UWCHLAN >> Owen J. Roberts played most of its first-round District 1 Class 6A girls basketball game against Downingtown East on Saturday with the purpose of springing an upset thereby taking advantage of a sleepy start by the Cougars.
However, it all turned for the Wildcats in the fourth quarter when they were held to just one basket, while Bella Smuda had eight points as the 11th-seeded Cougars turned away No. 22 OJR, 44-36 on Coach Schnure Court at Bob Boyer Gymnasium.
The Cougars (17-7) advanced to Wednesday’s second round, where they will visit No. 6 Plymouth-Whitemarsh.
“We just went dry, couldn’t make a shot,” said Owen J. head coach Jeremy Mellon. “I thought we defended well, but we just got cold at the wrong time.”
The Wildcats led 26-23 at the halftime break, but the Cougars chipped away the entire third quarter before Erin Phelan finished from in close with three minutes left to give them a 34-33 lead that held up until the start of the fourth.
Smuda, who was held to four points over three quarters, started to heat up in the final eight minutes. She scored five points over the first six minutes of the fourth as the Cougars padded their lead to 39-33 with two minutes left.
“I had a rough first half with foul trouble, but I was able to bring it back,” said Smuda, who also had eight blocks. “The first half I was making too many dribbles. Second half, I was just shooting and not thinking about it too much.”
Meanwhile, scoring became a chore for the Wildcats. They missed their first nine attempts from the floor in the fourth, and 12 straight stretching back from the third. Their lone basket came on a three-pointer from Hannah Clay with 23.3 seconds left.
“We are a solid defensive team,” said East coach Tom Schurtz. “They did a nice job at the point of attack. I think we did a better job of rebounding in the second half.”
Downingtown East made four of five free throws down the stretch to keep the Wildcats at bay.
Despite being undersized, OJR kept going inside and found ways to score early on. They fashioned a 14-10 lead after one.
“I liked the way we didn’t seem to be bothered by their size,” said Mellon. “I thought we did a great job going at their bigs. Our big, Brooke Greenawald, and Kylie Cahill did a great job for being undersized. They’re athletes and they competed, and I thought they really did a hell of a job.”
The Wildcats finished at 11-12 for the season, and the future is looking bright for them, with just three seniors on the current roster.
Leclaire had 14 points to lead OJR, including six in the second quarter to stake them to a 26-23 lead at half. Greenawald added eight and Cahill had seven.
“I’m really proud of my girls,” said Mellon. “They played the No. 11 seed pretty evenly for most of the game. They fought all night and did a great job. For as young as we were and as hard as our side of the PAC was, I’m really proud. I think we played 17 of our 22 games against teams that made the District 1 or 3 playoffs. Our future is bright.”