Injury-riddled Downingtown East steps up to beat Conestoga

UWCHLAN — Laura Ochsner knew the situation that Tori Barretta and Allison Dienes were in when the two were inserted into the starting lineup for Downingtown East.

Ochsner was called upon for that same role in the Ches-Mont Final Four when she was a bench player. The junior admitted she was nervous starting for the first time last year and relayed that information to the two sophomores, who made their first varsity start Saturday night.

“I knew how nerve-racking it is being in that position last time,’ Ochsner said. “I just told them to relax and we won’t be upset if they make a mistake. We’re a team that plays together and we’ll find a way to win together.’

Barretta, Dienes and Erin Phelan provided strong defense for the Cougars throughout the night while Ochsner and Paige Warfel provided the offense.

Warfel scored a game-high 20 points as the Cougars put fourth their finest defensive performance of the season in a 32-29 nonleague win over Conestoga on Saturday night.

Downigntown East (15-5) won its season-high sixth straight game, but this one was the most impressive victory of the year. The Cougars were without two starters (Aryah Aungst and Kaelyn Johns) and three bench players (Elise Person, Katie Crum and Danielle Tyrell) in the game.

Aungst, Person, Crum and Tyrell were out due to injury and Johns was on a college visit.

In came Barretta, who spent most of the season starting junior varsity, playing all 32 minutes and providing a defensive presence on the perimeter against the Pioneers (8-8), a team on the District 1 Class AAAA playoff bubble.

“That’s what I was asked to do, so I just did it,’ Barretta said. “It was overwhelming at first, but it’s what I got to do with all the injuries and I have to do my part.’

“We just told the kids on the JV team, Allison and Tori, to come in there and be solid,’ said Downingtown East head coach Bob Schnure. “We looked at the matchups going into this game and thought those three (Barretta, Dienes and Phelan) would do the best job for us. They really did a nice job and came through tonight. I’m proud of them.’

With a defensive lineup inserted, Warfel and Ochsner provided the offense for the Cougars as the two combined for 30 of the team’s 32 points. Warfel scored seven of her 20 points in the fourth quarter while Ochsner had six of her 10 points in the second half.

“Coach Schnure was counting on the veterans to take some good shots and get the points,’ Warfel said. “He wanted the JV players to step up and play good defense. Tori and Allison stepped up big. For not having a lot of experience at the varsity level, they played very well.’

Warfel took command of the offense early with seven points as the Cougars jumped to a 13-6 lead with 6:38 to play in the second quarter.

Conestoga responed with a 7-0 run capped by a Jill Mascioli 3-pointer to tie the game 13-13.

East took a 15-13 lead at the half as Warfel took a pass in the post and turned for an easy layup in the final minute of the second quarter.

With the Cougars leading by one after three quarters, Ochsner provided some seperation late in the fourth. She intercepted a pass at the top of the key and drove in for a layup to give East a 26-21 lead with 2:50 left.

After Phelan come up with a steal on Conestoga’s next possession, Warfel drove the lane for a layup with contact to put the Cougars up 28-21 with 1:37 to go.

With the Pioneers playing for a potential district playoff spot, the game was far from over.

Mascioli drained two 3-pointers in 16 seconds to put Conestoga within two, 29-27, with 25.4 to go. She led the Pioneers with 13 points.

East needed to sink free throws to preserve the win. After Warfel converted two foul shots to put East up 31-27, Sarah Mascioli hit a layup to make it 31-29 with 9.5 left.

Ochsner hit 1-of-2 from the line setting Conestoga up with a chance to tie it with a 3-pointer. The Pioneers never got a shot off as Sammy Stephens’ pass went off the hands of Jess Monastero and out of bounds with two seconds left.

Downingtown East is a lock to make the District 1 Class AAAA playoff field and can clinch a Ches-Mont Final Four berth with a win over Coatesville Tuesday.

Warfel wasn’t looking ahead to that just yet, not after stating the win was the biggest of the year for the Cougars.

“It showed we can win by bringing up different players,’ Warfel said. “That was great for us.’

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