QUAKERTOWN >> In the playback game for District 1’s final spot in the PIAA 6A playoffs you know you’re going to get maximum effort from both sides. Souderton and Coatesville both provided that Friday night.
Despite a valiant comeback effort from Coatesville, the Souderton girls basketball outlasted the Red Raiders, 48-37, in a hard fought game that sends the Indians to states.
“We were able to fight through the nerves and fight through the fear of disappointing one another and we made plays at the end,” Souderton coach Lynn Carroll said. “About halfway through the fourth quarter we were able to kind of find our courage again.”
Megan Bealer led Souderton throughout, scoring 15 points in the game. She was also a big contributor on the glass for Big Red.
“Megan Bealer was just great. For her to have a double-double tonight was just crazy,” Carroll said. “She was scoring consistently for us throughout each quarter and was playing without hesitation, which she has not been…it was great to see her come out with some courage and some confidence.”
Bealer put up four big points in the decisive fourth quarter as well, with the game tied after three.
“Yesterday at practice we all sat down and talked about…what would improve us as a team,” Bealer said. “Since we’re all such close friends we pick each other up on the court. If one mistakes happens we know (we’ll) get it back next time. That’s, I think, what really motivates us to keep it going. We’re all there for each other.”
Souderton was able to gain and build a lead with spurts of high intensity on defense and quality offense. Big Red started the game hitting their first three shots. Two of which coming from Katie Connolly, who finished the game with 10 points.
Bealer then canned a pair of threes later in the first to push the lead out to 14-8, where it would end after eight minutes.
The run continued for Souderton in the second quarter, as the Indians scored the first seven points of the quarter to extend the lead to 15.
After a Coatesville timeout, Brianna White stepped on the court and shot the Red Raiders back into the game. A pair of threes quickly got the lead to single digits, and Coatesville would work back from there. After the first half the Red Raiders found themselves down just six, 24-18.
“Brianna has been playing with an injured ankle all year,” Coatesville coach Tam Mack said. “Day-to-day it kills her and she, just like the rest of the kids, plays with so much heart. I’m amazed that she goes as hard as she does. She’s a softball player, so she only has three days to get ready.”
White finished the game with a game-high 18 points.
The Red Raiders would come out with an extra level on defense in the third quarter, implementing a zone that Souderton couldn’t crack. Led again by White on offense in the quarter, Coatesville won the third 14-8 to leave the game tied at 32 after 24 minutes. The Red Raiders also found themselves ahead by four at one point.
“That’s the way we play,” Mack said. “We knew all the teams in this league were tough…we knew we couldn’t make a lot of mistakes. Then we got to the point where we just told the girls just go out, play and have fun. That’s what we tried to do.
“These kids are resilient. When they’re down they don’t quit…when they went into the locker room they didn’t expect to lose… I wasn’t surprised that we came back. I actually thought we were gonna win.”
Souderton closed out the quarter with a 1-3-1 trap, which seemed to wake Big Red up a bit.
Coatesville managed just five points in the fourth after clawing its way back to a tie, but just the fact the Red Raiders clawed back showed a program on the rise.
“We had 10 wins last year,” Mack said. “We have 20 wins now, we made the final four, we won our division, we competed with the big boys … as a coach you want to always win every game but these kids, I can’t say enough about ‘em.”
After missing a litany of threes in the second and third quarters, Sami Falencki finally let one go for Souderton that hit the rim what seemed like 100 times before dropping. That gave Souderton a lead they would never relinquish.
“It was a really a momentum builder,” Tori Dowd said. “Because our shots weren’t falling and we were having tough times driving the lane. So having her sink that three really helped us step up and think we can do this.”
“Not that they were necessarily forcing the shots, I think we were forcing the issue a little bit,” Carroll added. “We did a better job with that in the fourth quarter than we did in the third.”
After the game there were murmurs of the same question throughout the Souderton locker room:
When was the last time the Souderton girls’ basketball team made the state playoffs?
“I’m really proud of them. This is a long time coming for us, for the coaches,” Carroll said. “We talked to the girls after we lost to Abington that we know this is the group that’s gonna get us over the hump. We knew they were the ones that were gonna get us into states.”
This will be Carroll’s first trip to the state tournament in her 13 years as coach.
“My two years before this we’ve never even come close,” Dowd said. “This is crazy to think we have a team that can make history here because we don’t even know the last time Souderton made states.”
Top Photo: Souderton’s Kate Connolly lofts a shot over Coatesvilles’ Brianna White during the District 1-6A 11th place game on Friday, March 3, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media