ROYERSFORD >> Sam Brusha emerged into open floor with the ball, having just taken it from a Freedom player.
As the final seconds of their PIAA 6A girls basketball second round game ticked off, the Abington senior went coast-to-coast, dropping in the game-sealing layup with 10 seconds left. Brusha had been on a state quarterfinal team before, but she didn’t play much on that squad.
This time felt a whole lot better as Brusha scored 16 points and the Ghosts fended off Freedom 63-55 Tuesday night at Spring-Ford.
“It’s such a great feeling, Brusha said. “It’s my senior year and I just want to win a state championship so badly and we’re one step closer.”
Kassondra Brown led the Ghosts with 19 points in a high-octane game that saw both teams trade flows of momentum up to the final few minutes. Brown battled foul trouble all game and played the majority of the second half with four personal fouls, as did senior point guard Britney James in the final few minutes.
With their floor leader in James and their dominant post presence in Brown shuffling in and out of the game, it was up to the other Ghosts to find a way to win. Brusha, who was playing against her AAU coach, knew it was going to be a tough night offensively.
So when it came to crunch time, the senior got it done with her defense.
“They know her tendencies really well but that’s what Sam does,” Abington coach Dan Marsh said. “When she’s struggling offensively, she’ll find other ways to contribute. She’ll play defense and block shots, so I’m super proud of her.”
The other spark for Abington was junior Cam Lexow. A standout soccer player, Lexow only plays organized basketball from the start of high school preseason to the Ghosts’ last game of the year. Despite limited time playing and practicing, she’s come a long way from her freshman year.
Lexow hit a trio of 3-pointers on Tuesday, none bigger than her fourth quarter trey off a pass from Brown that gave the Ghosts a 10-point lead. However, it was her start that was especially helpful.
GIRLS BASKETBALL: @LadyGhostsBB @CamrynLexow hits a three off Britney James’ pass Q4 for a 57-47 lead against Freedom. Lexow hit a trio of threes and scored 11 points in Abington’s 63-55 state playoff win pic.twitter.com/67SWKMV6xK
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) March 14, 2018
Usually someone who doesn’t look for her shot early, Lexow canned two 3-pointers as part of an eight-point first quarter and helped the Ghosts to a 21-18 lead after the opening frame.
“In warmups, I was taking a lot of shots and just feeling it,” Lexow said. “I don’t usually start out by taking shots, I usually let other people take the shots, but I decided because I was making them in warm-ups I would look for them early.”
While her future is on the soccer pitch, giving a verbal commitment to Virginia, Lexow is enjoying the ride this year with the Ghosts. Prior to the season, the coaches told her to be confident and look for her shot and Lexow added she’s been going to the gym a little more to put up shots or play pick-up.
At first, Freedom was playing off Lexow, who’s also the team’s most versatile defender. That idea didn’t pan out long and while the junior cooled off after the first quarter, she was there for one of the game’s biggest shots.
“I was just trying to get everyone pumped up after that shot because I knew we had a big enough lead we could hold them,” Lexow said. “I thought they were getting tired and we needed some energy to keep that lead.”
Brusha scored nine points in the second half and played her own personal chess match against a team that knew her tendencies extremely well. Instead of forcing up threes or trying to make something happen in the lane, the senior settled on the middle ground.
At one point in the third quarter, Brusha ripped down a contested rebound, zipped up the court and stopped for a pull-up jumper at the foul line. It was all cotton as part of a quarter-ending 6-0 run.
“I haven’t really had a midrange game this year, it’s either been three or inside so I was able to hit those shots,” Brusha said. “It makes us harder to defend. If we can hit those shots, we’re tougher to guard.”
With 4:11 left in the second quarter, Abington led 33-22 then things started to fall apart. Freedom scored eight in a row, then got fouled on a half-ending heave. With all three foul shots going down, it made for an 11-2 run and the Ghosts saw their lead get chopped down to just two points.
Brusha said it was a little bit of a saved by the bell case with the end of the half stopping the run. Marsh felt while his team gave away an opportunity to put pressure on by giving up that run, he felt his team was able to grit its way through the rest of the game.
“We’ve been in enough tough games that we can preserve those type of runs,” Marsh said. “Our strength of schedule plays a big part. We were able to respond back and I was super-proud of them for it.”
GIRLS BASKETBALL: @LadyGhostsBB @sambrusha33 drives for a Q4 score and 47-43 lead against Freedom. Brusha had 16 points as Abington won 63-55 in the second round of the PIAA playoffs pic.twitter.com/GxcAhNuPBe
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) March 14, 2018
Even Lexow’s shot, which came with 5:11 left, wasn’t enough to totally put Freedom away. The District 11 champions got within five with 36.9 left and after an Abington turnover, had the chance to make it a one-possession game.
Brusha wasn’t going to allow it. The senior used all of her length to stuff a 3-point try, with Brown getting the rebound and splitting a pair at the line to make it a six-point game. Finally, Brusha wrestled the ball free on Freedom’s following possession, sending the Ghosts through to the weekend.
Abington will face Upper Dublin, a 39-29 winner over Garnet Valley, on Friday.
“Everyone’s really pumped,” Lexow said. “In the locker room before the game, we had a ‘4’ written on the board because it was how many more we had to win to win states. After the game, we erased it and everyone started writing 3s all over.”
ABINGTON 63, FREEDOM 55
ABINGTON 21 14 14 14 – 63
FREEDOM 18 15 10 12 – 55
Abington: Kassondra Brown 7 5-8 19, Jordyn Allen 2 0-0 4, Sam Brusha 7 0-0 16, Britney James 4 0-1 10, Cam Lexow 4 0-0 11, Tamia Wessels 0 3-4 3. Totals: 24 8-13 63.
Freedom: Kokolus 9 2-2 21, Herrera 0 1-2 1, Jefferson 4 3-6 11, Ortwein 1 5-5 7, Silfies 3 9-11 15. Totals: 17 20-26 55
3-Pointers: A – Lexow 3, James 2, Brusha 2; F – Kokolus.