Downingtown >> Coming off its first-ever District 1 5A title, undefeated West Chester Henderson started slowly in its PIAA state tournament opener against Spring Grove Saturday, then turned up the defensive intensity in the second half for a 53-30 win.
In the first half, Spring Grove (16-11), the eighth seed from District 3 and a guard-oriented squad enjoying its first winning season in seven years, was getting some open shots from the outside and trailed the Warriors only 23-20 at halftime.
“I think our defense was a little tentative in the first half; in the second half, we put good pressure on their guards,” said Henderson head coach Greta Neff. “Adrian Smith is quick; [guards] Maddie DePrisco and Erin Thompson did a good job, and no one wants to drive against our bigs [Abbey Shea and Grace Ferguson].”
In the third quarter, Henderson came out smoking and outscored the Rockets 17-4; then kept the pressure on in the fourth quarter and rolled to the 23-point victory at Downingtown West High School.
With the win, Henderson (29-0) has advanced to the second round of States, where they will face Susquehannock (23-6), the fourth-place finisher from District 3, Wednesday. In last year’s PIAA 5A state tournament, Susquehannock and Henderson both lost to eventual state champion Archbishop Wood, the Warriors in the opening round, Susquehannock in the state semifinals.
On Saturday, Ferguson and Shea led the way against Spring Grove. Ferguson finished with 15 rebounds, three blocked shots and 18 points, while Shea had four blocked shots, seven rebounds and 10 points. Thompson collected 15 points, and combined with DePrisco to go 8-for-10 from the charity stripe.
Ferguson, asked if she thought the Warriors experienced a bit of a first-half emotional letdown Saturday coming off a highly-charged 41-32 victory against battle-tested Villa Maria Academy in the finals at the Liacouras Center, responded, “I think we might have felt a little too comfortable against Spring Grove in the first half. At halftime, we talked about needing to communicate more on defense, talking to each other more on the court – that, for us, is the Warrior way.”
Coming out after halftime, Henderson asserted itself quickly. Shea scored underneath, then blocked a shot to give the Warriors possession again. DePrisco fed Erin Torrance inside for another quick basket.
With Ferguson and Shea controlling the middle, and DePrisco (five assists) ably running the offense, Henderson gradually built its third quarter lead.
“I thought Maddie dished out the ball really well tonight,” said Neff. “She settled [our] people well.”
The Warriors finished the third quarter with a flourish. Ferguson blocked a Spring Grove shot in the waning seconds, DePrisco recovered the ball and passed to a streaking Erin Thompson, who drove in for the basket just before the buzzer sounded to give Henderson a 40-24 lead.
Henderson kept the defensive pressure on in the fourth quarter, limiting Spring Grove to six points in the final stanza and causing numerous turnovers. Smith finished with three steals.
“We were using different defenses against [Spring Grove], trying to [confound] them, and getting into transition,” said Ferguson.
West Chester Henderson 53, Spring Grove 30
Spring Grove 10 10 4 6 – 30
West Chester Henderson 13 10 17 13 – 53
Spring Grove (30): Ball 1 0-0 2, Glass 1 0-0 2, Waxman 2 0-0 4, Hoffman 2 0-0 4, Hagerman 2 1-2 6, Kale 1 1-2 4, Sorrell 1 0-0 2, Naylor 3 0-0 6, Totals 13 2-4 30.
West Chester Henderson (53): DePrisco 0 3-4 3, Thompson 5 5-6 15, Torrance 1 0-0 2, Meredith 0 0-0 0, Amarant 0 1-2 1, Smith 0 1-3 1, Tenca 1 0-0 2, Trotter 0 1-2 1, Shea 4 2-4 10, Ferguson 7 4-5 18, Totals 18 17-26 53.
3 point field goals: Hagerman, Kale.