Clutch free throws by Warfel, Johns lead Downingtown East past Unionville

UWCHLAN — Paige Warfel dominated the paint for Downingtown East throughout the night.

With the way Warfel has been playing this season, that seems to be expected out of the Ches-Mont League’s leading scorer.

Warfel, who averages 18.2 points a game, still looks to find ways to improve her game. That paid off Tuesday night at the free throw line.

“We’re been working really hard in practice on free throws,’ Warfel said. “It’s good to make them late and secure a win.’

Warfel and Kaelyn Johns were clutch at the foul line as the two went a combined 10-for-10 in the final minutes as Downingtown East pulled away to a 48-32 victory over Unionville in a nonleague game between two of the top teams in the Ches-Mont.

The Cougars (13-5) shot 18-for-25 from the free throw line to win their fourth straight game, tying a season-high. The Indians (13-5) had their season-high seven-game win streak snapped with the loss.

Warfel, who finished with a game-high 22 points, converted 11-of-17 free throws on the night. Foul shots have been the kryptonite in Warfel’s game during the first half of the season, but the junior has improved her percentage over the last few weeks.

“Paige has had a lot of practice,’ said Downingtown East head coach Bob Schnure. “She’s definitely getting better, which is a real nice sign.’

With Downingtown East struggling to find the back of the rim throughout the fourth quarter, Unionville fought its way back into the game on a Casey Scheuer 3-pointer to make it 36-28 with 3:24 to play.

The Cougars decided to pass on open shots under the rim and kill the clock. The strategy almost backfired with two minutes left, but Aryah Aungst made the play of the game with a steal under the basket to get East the ball back and force the Indians to foul.

With the Cougars in the bonus, Warfel and Johns made sure Aungst’s steal was the last possession that mattered for Unionville. Warfel went 6-for-6 on free throws in the final two minutes while Johns went 4-for-4.

Downingtown East closed the game on a 12-4 run.

“It’s nice for a coach when the kids are making those foul shots at the end of a game,’ Schnure said with a laugh. “Steadily this year, we’ve been improving our free throws. It’s very nice to see.’

“That’s huge for us knowing we’re going to have close games like that going into playoffs,’ Johns said. “Those free throws need to be made. We’ve been practicing free throws a lot, especially since we were 2-for-9 against Shanahan. That was rough, so we’ve been concentrating on making those free throws.’

Downingtown East was able to build a commanding lead in the first half due to Warfel’s dominance in the paint. After leading 9-8 with 2:21 to go in the first quarter, the Cougars went on an 11-2 run highlighted by an Aungst 3-pointer and a Warfel layup to take a 20-10 lead.

Of Warfel’s 12 points in the first half, eight came in the post despite the double-team of Micayla Flores and Lexi Shanahan.

“I had a little bit of a height advantage against the girl that was guarding me,’ Warfel said. “My teammates did a good job of getting the ball to me and it worked. I’m getting double-teamed so I try to get as many offensive rebounds as I can.’

“Paige is a great athlete and a great basketball player,’ said Unionville head coach Fred Ellzy. “We just tried to do our best to stop her, but came out sluggish tonight. The girls looked like they were running in mud. But that’s what happens when you have off three days of practice due to the weather.’

The Indians have been one of the hottest teams in the Ches-Mont over the last three weeks, winning eight of their last nine games before Tuesday’s loss.

Maddie Shanahan led Unionville with 13 points while Flores was held to just six in the game.

“They came out on the floor and played hard,’ Ellzy said. “But when you play against a good team like Downingtown East, you’re going to get their best game.’

Johns finished with eight points for East while Laura Ochsner had 10. The Cougars are starting to play their best basketball as the playoffs draw near, which they are just a win and a Coatesville loss away from clinching a spot in the Ches-Mont Final Four once again.

“We knew after the Shanahan loss the division title was out of reach,’ Johns said. “We’re trying to win as many games as we can going into the playoffs. Second place is still a close race and we’re trying to keep the momentum going.’

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