COATESVILLE >> In lots of ways, the Villa Maria and Coatesville girls’ basketball squads are a mirror image of one another.
Relatively inexperienced but talented teams, led by emerging underclass stars like the Hurricanes’ Paige Lauder and Maddy Ryan, and the Red Raiders’ Sarah Huston and Neveyah Chester.
These two met for a non-conference holiday matinee on Monday in a clash filled with runs and counter-runs. In the end, visiting Villa Maria had the edge in depth, and was able to stage a second half surge that ultimately carried the ’Canes to a 76-56 victory.
“There are some similarities, but I think we have a few more weapons than Coatesville does at this point,” said Villa head coach Kathy McCartney.
“It was two inexperienced teams, and that’s why you saw the ball fly all over the gym,” added Raiders’ head coach Tem Mack.
In all, the two teams combined to turn it over 49 times, but as the second half progressed, the Hurricanes started getting to more loose balls. And when they started turning those opportunities into easy buckets at the other end, Coatesville couldn’t keep up.
“We weren’t as focused as we should be at the start, but we eventually pulled it together,” said Lauder, a 6-foot-1 sophomore who wound up leading all scorers with 21.
“We turned over the ball a lot, and (Villa Maria) is good. That’s what it all came down to,” Mack summarized.
Now 10-2 overall, the Hurricanes forced 27 turnovers, had four players score in double figures, and more than held their own on the boards. The Red Raiders fall to 4-8.
“It was ugly, but it’s certainly better to win ugly than lose ugly,” McCartney said.
“We need to value possession of the ball, and know when at attack and when not to,” Mack added. “And when we make a mistake, we have to forget about it and keep going.”
Clinging to a 44-41 lead, Villa Maria quickly took command thanks to a 24-6 rally that started with a coast-to-coast drive and lay-in by point guard Julia Samar. Junior Abby Walheim chipped in eight of her 12 points off the bench during the run and the Raiders contributed with eight turnovers.
“We really played good defense late in the third quarter, and got easy buckets because of our defense – which is what you are trying to teach young kids,” said McCartney, who starts three sophomores. “Everybody wants to shake-and-bake and go to the basket, but it’s going to be won at the other end of the floor.”
The Hurricanes led by as much as nine on two occasions in the first half, but each time the Raiders would push back, spurred on each time by Huston. An 11-0 run put Coatesville ahead briefly late in the first quarter, but Villa Maria countered with nine straight. And after seeing their lead shrink to one, the ’Canes finished with a flurry to take a 37-32 edge into halftime, thanks largely another rash of Raiders’ turnovers.
“That’s the story of our season so far,” Mack acknowledged. “If we could put together a complete game, we are going to be OK.
“We’ve put quarters together, and it’s kind of deceiving when you are in it most of the way and then lose it by 20. The key now is to make sure they don’t get frustrated.”
Ryan finished with 15 points and Samar added 13 for Villa. But Lauder was the team’s dominant figure.
“She is a very good young player,” McCartney said. “We expect a lot from her and she is playing up to that level. If she continues to grow, she can be very nice Division I player.”
A junior, Huston scored 13 of her 19 points in the first half and Chester, a 5-11 freshman, chipped in 13 for Coatesville, but nobody else had more than eight.
The mid-afternoon weekday setting may have been a little unusual, but McCartney likes the idea of playing a non-league opponent like Coatesville.
“Coatesville is a good non-conference game to play because they are very athletic and they force you into making stupid mistakes,” she said.
“Playing a game like this is better than practice because we are playing a different opponent at a different speed,” Lauder added.
“Our defense helped us get some momentum and then we just kept building off that.”
Villa Maria 76, Coatesville 56
VILLA MARIA – Samar 4 3-4 13; Croft 0 0-1 0; M. Warley 2 1-2 6; Ryan 8 1-2 15; L. Walheim 0 1-2 1; Smith 1 0-0 2; Broadhurst 2 0-2 4; A. Walheim 5 2-3 12; Lauder 7 7-9 21. Totals 29 15-26 76.
COATESVILLE – Ellzy 2 4-4 8; Chester 6 0-2 13; Worthington 1 0-3 2; Huston 7 4-4 19; Bermudez 2 0-0 4; Powell 2 0-0 5; Peoples 2 0-0 5; Edwards-Rowles 0 0-2 0. Totals 22 8-15 56.
Villa Maria 19 18 28 11 – 76
Coatesville 17 15 15 9 – 56
3-point goals: Samar 2, M. Worley, Chester, Huston, Powell, Peoples.