Tomasetti, GV earn another Central title

LOWER MERION — Sam Tomasetti is the type of player who grinds out every possession, offensively and defensively, and does many of the little things that tend to go unnoticed during the course of a basketball game.

The Garnet Valley junior forward doesn’t grab headlines in the high school sports pages for scoring 20 points a game. She gets most of her well-deserved athletic attention during the softball season when she’s mashing home runs as an All-Delco shortstop.

But when the Jaguars needed someone to do something impactful in Monday night’s Central League championship game against Strath Haven, Tomasetti rose to the occasion.

In the final two minutes, Tomasetti pulled down an offensive rebound that led to Maddie Ireland’s game-clinching 3-point field goal. And on the ensuing Strath Haven possession, Tomasetti picked off an in-bounds pass to put the bowtie on Garnet Valley’s second consecutive Central League title win, a 40-31 decision.

“I feel like defense is more my game,’ said Tomasetti, whose unheralded performance included three points, five rebounds, two assists and one big steal. “When I’m out there, I’m supposed to get more of the steals and the rebounds. That’s kind of who I am. I’m not really the big shooter on the team and I just want to do the little things to help the team win. I feel like that’s my game and I really like playing defense better.’

Maddie Ireland, who had scored all of her points in the first half before she hit the biggest shot of the game to give the Jags a 38-31 cushion, compares Tomasetti to Haley Warden, who was team captain on last year’s basketball team and won a state championship in girls lacrosse and was named 2014 Daily Times Player of the Year in that sport.

“That’s kind of who she reminds me of this year,’ Ireland said. “She does so much to help the team; she does all the small stuff.’

Garnet Valley’s Sam Tomasetti, left, grabs the rebound in the middle of a pack during the Central League girls championship game Monday.

Ireland was sitting on 10 points, all coming in the first half, when she hit her third long ball of the game with 1:35 to go. It was too large a deficit for Strath Haven (19-5), which battled to the end and persevered through early woes. Panthers coach Pat Keaveney couldn’t be prouder of his group, which was down by as many as 14 points in the second quarter.

“They all played their hearts out tonight,’ Keaveney said. “It’s indicative of our entire season, really. Whether we win or whether we lose, they play hard. That was big for us.’

Ami Iannello and Katie Fisher both made 3-pointers in the second quarter to bring Strath Haven to within a manageable six points at the break. Instead of wilting, the Panthers carried the momentum into the third stanza as Kaylyn Crowley and Rachel Vresilovic hit back-to-back buckets to cut Garnet Valley’s lead to three points.

At that point, Strath Haven had proved it wasn’t going to back down to the Jaguars, who haven’t lost to a Central League opponent since the 2013 title game. Strath Haven had given Maddie and Jordan Ireland, the Jags’ dynamic backcourt duo, fits and made it difficult for them to shoot. Iannello, Crowley and Katie Fisher flourished with their man-to-man defense, forcing the Jags into mistakes they normally wouldn’t commit.

“That’s what we’ve really been working on the last two years, was playing really good man-to-man defense and having someone in position to help,’ said Keaveney, who has guided the Panthers to 33 wins in his two seasons as head coach. “All of our guards, Kaylyn, Ami, Corryn (Baukman) and Claire (Hollyer) when she’s in there, they all knew what they needed to do which was keep it in front of them, close out and try to get a hand up when they shoot.

“They’re a fabulous team,’ Keaveney added about the Jaguars, “so that was a big key for us and all of the guards played fantastic tonight.’

Fisher, who is averaging close to 20 points per game as the second-leading scorer in Delco, led the Panthers with 12 points, but the team received offensive contributions from the entire starting five. Iannello chipped in five points and Crowley had six, including a mid-range jump shot that got Strath Haven within three points, 32-29, in the early stages of the fourth quarter. Bridget Sherry added three points and two steals. Power forward Rachel Vresilovic made an impact on the glass (12 rebounds) and had three blocked shots to go with four points.

Crowley was the unsung hero for the Panthers, adding three assists and two steals.

“We really were picking each other up in this game,’ Crowley said. “We knew that last time the loss to them was pretty bad (61-46) and being that close to them point-wise was amazing. We just motivated each other to keep playing, keep shooting and we stayed in the game.’

Macy Goldbach had 10 points and Sydney Fail came off the bench to score eight for the Jaguars, who will host 29th-seeded Upper Merion in a District One Class AAAA first-round contest Friday night. Garnet Valley is the No. 4 seed in the tournament. Strath Haven is the No. 14 seed and will play 19th-seeded Radnor Saturday afternoon. It will be the teams’ fourth meeting in less than a month.

“I think we still have the chemistry even when we don’t play all that well, which was tonight,’ said Jordan Ireland, who despite being under the weather, had four points, three steals and one assist while playing the entire 32 minutes. “We’ll have plays that we don’t convert, but on the next play on defense we’ll make a play and get the ball back. I feel like we work as hard as we can even when we don’t play that well. No team wants to lose and knowing that we can win this game, we have to play better. We know that against Upper Merion, we can’t take them for granted, either. We have to play as good as we can every game.’

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