Free throws lead Great Valley past Kennett at Wells Fargo Center

PHILADELPHIA — The experience of playing in the Wells Fargo Center is one Ashlyn Smith and Great Valley will never forget.

With no high school 3-point line installed on the court, the Patriots decided to use their inside game to their advantage by getting to the free throw line.

The strategy paid off.

“We decided not to shoot 3-pointers,’ Smith said. “We wanted to look for the layup. We’re not a 3-point shooting team anyway so just wanted to play our game and win.’

Smith and Kodi Campetti each led Great Valley with 10 points as the Patriots shot 9-for-11 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter in a 36-30 victory over Kennett in a Ches-Mont American Division game played in the home of the Philadelphia 76ers Friday.

Great Valley (2-0 American, 3-3 overall) survived a 3-point clinic from Miranda Hill, who hit four shots from behind the NBA line for a game-high 18 points to lead the Blue Demons (0-3 American, 2-5 overall).

Hill knew this was her one shot at playing on an NBA floor and took advantage of the scenario. She single-handedly brought Kennett back into the game in the second quarter, going 3-for-3 from beyond the arc to give the Blue Demons a 17-16 lead at halftime. Her last shot wowed the crowd of 200 spectators, as she hit a 31-footer with 6.6 seconds left in the first half to give Kennett its first and only lead of the game.

“We’re going to be guarded tightly and I have a far range, so why not shoot,’ Hill said. “Once I hit that first three, it boosted my confidence completely. It was hard to find an open player and I had the room.’

“That’s the kind of range she has, NBA 3-point range,’ said Kennett head coach Vince Cattano. “That’s not a fluke. If you look at some of her game tape, she hits those shots on a regular basis.’

Despite having just five minutes to warm up prior to the game, Great Valley went on a 11-2 run after the opening tipoff to build a commanding lead. Smith played a huge role in that run, scoring four points and drawing two early fouls on Hill.

“Once I got that first layup, it was relaxing,’ Smith said. “We knew this league game was important and treated it as such. The game was a lot of fun, but we knew we needed a win.’

“We played in the offense and got shots that we wanted,’ said Great Valley head coach Alex Venarchik. “I’m extremely proud that these girls came out hot and ready to play.’

Once the second half started, Great Valley put speedsters Campetti and Christina Porreca to slow down Hill. With Kennett struggling to find offense without Jess Hussey, who missed her third straight game with an injury, Hill was the only scoring option to stop.

“We had to mark her one-on-one,’ Porreca said. “Kodi did a great job stopping her after she had 14 points in the first half.’

“I told Kodi and Christina to lock up on Miranda,’ Venarchik said. “Don’t let her get the ball. If she gets it, make her give it up. She’s that good of a player that you have to take her out of the game and make someone else beat us.’

Without Hussey, the Blue Demons had no answer in the second half.

Great Valley went on a 7-0 to open the second half and take a 23-17 lead. Kennett only converted one field goal in the third quarter, a jumper by Aimee Armitage with under 10 seconds left in the period.

The Blue Demons rallied to get it within 23-21 in the fourth after Hill drove to the lane and converted a layup with contact. Hill missed the free throw, which gave the Patriots the momentum back to take over the game.

Porreca hit a jumper, followed by Natalie Kahn to get the Great Valley lead back up to six, 27-21, with 3:44 left. Smith hit a pair of free throws to put the Patriots up 29-21 with 3:33 to play.

From there, all Great Valley needed to do was make free throws to preserve the win.

The Patriots hit seven of their last eight foul shots down the stretch to stay unbeaten in league play.

“All year weve been stressing foul shots,’ Venerchik said. “To shoot 9-for-11 in the fourth, that was the difference in the game. Our girls hung in there tonight.’

Playing in the Wells Fargo Center was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for both teams. Smith certainly will remember the 90 minutes she spent playing basketball on the same court that Sixers legend Allen Iverson made famous.

“It was one of the coolest experiences I ever had playing the game of basketball,’ Smith said. “It’s nice being back at .500 and we all can relax now and begin the season. We have a lot of potential and we’ll see what we can do. This was a big game for us.’

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