Haverford gives Downingtown East a fight before falling

UWCHLAN — Trailing by three points with 2:06 left in its District One Class AAAA playoff opener, Paige Warfel sat on the bench after a quick timeout called by head coach Bob Schnure and looked at the Downingtown East scoreboard.

Warfel, like the rest of the Cougars, needed to regroup after allowing Haverford to score 10 unanswered points to take the lead. Once the timeout ended, East got the rest it needed for the final two minutes.

“We were coming out of that timeout harder,’ Warfel said. “We were not losing that game. We wanted to win it.’

East rallied to take a one-point lead with under a minute to go. With Haverford having a chance to take the lead, Warfel imposed her will to win by intercepting Mollie Reynolds’ pass inside with 42.3 seconds left.

That steal capped off the Cougars’ frantic comeback in the final two minutes as No. 11 Downingtown East scored eight unanswered points to close the game in a 37-32 win over No. 22 Haverford Saturday afternoon.

The Cougars (19-6) set themselves up for a rematch with No. 6 West Chester Rustin in the second round Wednesday night. East is ensured at least two more games with the win. The Cougars have won 10 of their last 11 games.

Haverford (15-8) saw its season come to an end with the loss. After East’s Kaelyn Johns hit a 3-pointer to put the Cougars up 29-22, the Fords went on a 10-0 run to take command of the game.

Rosie O’Halloran, who finished with a game-high 17 points, hit a layup to give Haverford its first lead at 30-29 with 2:41 left. She then followed with a pair of free throws to put the Fords up 32-29 with 2:06 left, capping a 10-0 run and forcing Downingtown East to call timeout.

“Rosie was great today being a senior and playing for everything in her last game,’ said Haverford coach Bridget DiCave. “Everybody stepped up during that run. We had a game plan and the kids followed it. We go according to them.’

The Cougars were exhausted once the timeout was called, with only Aryah Aungst getting rest in the first 30 minutes. All East needed was 30 seconds to regroup.

“We were starting to panic and just needed to get under control,’ Johns said. “They were putting a lot of pressure on us at halfcourt so that timeout definitely settled us down. We knew what we were going to do in those last two minutes.’

Warfel took the ball on East’s ensuing possession and drove the lane for a tough layup to make it 32-31. The Cougars forced a stop on the other end on a rebound by Warfel, who took the ball up the court and threw it to Kent in the paint.

Kent was fouled, which sent her to the line for a one-and-one and a chance to take the lead. She hit both free throws to put East up, 33-32, with 55.3 left.

With Haverford trailing by one, Warfel saw Reynolds looking inside to Amanda Batista and made the play of the game. She picked off the pass and took the ball up court to Aungst, who was fouled and hit one of two free throws to put East up, 34-32, with 34.5 to play.

“That was big for us,’ Warfel said of the steal. “I knew once I got it we had the ball and we could just run the time down. Give credit to Kaelyn, Aryah and Lindsay. They’re the ones that made the free throws at the end and really sealed the deal.’

Haverford still had a chance to tie it on its next possession, but O’Halloran missed a layup with 24.3 to go. After Kent hit 1-of-2 from the line to make it 35-32, Aungst forced a steal before the Fords could get a three off to tie it on their final possession.

Aungst heaved the ball to Johns, who sealed the win with two free throws in the final seconds.

In her first game back after missing the last five games with an injury, Aungst finished with five points. Her impact was apparent throughout the game as she had two points, an assist, steal and rebound in the first three minutes.

“I love being on the court,’ Aungst said. “At the end, I was just trying to make a defensive play. I just wanted to show everyone what I got being back. It feels great.’

Despite falling short in the final minutes, DiCave admired the effort of Haverford throughout the game against the Ches-Mont League runnerup.

“They executed the game plan well,’ Dicave said. “I’m so proud of them. They played well enough to win. It was awesome.’

“Haverford really played well today,’ Schnure said. “I give them a lot of credit. They gave us everything we could handle.’

Johns led East with 11 points while Kent had nine and Warfel finished with eight. Next up for the Cougars is a rematch with Rustin, which they beat, 57-40, eight days ago to end the Golden Knights’ 40-game Ches-Mont League win streak.

East knows what is in store with a state playoff berth on the line.

“That game doesn’t mean a lot now,’ Schnure said of the prior matchup. “It’s a whole new season come playoff time. Both teams will be ready to go.’ “We know what’s coming at us,’ Johns said. “They’re going to adjust. We’re going to adjust. It’ll be a close one.’

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