HAVERFORD >> The shots weren’t falling for Erin Doherty in Saturday’s District 1 Class 6A playoff opener against Methacton.
For most of the afternoon, the Haverford junior guard, her team’s leading scorer, was struggling from the field. But Doherty is a shooter, and she never doubts herself when things aren’t going well. Neither does Fords coach Lauren Pellicane.
“She’s our top scorer and our most consistent kid from the outside,” Pellicane said. “And she’s a scorer — that’s how she plays and she doesn’t hesitate. Throughout the year and with being our leading scorer, we know she will never hesitate to shoot, regardless of the outcome.”
On her 13th and final field-goal attempt of the game, Doherty didn’t miss. She swished the go-ahead 3-pointer with 40 seconds to play to lift No. 16 Haverford to a thrilling, 47-45 decision over 17th-seeded Methacton.
— Matt Smith (@DTMattSmith) February 17, 2018
The Fords (16-8) travel to top-seeded Souderton (20-2) for a second-round game Wednesday. Saturday’s win guarantees the Fords a spot in the playback bracket, should they lose to Souderton.
With the Fords trailing by one point, junior guard Annalena O’Reilly dished to Doherty, who from the right wing buried a 3-pointer to put her team ahead by two points. The Fords and Warriors had been on the see-saw for most of the fourth quarter, exchanging one-point leads.
“I knew I was kind of off all game with my shot, so I just tried to keep my confidence and take it,” she said. “I was hoping it went in.”
Arden Guilfoil pulled down a defensive rebound and was fouled on Methacton’s ensuing possession. The junior guard then trotted to the foul stripe where she made her third and fourth shots of the fourth quarter. As a team, Haverford was an excellent 14 of 17 from the foul line, including 7 of 7 in the final eight minutes of regulation.
Methacton led by three points with two minutes to play when Sydney Tornetta hit one of her six baskets on the day. O’Reilly made a layup to bring the Fords back to within a point with 1:30 to go, setting up Doherty’s heroics in the final seconds.
“We have a group that wants to compete no matter who we’re playing,” said Pellicane, the former longtime coach at Lower Merion who, in her first year at the helm of the Fords, succeeded in leading the team to its first district playoff victory since 2012. “They’re going to play for all 32 minutes … and it’s a resilient group that will play through adversity and compete as hard as they can.”
Methacton (13-11) jumped out to an 8-0 advantage in the first period, but Haverford answered with 13 consecutive points. The Fords would lead by as many as nine points in the first half and wouldn’t fall behind again until the fourth quarter.
“We tried to settle and look for shots that were open,” Doherty said. “Our coach stressed to drive to the basket instead of relying on the 3. We wanted to get them in foul trouble and get to the line as often as possible, especially when they were in the bonus.”
Doherty and O’Reilly fronted a balanced offensive attack with eight points apiece. O’Reilly was outstanding. In addition to her eight points, including four in the final stanza, she posted a game-high four steals and three assists and excelled defensively.
“She’s a phenomenal athlete and a tremendous competitor,” Pellicane said. “She’s a kid who will guard anyone that we ask. Typically she does guard the best perimeter player, but she does a lot of the little things, too. She attacked the rim today, which was really important, and she tried to take advantage of her quickness and get to the basket and get some points while also opening things up for other players.”
“Our coach calls certain players on the other team, the X-factor. I think she’s ours,” Doherty said of O’Reilly. “She doesn’t care about scoring points, she just makes sure she makes the right pass and doesn’t force anything and then, on defense, she always makes big stops and dives after loose balls.”
Doherty paired her eight points with five rebounds, three assists and one blocked shot.
Tornetta had a big game for the Warriors, netting 12 of her game-high 17 points in the second half. Abby Penjuke added 10 points, while Nicole Cooper and Olivia Pennypacker both chipped in with eight.
“We just had to remember to keep coming at them and keep fighting, especially early in the game when they got out to a big lead on us,” Doherty said. “Our defense is where it starts. We knew that if we could keep up our defense, our offense would come.”
Top photo: Haverford’s Erin Doherty, pictured in a game earlier this season, made the go-ahead 3-point basket to lift the Fords to a 47-45 win over Methacton in the opening round of the District 1 Class 6A tournament.