Pope John Paul II makes easy work of Springfield-Montco in district opener

ROYERSFORD — Two weeks had seemed like a lifetime.

With practice filling Pope John Paul II’s schedule after a crushing loss to Perkiomen Valley in the PAC-10 semifinals 13 days ago, Gabby Troisi, Jenna Widdicombe and company were ready to unleash.

Friday night, they finally got the chance.

Troisi and Widdicombe finished in double-figures and helped spearhead a dominating PJP effort while Rachel Yerger was exceptional in her first career start as the Golden Panthers took out their frustrations with a 74-53 victory over Springfield-Montco in the District 1-AAA quarterfinals.

PJP advances to the District 1-AAA semifinals and will face the winner of No. 3 Merion Mercy and No. 6 Villa Maria, which will be played Monday after snow postponed a full slate of Saturday district games.

“Our transition worked great,’ Pope John Paul II head coach Chris Santori said. “This is probably the best game I’ve seen us play where we made the extra pass. It really, really worked well. I think we ended up 10-deep and we didn’t miss a beat.

“Our gameplan today was to run. That’s our strongest thing. If we can get out in transition, we’re a really tough team to stick. If you have the horses, you got to run them. These girls really, really stepped up. They really did.’

The win spoiled double-digit efforts from Springfield’s Maura Ryan (18 points) and Molly Dugan (15 points). The duo — along with a 3-pointer from Jewell Ringgold — helped bring the game to a 24-18 level early in the second quarter. However, that was as close as Springfield got as PJP’s transition game and second-chance points kept the game at a double-digit level throughout the remaining time.

“It was awesome (making districts) and it’s a lot of thanks to our seniors on our team,’ Dugan said. “We have seven on the team this year and we all work well together and they are all great role models for me.

“I was frustrated at times and I missed a lot of shots but my teammates picked me up and got me going. Although it didn’t work out as planned, it was a really good game.’

PJP was just too much.

Troisi and Widdicombe were among four PJP players to score in double-figures, finishing with 18 and 13, respectively. Dahlia Wilson finished with 14 and Susan Bossler finished with 11 as the Golden Panthers raced out to an early lead and never looked back, building a lead as high as 22 early in the fourth quarter. The 74 points scored was a season-high after PJP scored 71 in wins over Pottsgrove and Merion Mercy earlier this season.

The win also helped soothe the anger PJP felt after Perkiomen Valley came back from eight points down in the final 3:40 to stun the team in the PAC-10 semifinals, eliminating a chance for the school’s first PAC-10 title. But Santori and company agree, there is still work to be done.

“We were sluggish in the first week of practice,’ Santori said. “You could just tell that the bite was still there from that loss. But then, as it went on, the practices got more intense, they got more competitive, their focus was on what they wanted to do.’

“We just wanted to take out our frustrations from that loss on them,’ Troisi added.

PJP’s renewed focus showed from the get-go.

Troisi (seven points) and Widdicombe (eight points) were dominant from the start, helping the Golden Panthers overcome a 2-1 deficit early in the first to build a 17-4 lead midway through the quarter. With the lead down to 24-18 early in the second, Troisi went on a tear, hitting for two straight buckets while Bossler hit a 3-pointer from the corner to extend the lead to 33-18.

From there, the threat was gone.

Troisi, Wilson and Lauren Dao came alive in the third quarter as PJP forced eight turnovers and built a 20-point lead before Dugan hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it 52-35. Seven PJP players, including Annie Kohutka, Steph Petery and Yerger scored in the fourth as PJP shot 10-of-15 from the field in the final quarter to seal the win.

“Losing to PV just hurt,’ Widdicombe said, “and now we’re just trying to take it (our frustrations) out on the other teams.

“We didn’t know anything about them (Springfield-Montco), we didn’t really care. We just knew that we had to take care of business.’

Yerger finished with three points and three rebounds in her first career start.

“I was nervous at first,’ the sophomore said. “My offense wasn’t as good today but my defense was good. All my teammates, Jenna and Gabby, told me to calm down you got it and that just helped me out a lot. They’re always there for me and have my back.’

“Rachel Yerger stepped up, she just played an excellent game,’ Santori said. “She stuck with the game plan, controlled the offense really, really well.’

Now a date in the semifinals looms as the Golden Panthers look to secure a PIAA berth after a year hiatus — a renewed focus planning on driving them.

“They’re pumped, they’re ready to go,’ Santori said. “They really want to make a run at this. You can see the attitude with them.’

NOTES — Troisi finished with 14 rebounds and three assists in the win while Widdicombe finished with 10 boards. … PJP was also turnover prone, committing 22 in the game.

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