Familiarity breeds victory for Radnor

NETHER PROVIDENCE — It was the playoffs. It was overtime. The whistle blew, and Radnor senior guard Lauren Pacifico knew a foul call on her meant she would watch the final few minutes from the sideline.

And yet, there were no tears, no anxiety. She knew her teammates could handle it.

“It’s never fun walking off the court with five fouls,’ said Pacifico, a quick defensive hound. “But I didn’t have nerves at all.

“We’re really good, we play well together and when we play our game, no one can really stop us.’

It turned out her confidence was valid. Despite seeing a double-digit lead evaporate in the fourth quarter, Radnor survived a late run by 13th-seeded Strath Haven, then controlled overtime to prevail, 41-37, in the opening round of the PIAA Class AAAA District One basketball playoffs Saturday afternoon.

If it seemed Radnor and Strath Haven were playing as if each knew what the other was doing most of the game, there was a good reason.

It was the third time in nine days the teams met, a regular-season finale at Radnor two Thursdays ago, then the semifinals of the Central League tournament at Marple Newtown last weekend. Throw in their first league meeting Jan. 22, and each team pretty much owned the other’s playbook.

The key Saturday was figuring out how to best decipher and combat that playbook. And coach Mark Jordan and the 19th-seeded Raiders were proud to deliver the better solution.

They didn’t win it prettily. But you can chalk up this win to preparation.

“They know us, and we know them,’ Jordan said. “I’ve never had that in my 20 years, playing the same team three times in nine days. It’s bizarre.

“We had tape of the game and showed them the things they were doing and taking away.’

What Radnor noticed most on that tape was how much Strath Haven junior guard Katie Fisher dictated the success of her team. Fisher, who averages 19 points per game, only had seven points in the teams’ last meeting, a 46-44 Panthers’ win a week earlier, but Radnor’s defense left enough room for other players to find the range with short jumpers.

In that loss, Radnor lost junior forward Kristin Hamill to a fifth foul. This time, she stayed on the court and delivered team-highs of 13 points and 13 rebounds, as she and sophomore Allison Lanzone (six points, 10 rebounds) handled the interior defense.

This time, Radnor again focused on bottling up Fisher, but also contended anything inside 15 feet and dared Strath Haven to try its luck from the 3-point line. And for the most part, the Panthers struggled, shooting 1-for-15 from the arc, missing all 10 attempts in the first half.

“In a way, it helped us,’ Hamill said of a third straight game against Strath Haven. “We knew what was going to happen. We knew their plays and how they work together, so it helped us defensively.’

Where Hamill plays the biggest key to Radnor’s success is as a press outlet. With soft hands, solid dribbling skills and a smart passing touch, she helped the Raiders combat Strath Haven’s press.

“Passing wins games,’ Hamill said. “It’s a big part of the way I play.’

If only Radnor would finish a few more times in transition.

Sometimes Jordan wonders how good his team could be if it has a game in which it finishes at the offensive end more consistently. The Raiders took 35 of their 46 shots from the field in the paint, an incredible ratio. The problem is that they made only 11 of those attempts. (Strath Haven, in contrast, made nine of its 18 shots in the paint.)

If Radnor had made half of its shots from the paint, it would have had 12 more points — and don’t get Jordan started on the 11-for-24 shooting at the line.

“We couldn’t make a layup or foul shot,’ he said. “We scored 40 points and we felt we could’ve scored 60 points easily if we made some layups.

“When we looked at the paper, we saw that in 13 of the 14 games (Friday), the winning team attempted more foul shots. Our game plan is to attack, attack, attack.’

The good news for Radnor is that it does attack the rim, and it does get to the line. That’s half the battle. And when they needed a big bucket, they got it. There was Pacifico hitting a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter to slow the run Strath Haven was poised to make. After forcing Fisher to have an eerily quiet first three quarters, she started to heat up in the fourth, but Katie Jordan followed a steal and a game-tying 3-pointer by Fisher with three minutes left with a trey at the other end to keep Strath Haven chasing for overtime.

It got there, but it seemed the Panthers used up all of their energy just forcing the extra period.

“We were up 10 and Fisher made that 3, and we were like, ‘ Oh my god,” Mark Jordan said. “We knew that run was coming. We were teetering on the fence, but guess what? They showed the champions that they are.

“It’s playoff time. We know it wasn’t a pretty, aesthetically pleasing win, but we move on, get to play again and be together for another week.’

The Raiders (17-7) might have had a mediocre seeding that forced them to open the postseason on the road, but a year ago the program won the District One Class AAA tournament and went to states. This season, Radnor bumped up to Class AAAA and on paper seemed to be just another long shot down in the seedings. Sure enough, the Raiders’ next game is against No. 3 seed Mt. St. Joseph, a team that has won 23 of its 25 games this season and a year ago reached the state quarterfinals in the state’s big division.

Beating Strath Haven proved Radnor isn’t overwhelmed in Pennsylvania’s big division. A win over the Mount might be an even bigger accomplishment than last year’s district title.

“I play AAU with a couple of their players,’ Hamill said. “The pressure’s on … I heard they are physical.

“But Strath Haven is physical, too.’

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply