Kirk, defense lead Great Valley over W.C. East

WEST GOSHEN — The strategy was simple for Emilee Kirk as the Great Valley center was responsible for one task against West Chester East.

Guard Maura McCloskey, the Vikings’ center who was averging 15.0 points over her last three games and developing into one of the better post players in the Ches-Mont League.

Kirk was up to the challenge.

“Honestly, I just played defense,’ Kirk said. “I made sure she couldn’t drive to the hoop and got in front of her. It really helped Ashlyn (Smith) was there in the post along with everyone else on defense to help me out.’

While Kirk and the Great Valley defense were controlling the paint, they were using the interior on the other end to score points.

Kirk and Ashlyn Smith were the catalysts of that strategy. Smith led Great Valley with 18 points and Kirk added nine as the Patriots pulled away in the second half for a 53-34 victory over West Chester East in a nonleague game Saturday afternoon.

Great Valley (5-5) outscored W.C. East 28-15 in the second half after leading by just six at the break. The Patriots were able to pull away thanks to the strong defense against McCloskey, who was held to zero points on 0-of-8 shooting.

All in part to Kirk, Smith and the rest of the Great Valley defense.

“Maura’s a very good player,’ Smith said. “We knew Emilee was guarding her. When she needed help, we all went down in the paint and held her to no field goals. The ‘ help’ defense was always there so that kept the rest of the team from scoring.’ Despite Great Valley’s best efforts, the Patriots had trouble containing Holly Hager, who led W.C. East with a game-high 20 points and six steals.

Hager did everything she could to keep the Vikings (1-10) in the game.

“Holly means so much to us on both ends of the floor,’ said East head coach Erin Listrani. “She’s one kid that will never give up and never stop doing what she can for her team.’

With McCloskey out as a second scoring option, the Patriots were able to pull away in the second half.

The Patriots clung to a 25-19 halftime lead, but Kodi Campetti hit a 3-pointer to give the Patriots a 32-23 lead midway through the third quarter.

Hager had back-to-back steals to put East within nine, 34-25, late in the period. Smith followed on East’s ensuing possession with a fast break layup to put Great Valley up 36-25 as the Patriots led by 11 heading into the fourth quarter.

W.C. East looked to take the Patriots out of their half-court offense and test them on the fast break. Great Valley was ready for it and forced turnovers which led to easy points.

“We looked to run and we got chances,’ Listrani said. “They had a lot of energy on the boards which controlled the tempo. We just have to be a little more consistent and clean up some of the sloppiness.’

Great Valley put the game away early in the fourth as Smith drove the baseline and hit a contested layup to make it 42-28. On W.C. East’s ensuing possession, Sadie Buzan stole the ball at the perimeter and converted a layup while being fouled. She hit the free throw to make it 45-28 with 6:04 left in the game and not leaving the outcome in doubt.

The Patriots played without two starters, Megan Buettner and Steph Aker, but got contributions form Campetti (seven points), Natalie Kuhn (six points) and Buzan (five points) in thir absence.

Great Valley is expected to get Buettner and Aker back next week. As Smith and Kirk predict, the Patriots will be stronger as they enter the heart of Ches-Mont American Division play.

“Everyone stepped up and have been playing to their ability,’ Smith said. “But it will be huge to have them back. It’ll be nice to have depth again. They’re great players and it will be good for the team to have them playing.’

“We’re going to score a lot more points,’ Kirk said. “We’ll have a lot more depth and our starters can get some rest with a deep bench. It’s going to be huge.’

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