Defense pushes Villa Maria past Conestoga

West Chester — Villa Maria hit the ground running using their transition offense to knock off Conestoga 33-24 in the opening round of the 22nd Annual West Chester Christmas Classic Saturday night.

The Hurricanes (4-4) pounced on the Pioneers (3-3) in the first quarter with their man-to-man, full-court press. In the first quarter alone, they caused their opponent to turn the ball over seven times. It helped Villa open up a double-digit lead in the first half.

“Our defensive pressure was huge. We like to run around on defense, but we can’t really do that unless we score,’ said Katie Mooney, who finished with seven points for the Hurricanes. “We want to score because we love playing that defense. We love increasing the pressure and the tempo, and do what we want to do.’

The Hurricanes hit a dry spell in the second quarter, going over three minutes without scoring.

However, Laura Davis helped her team control the tempo of the game. She allowed Villa Maria to remain in the driver’s seat, and not allow Conestoga any opportunities to come back in the non-league matchup.

“I just tried to stay calm out there,’ Davis said. “If the tempo goes faster or slower then we like, I just try my best to help our team get back to the pace we are used to.’

Davis also helped her team break their offensive drought in the second quarter. With under two minutes remaining in the half, she started to drive the lane, but pulled back and knocked down a 15-foot jumper on the right elbow.

“You look to see who is open and who isn’t. At the time no one was open, so I looked to shoot. The opportunity was there and our team needed that basket at the time,’ Davis said.

After carrying a 17-8 lead into halftime, Danielle Knopp caught fire in the third quarter, and helped the Hurricanes hold their lead throughout the rest of the night. She scored six of the team’s 12 points in the third quarter, and finished the evening with a team-high 14 points.

“I thought our team did a good job talking on offense,’ Knopp said. “We moved the ball really well and our communication helped us get good, open shots.’

Villa Maria took advantage of the Conestoga miscues, and used their pressure, and defensive discipline to dictate the outcome of the game.

“We are going to score a lot of points off of our defense,’ Villa head coach Kathy McCartney said. “The kids really buy into that. When we cause a few turnovers you can feel the energy increase. That is how we score, when other teams make mistakes.’

The young Hurricanes team also showed they learned from their past experiences. Just four days earlier they saw a first half double-digit lead evaporate against Notre Dame Academy. They were not going to let that happen again.

“It is not over until the clock hits zero,’ Mooney said. “Every game we learn and gain experience. We can’t stop playing at any time because teams can, and will come back if you let them.’

The Hurricanes will look to push past the .500 mark, when they take on Bishop McDevitt in the semifinals, tonight at 7:30 p.m.

The game will be the second of the day for Bishop McDevitt, who will face Conestoga in the consolation round at a time to be determined.

NOTES — Conestoga received strong offensive play from Jill Mascioli, who ended the night with eight points. She also shot a perfect 4-4 from the free-throw line.

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