SOUTH WHITEHALL >> If Greater Nanticoke wanted to race up-and-down the court Friday night, that suited the Gwynedd Mercy girls basketball team just fine.
“We kind of said going into this game their pressure might be an advantage to us,” GMA junior Maura Conroy said. “Because we’re the kind of team that like to push the ball, get it in fast and go.”
The Monarchs were never rattled by the Trojanettes’ frenetic pace and in the second half put the brakes on the District 2 champs. After the PIAA Class 4A second-round contest at Parkland High School ended the first half tied at 25, Gwynedd Mercy outscored Greater Nanticoke 31-8 over the final 16 minutes and cruised into the quarterfinals with a 56-33 victory.
“I think the fact the team went in and really did a great job of not turning the ball over and looking north to south and attacking their pressure made the whole difference,” GMA coach Tom Lonergan said. “So that allowed us to score. The more times we scored, we were quick to get back, so they weren’t able to get it in, so now it became a half-court (game) for them offensively, for us defensively, which is what we wanted.”
Carly Heineman had a game-high 15 points and was one of four Monarchs in double figures as Gwynedd Mercy (19-8) reached the state’s final eight for a second straight season. GMA faces District 3 champion Northern Lebanon Sunday at a site and time to be announced.
Last year, Gwynedd Mercy reached the 3A quarters before falling to eventual champ Archbishop Wood.
“We’re like a tiny school so when we lose really big parts of our team, people are like, ‘Oh, I don’t know how they’re going to be next year,’” Monarchs senior Danielle Senour said. “And that was a big thing coming into this year. We’re like no, we need to prove these people wrong. We can do it again. I think that’s been the way it has been this season, just positive progressions all the way up and they’re not stopping yet. It’s real exciting to see.”
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) March 18, 2017
Georgia Cattie scored 14 points – eight coming as GMA capped the contest with a 20-2 run in the fourth quarter. Senour had eight of 11points in the first half while Conroy collected eight of her 10 points after halftime.
“The energy was obviously really high on offense and it was a fast-paced game, but something that really helped us was our ability to have composure on the defensive end and stay focused,” Senour said. “So to be able to go from a quick-paced game to having to control ourselves really helped us.”
Playing at any tempo was welcomed by the Monarchs after the week’s snowstorm twice postponed the matchup with the Trojanettes. The game was originally scheduled for Tuesday then got pushed back to Thursday. But with parts of the state still digging out from the nor’easter, it was moved to Friday.
“So tough, because you’re ready, like you’re focused and then you find out that day it’s not going to happen,” Senour said. “The main thing for us was we were keeping our team focused. Like, hey, it’s not today but we need to stay focused and it’s the longer it gets until we play the easier it is just to forget and get lackadaisical. We didn’t want that to happen, so we did little things to remind each other this is our goal, this is our game.”
Alyssa Lewis and Kate Butczynski each scored eight points to pace Greater Nanticoke (26-2), which was looking to reach the PIAA quarterfinal since 2007.
The Trojanettes got few easy buckets, instead having to work patiently against GMA’s half-court defense. Nanticoke hit four 3-pointers during the first half – including three during a 13-1 first-quarter run – but connected just once from beyond the arc after the break.
“I think we prepared a lot for their pressure. We knew what to expect. That’s what we worked on for the most part,” Conroy said. “At halftime we kind of came together, we were like they’re obviously good 3-point shooters, so we just need to work a lot harder to not only take away their three but make sure they’re not going to drive on us.”
Lewis gave Greater Nanticoke a 27-25 lead in the third quarter but Conroy collected two on a drive while Heineman hit a jumper, put GMA up for good.
A Butczynski free throw had the Trojanettes within 29-28 at 5:43 in the third before the Monarchs scored the quarter’s last seven points – four from Conroy while Reganne Flannery’s two free throws with 2:44 left sent GMA to the fourth up 36-28.
Butczynski buried a 3-pointer, cutting the Monarchs’ advantage to 36-31 in the fourth. But the trey was Greater Nanticoke’s last field goal and Gwynedd Mercy collected he next eight points – Conroy pushing the ball after a Trojanette miss and finding Senour for a jumper and a 44-31 lead.
“I think the complete control happened when they went to their 1-3-1 zone and it enable us at that point, we moved the ball extremely well against it and we made some good open looks in the corner area,” Lonergan said. “I think that was coming from Carly and Georgia. And then that forced them to go back to their man, which at that point I think they were tired and then they started running people and they were leaving people wide open.”
The Monarchs has little trouble with Nanticoke’s press late, scoring the final 12 points to win by 23.
“We are a team that prides itself on our defense. Our coaches were telling us this team hasn’t below 49 their entire season so keeping them below 33 is a real confidence booster for us,” Conroy said. That just shows how hard we can work on defense, taking away not only their shot but their drives.”
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) March 18, 2017
Gwynedd Mercy jumped out to an 8-2 lead in the first quarter before Greater Nanticoke connected on a trio of 3-pointers – two from Lisa Radziak – during a 13-1 run that gave the Trojanettes a 15-9 lead.
A basket by Megan Dougherty – who left that game after an injury at 3:45 in the third quarter – pulled GMA to within four entering the second quarter.
Back-to-back buckets from Heineman and a putback by Cattie gave the Monarchs a 17-15 edge. Two Butczynski free throws leveled the game 17-17 at 4:47.
Heineman put GMA in front again and Gwynedd held the lead until Amiah Lukowski’s triple tied things at 21-21. The Monarchs led by two twice more in the half but Lewis’ basket off a drive knotted the contest 25-25 at the break.
Gwynedd Mercy 56, Greater Nanticoke 33
Greater Nanticoke 15 10 3 5 — 33
Gwynedd Mercy 11 14 11 20 — 56
Greater Nanticoke: Kate Butczynski 1 5-8 8; Alyssa Lewis 4 0-0 8; Lisa Radziak 2 0-0 6; Kayla Aufiero 1 1-2 4; Amiah Lukowski 1 0-0 3; Riley Klepadlo 1 0-0 2; Alexia Pyzia 1 0-0 2. Totals 11 6-10 33.
Gwynedd Mercy: Carly Heineman 6 3-4 15; Georgia Cattie 7 0-0 14; Danielle Senour 2 7-8 11; Maura Conroy 5 0-2 10; Megan Dougherty 1 0-0 2; Molly Hutton 1 0-0 2; Reganne Flannery 0 2-2 2. Totals 22 12-16 56.
Three-pointers: GN-Radziak 2, Aufiero, Butczynski, Lukowski.
Top Photo: Gwynedd Mercy Academy’s Maura Conroy looks to make a shot between Greater Nanticoke defenders Alexis Pyzia and Riley Klepadlo during their PIAA Class 4A second round game at Parkland High School on Friday, March 17 , 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)