Irwin leads Coatesville in dominant second half over W.C. Henderson

WEST CHESTER — The stage was set for Dee Dee Irwin to make her mark in the second half for Coatesville.

Irwin, designated as the team’s sharp-shooter, had plenty of open shots on the Red Raiders’ fast break opportunities.

With just a five-point lead coming out of halftime, Irwin made sure she didn’t miss.

“I just wanted to get us ahead,’ Irwin said. “It was too close of a game. Coach (Rick) Nelms just wanted us to outrun them and we did.’

Irwin hit 4-of-5 shots in the third to finish with nine points in the quarter and spark a dominant second half for Coatesville as the Red Raiders defeated West Chester Henderson 68-44 in the Ches-Mont National Division regular-seaosn finale for both teams.

Nafisa Saunders led the Red Raiders (7-5 National, 16-6 overall) with a game-high 23 points. Coatesville will head to the District 1 Class AAAA playoffs, which begin Saturday, Feb. 14.

The Warriors (4-8 National, 10-12 overall) ended their season two games below .500, a substantial turnaround in Greta Neff’s first season as head coach.

“We just wanted to come out and play every possession as hard as we could and as best as we could and just see what happens at the end,’ Neff said. “We were 20 points away from having four more wins, so we’re looking to take the next step.’

Coatesville outscored Henderson 35-14 in the second half to pull away and earn the victory. After Julie Gawrylowicz started the third quarter by converting a layup to make it 33-30, the Red Raiders went on a 10-0 run to build a 13-point lead which the Warriors could not overcome.

The key factor in the run was Irwin, who drained a 3-pointer on Coatesville’s next possession after Gawrylowicz’s layup to make it 36-30.

Midway through the third, Irwin drained a jumper to give Coatesville a 41-30 lead. After a Henderson turnover, Irwin hit a stepback jumper on a fast break to put the Red Raiders up 43-30.

Averaging 9.1 points coming into the game, Irwin reached that mark in the third quarter alone. With Saunders getting double-teamed after scoring 15 points in the first half, she was grateful Irwin was there to provide insurance on the offensive end.

“Dee Dee was really important for us tonight,’ Saunders said. “She hit all her open shots and some good layups. I saw a lot of them overplaying, so the corners where wide open for those open shots.’

Saunders was part of a frantic first half that saw both teams combine for 61 points. However, she was not the only player providing highlight reels for the crowd as Henderson’s Maddie DePrisco wowed the audience with two stepback 3-pointers in the first quarter.

With the Warriors trailing 28-23, DePrisco hit a reverse layup to make it 28-25 and excited the crowd. On the other end, Saunders got the ball and hit a stepback 3-pointer while being fouled to give the Red Raiders a 31-25 lead.

Saunders had 15 points in the first half while DePrisco had eight.

DePrisco had trouble keeping pace in the second half as Shannon McLaughlin was assigned to guard her. She finished with 11 points to lead Henderson.

Saunders scored eight in the fourth to seal the win for Coatesville.

The Red Raiders enjoyed a bounce-back season in the first year for head coach Rick Nelms. Missing the district playoffs by percentage points last season, Coatesville is in play to potentially host a home playoff game.

A huge turnaround for the program.

“It’s really exciting for Coatesville,’ Saunders said. “I’m a senior and this is going to be my first playoff game. It should be fun.’

Henderson enjoyed the same type of improvement in Neff’s first year as well. The future is bright for the Warriors as the team is only losing one senior starter (Morgan Maturani) and returning a young influx of talent that earned varsity minutes throughout the season.

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