QUAKERTOWN >> A fast start as well as rock-solid defense when they needed it propelled North Penn to a 44-38 victory over Central Bucks East Thursday night in the second round of the PIAA-6A Tournament.
“Our defense,” North Penn guard Irisa Ye said, when asked what made the different in the final, crucial moments. “We locked down. We had been giving (East) too many open looks, we weren’t communicating, and they made us pay.
“But (Coach Maggie deMarteleire) got us together, we played together on ‘D,’ we talked it out, everyone was matched up, we got the steals and I think that was the difference.”
The final buzzer was followed immediately by a fire alarm, but North Penn headed out into the cold knowing it was headed to the state quarterfinals, and a match-up with Cardinal O’Hara on Saturday.
“They really gave us their best shot,” deMarteleire said of the Patriots, “and our kids were able to withhold at the end.”
Plays that had worked for the Patriots earlier were snuffed out by NP in the later stages at Quakertown High, with Jess Huber jumping into the passing lane to come up with an interception underneath the basket. That ultimately led to a jumper by Bri Hewlett, providing the Knights a 40-33 lead with three minutes to go.
Back-to-back threes by Bailey McManus displayed the Patriots’ resolve, bringing East within 40-38.
But in a game in which it led the whole way, North Penn extended to a four-point cushion on the strength of Sam Carani’s two free throws, and after another defensive stop, Ye calmly sank a pair to make it 44-38 with just 11 seconds left.
“We switched it up a lot,” Ye said of the offense, which got a game-high 15 from Huber, 11 from Hewlett, nine from McKenzie and seven from Ye in a combined effort. “We didn’t force a lot of things and we were patient on offense.
“And I think that was the key because with the patience, we got the good shots, the best shots we could get. Even down the stretch when there were a few minutes left. We didn’t rush it.”
Nailing the open shots twice pushed the North Penn lead to 10 in the third, with Huber popping a baseline jumper to extend the gap to 27-17. East cut it to 30-28 heading into the fourth, the hot shooting of Sophia Mancuso off the bench (nine pts) bringing the Pats back in it.
“I think the fact we were able to spread the offense out a little bit in the second half — we really wanted to set some ball screens because (North Penn) switches and we thought we could get good matchups,” Patriots coach Liz Potash said. “(The Knights) were just clogging the lane too much and we’re a team that likes to attack. Once we spread things out, we were able to kick out and get it to some open shooters.”
The Knights got out on those shooters down the stretch, including a final shot by Bridget Birkhead, whose three-point attempt banged off the rim, corralled by Carangi for the final stop of the night.
“They never quit, never stopped battling,” Potash said of her team. “I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
North Penn jumped out to a 7-0 lead early.
A layup by McKenzie off a set play got the scoring started for the Knights and Huber soon set up Hewlett for another basket.
A three by Huber completed the quick start for the Knights before East got its first points of the evening, courtesy of Megan Browne.
Then, Ye dished it out to Huber for her second three of the contest and NP was suddenly in front 10-2.
“We knew we had to get out to a lead because we didn’t want East having momentum early on,” Ye said.
Birkhead answered for East, hitting a three from up top to make it 10-5.
The Patriots closed out the quarter strong, a layup by Sophia Mancuso rolling around the rim and falling through to cut it to 11-9 heading into the second.
Both teams battled back and forth until the Knights finished the half on a 5-0 burst. Ye scored from underneath then later hit a three, pushing the margin to 21-13 at the break.
“There were stretches where we played really good defense,” deMarteleire said. “In the second and the fourth quarter, I thought defensively we played very well. In the third quarter (East) just got hot. They just had a lot of different kids hitting shots.”
The Knights didn’t surrender a field goal in the final decisive minute.
“Come out strong and finish strong – that’s what we wanted,” Ye said. “I’m just so glad we got this game over with — we’re taking it game by game.”
Top Photo: Jess Huber (15) and Irisa Ye (11) celebrate North Penn’s PIAA Class 6A second round win over Central Bucks East on Thursday, March 16, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)