dugan dominating the second half, the Falcons had every chance to win.
They held a four-point lead entering the final quarter and were able to go on a run to end the third to gain some momentum back, but Springfield’s size and defensive intensity was just too much.
Maura Ryan finished with seven blocks for the Spartans, effecting almost every attempt they took in the paint and forcing them to look for points elsewhere.
“We’re a little undersized and we’ve had trouble with people like her (Ryan) all year long,” said Brednlinger. “She did a real nice job with a bunch of blocks and even if she didn’t get the block she was distorting our shots all game long.”
Ryan’s length, coupled with freshman Siana Wynn’s fourth quarter lockdown performance on Randleman allowed the Spartans to claw their into the lead in the final period and hold on to advance in the District 1-AAA tournament for the first time in any of the Springfield players’ careers.
“This was a definite team win,” said Dugan after winning her first playoff game as a Spartan. “I know a lot of younger girls from the middle school were here to see it happen so that was great. Siana (Wynn) held their best player in the fourth and made her panic a little and when she did we were there to pick it up and finish and it was just great.”