Lower Merion >> Bishop Shanahan’s first PIAA state tournament win in the four-year coaching reign of Fran Burbidge, a 37-31 victory against Lower Dauphin Saturday, didn’t come easy.
The Eagles scored only four points in a turnover-plagued first quarter, trailed the entire first three periods, and didn’t get their first lead of the game until there were three minutes left in the contest.
“I think our early-season [struggles] might have prepared us for our comeback today,” said Burbidge. “We came out somewhat tentative, and we had a lot of unforced turnovers in the first quarter, but we battled enough to make it count when we got traction late in the game.”
Shanahan’s best offensive weapon turned out to be its fourth-quarter performance at the free throw line. With the score tied at 27-27 early in the fourth period, the Eagles made 10 of 12 shots from the charity stripe for its final 10 points of the game.
The Eagles trailed Lower Dauphin, 25-23, at the end of three quarters. With 6:50 left, Shanahan pulled even with the Falcons for the first time in the game when Sammie McCarter worked her way inside to score. One minute later, McCarter drove inside again to tie the score at 27-27.
After several missed shots and turnovers on both sides, Shanahan’s Courtney Warley grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled with 3:01 to play. She converted both free throws to put Shanahan ahead for the first time, 29-27.
“Having Courtney always gives us a chance to win,” said Burbidge.
Warley said, “Going to the line [with the score 27-27], I wasn’t nervous. My teammates were encouraging me as I walked to the free throw line. I think that [teammates’ encouragement] worked for all of us who were taking free throws in the fourth quarter.”
After Lower Dauphin missed a shot from outside, Shanahan junior Sabrina Hinkley was fouled, and went to the line in a one-and-one situation with 2:02 left. She hit both free throws and suddenly the Eagles had a 31-27 lead.
“I thought Sabrina did a good job of stepping in during the fourth quarter,” said Burbidge. “She did a really good job, grabbed a couple of [key] rebounds for us. Toward the end of the game, I had the sense that she wanted to be out there [when the game was being decided], and it made me think that maybe I should have played her more during the regular season.”
With 1:08 left, Shanahan’s Jen Sendi stepped to the line on a one-and-one and converted both ends to make the score 33-29. Sendi, who hit a couple of third-quarter treys to keep the Eagles close, tallied eight points in the second half.
In the final 23 seconds, the Eagles’ Kathryn Greenhut went 3-for-4 from the free throw line to ice the game.
Lower Dauphin scored only six points in the final period – the final two came from an uncontested layup with 24 seconds left and Shanahan leading 34-29. The Falcons shot only 28 percent from the field.
Warley said, “We pride ourselves on our defense. The offense can’t always go our way, but [playing] defense, we can control. The whole game, we played as a team, but I think in the fourth quarter we were more engaged, more locked in, than we were earlier.”
With the victory, the Eagles wil face Archbishop Wood, the District 12 champion, in the second round of the state tournament. Wood defeated West Henderson, 32-23, in its state opener Saturday.
Bishop Shanahan 37, Lower Dauphin 31
Lower Dauphin: Schaefer 3 0-0 6, Pendolino 1 0-0 2, Schweiger 3 2-2 8, Day 1 0-0 2, Malinen 4 3-3 13, Totals 12 5-5 31.
Bishop Shanahan: McCarter 2 0-0 4, Sendi 3 2-2 10, Basile 2 0-0 5, Hinkley 0 2-2 2, Greenhut 1 3-4 5, Warley 2 7-12 11, Totals 10 14-20 37.
Lower Dauphin 7 9 9 6 – 31
Bishop Shanahan 4 9 10 14 – 37
3-point goals: LD- Malinen 2; BS – Sendi 2, Basile.