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Bonner & Prendergast defense puts clamps on Gwynedd Mercy to reach PIAA-4A semis

Bonner & Prendergast's Dakota McCaughan, left, tries to break down GMA's Maura Conroy Saturday during the PIAA Class 4A quarterfinals. (Rick Cawley/For Digital First Media)

PHILADELPHIA >> Bonner & Prendergast and Gwynedd Mercy Academy played a PIAA 4A girls quarterfinal game on Jefferson University’s Herb Magee Court Saturday afternoon. The Hall of Fame coach and shooting instructor for whom the court was named was not in attendance.

He probably won’t be asking for a tape from the game to use with his next instructional session. At least he won’t need the second-half segments in which Gwynedd Mercy was the team on offense.

Bonner & Prendergast’s Ariana McGeary defends Gwynedd Mercy’s Bridget Conroy in the post Saturday. McGeary and the Pandas held GMA without a made basket in the second half of a 39-31 win in the PIAA Class 4A quarterfinals. (Rick Cawley/For Digital First Media)

The Monarchs (18-9) were not successful on any of the 17 field-goal attempts they had after halftime. Despite turning the ball over nine times in the last two periods, Bonner & Prendergast (17-10) played well on defense and made the shots it needed to earn a 39-31 decision and qualify for the semifinal round of the state tournament for the first time.

The Pandas’ reward for advancing will be a Tuesday night match-up with undefeated District 3 champion Lancaster Catholic (29-0), which beat Scranton Prep, 49-38, in its quarterfinal Saturday.

Gwynedd Mercy walked off the court at halftime leading, 21-16, but did not register a point in the second half until Bonner & Prendie had scored nine. By the midpoint of the fourth period, the Pandas had a 10-point lead after a 3-point field goal by Madison Oxenberg and a basket by Maeve McCann (10 points, four rebounds, two steals, two assists).

“The coaches always ask us to come out strong for the third quarter,” McCann said. “The other day, Bethlehem Catholic was ahead of us at halftime, then we had a good third quarter and held them to four points in the last quarter.”

Bonner & Prendergast limited Gwynedd Mercy to four successful foul shots in the third period and six in the fourth.

“The third periods have usually been good for us,” Monarchs coach Tom Lonergan said. “Give them credit because we don’t usually see a lot of zone (defense). I couldn’t have been more pleased with the way we ran our offense. We made our cuts and we got shots. They just didn’t go in.”

Sophomore Alexis Gleason, who had only two points at halftime, added six in the second half and claimed six of her 11 rebounds in the final two periods for the winners.

“When we were down at halftime, we said we didn’t want this to be our last game,” Gleason said, not long after her team had joined the school’s boys team in advancing to the semifinal round of the state playoffs. (The Friars are in Class 5A). “We knew they had people who would shoot the three, so we had to make sure we had a hand in their face all the time.”

Bonner & Prendergast’s Alexis Gleason slips into the lane for a basket in Saturday’s PIAA Class 4A quarterfinal win over Gwynedd Mercy. Gleason scored eight points in a 39-31 win by the Pandas. (Rick Cawley/For Digital First Media)

Bonner & Prendie missed nine of its 3-point shots in the first half, and limited Gwynedd Mercy to 3-for-26 shooting from behind the arc in the game.

“We knew we had to keep driving on them,” McCann said. “We had to keep the ball, and we had to have our emphasis on defense.”

With her team ahead by six with 1:34 to play, McCann missed the front end of a 1-and-1 at the foul line. She got another chance with 46 seconds left and was perfect on both foul shots.

“I did all I could to keep from getting nervous and concentrate on my shots that second time,” McCann said.

Freshman Kaylie Griffin, who was 9-for-9 at the foul line, led Gwynedd Mercy with 17 points. She also chipped in with five rebounds, one assist and one steal. Maura Conroy added seven points and made five steals, but GMA was just 6-for-39 (15.4 percent) from the field.

Lonergan had plenty of praise for his senior captains Carly Heineman, Conroy, Bridget Casey, and Molly Hutton after their final game in a Gwynedd Mercy uniform.

“They won a lot of games in the last four years,” he said. “They won (Catholic Academies) regular-season and playoff championships and got so far in the state tournament. I’m very proud of all that they have done.”

As for the Bonner & Prendergast players, Sunday will not be a day of rest.

“We’ve got a game Tuesday that we have to get ready for,” Gleason said.

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