ROYERSFORD >> Megan Bealer caught Alana Cardona’s pass in stride, went to the basket and finished a layup just as she was clobbered by an Easton player.
Undaunted, the Souderton junior got up and finished the three-point play, a big play in the fourth quarter. The Indians had been tested in the third quarter and they had responded, now it was time to close the game out. Fittingly, it was Bealer who started that process.
Buoyed by 22 points from the junior, Souderton defeated Easton 55-41 in the second round of the PIAA 6A girls’ basketball playoffs Tuesday at Spring-Ford.
“We were very energized coming into the game and I think that helped us a lot,” Bealer said. “I think that play brought a lot of that energy back and everyone was like ‘let’s go’ and we picked it up to finish the game.”
It was also the second big game in a row for Bealer, who scored 18 points in a first round win over Manheim Township. Prior to that, the guard had been in a slump despite continuing to get a pleathora of good looks.
Bealer credited assistant coach Ben Bowman for helping break her slump, saying he had the team’s shooters really focus on mechanics during their time between the district final and the first round of states. It paid off as Bealer scored five points during the team’s opening 9-0 run and had eight of Souderton’s 16 at the end of the first quarter.
“Once I hit one shot, my confidence just goes up,” Bealer, who also contributed seven rebounds and two steals, said. “Once I get that first one, I have to keep going. I can’t let one miss slow me down.”
Souderton led 16-2 after the opening quarter, which ended up being a major factor the rest of the way once Easton got settled down. It started with defense as usual, with Souderton deflecting passes on Easton’s first three possessions and forcing nine turnovers.
Kate Connolly, who had another stat-stuffing game, poked away four steals by herself in the first quarter.
“It felt like the same old Souderton defense we’ve been seeing all year,” Indians coach Lynn Carroll said. “That’s a good team and they’re tough, they’re aggressive, they’re not afraid to bang around a little bit. It got ugly there at different points in the game.”
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) March 14, 2018
Carroll noted that the Red Rovers looked very good on film and she was no less impressed in person. Easton forward Leanna Deegan was a presence all game, minus a brief spell on the bench in the opening quarter.
Senior Hanna Doermer kept the Rovers in the game in the first half, burying three 3-point shots in the second quarter and adding a fourth early in the third quarter. Aside from the district title game, Souderton hasn’t been pushed a ton the last few weeks, but Easton was issuing a challenge.
“We couldn’t extend our lead because of how well (Doermer) was playing so the solution to that is let’s put Tori (Dowd) on her and Tori did a great job,” Carroll said. “What Tori does is immeasurable.”
Dowd scored just two points but played great defense and added seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals to her ledger.
Easton closed the gap to 24-16 at halftime and twice closed the gap to four points in the third quarter. The first time, Bealer hit a three and Connolly connected on a jumper to restore the lead and in the second case, Alana Cardona sank a midrange shot and Connolly converted a second chance hoop after an offensive board.
“We talked about staying composed on the defensive end and making sure we were still getting hands up on shooters and closing out well,” Connolly said. “We had to stop letting them get rebounds and stuff like that. We have to say to ourselves to take a deep breath, collect yourself and we can get through this if we keep calm and play our game.”
Connolly, the senior forward, notched 16 points with nine rebounds, three assists, five steals and five blocks. Her swats all came in the second half with four in the final quarter that included a total obliteration of an Easton 3-point jumper.
While Souderton had been getting called for a lot of fouls in the third quarter, Connolly said they continued to play their brand of defense and just had to be a little less aggressive on their block attempts. For the team’s guards, seeing rejection after rejection late in the game is a huge boost.
“You see that block and the girl’s face just drops,” Bealer said. “You want to frustrate them because it brings them down and it makes them play not as well as they had been.”
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) March 14, 2018
Souderton will face Neshaminy, a 43-37 winner over Plymouth Whitemarsh, in Friday’s quarterfinal round. It’s the second straight season in the elite eight for Souderton and both Connolly and Bealer said at this point of the year, it’s all about earning more days in the gym together.
“We work so well together, our coach always lets us know to not let it bother us, not look at the scoreboard and just stay after it,” Bealer said. “We just keep going.”
“Especially because for us, it’s the last time,” Connolly said. “We just don’t want it to end.”
SOUDERTON 55, EASTON 41
SOUDERTON 16 8 16 15 – 55
EASTON 2 14 16 9 – 41
Souderton: Megan Bealer 6 6-7 22, Tori Dowd 1 0-3 2, Alana Cardona 2 2-5 6, Megan Walbrandt 2 0-0 5, Kate Connolly 5 4-6 16, Sami Falencki 1 0-0 2, Megan O’Donnell 0 2-2 2. Totals: 17 14-23 55.
Easton: Oliver 1 0-0 3, Roach 1 1-2 3, Doerner 4 0-0 12, Deegan 7 5-7 19, Grundhauser 1 0-0 2, Altobelli 1 0-0 2. Totals: 15 6-10 41.
3-pointers: S – Bealer 4, Connolly 2, Walbrandt; E – Doerner 4, Oliver.