Sun Valley shut down in loss to Gwynedd Mercy

LOWER GWYNEDD — There wasn’t much to talk about after Sun Valley’s loss to Gwynedd Mercy in the District One Class AAA semifinal round Wednesday night at Wissahickon High.

It was a loss, it wasn’t pretty, and the Vanguards have to quickly turn the page and prepare for Saturday’s consolation game.

One of Delaware County’s longest-tenured and successful coaches, Frank Ridpath has spent the last 15 years at Sun Valley. His tenure has been overwhelmingly positive. Despite 378 career victories, including his time coaching the Penn Wood boys team years ago, Ridpath has been on the bad side of a blowout a time or two. It happens to the best.

Ridpath’s fifth-seeded Vanguards were no match for No. 1 Gwynedd Mercy, which cruised to a 55-26 victory. Chalk this one up to the old adage of you win some and lose some.

“They were tougher in the press than I thought. In fact, were a very good pressing team,’ he said. “We really had trouble handling it and it sort of caught us off guard. We knew they would pressure us, but weren’t sure they were that good at it. They run a very good man-to-man offense, so we wanted to play zone … and they got a lot of good shots against the zone.’

Gwynedd Mercy (22-4) was relentless with its press. Each time Sun Valley inbounded the ball, it was tasked with trying to navigate through some murky waters. It wasn’t pretty most of the time, as the Vanguards struggled to take care of the ball. The Monarchs did a good job of trapping Kate Lannon, Sun Valley’s sophomore sensation, and making her work tirelessly to get open. Good teams figure out ways to limit the opposition’s best players, and Gwynedd Mercy took no shortcuts.

“They have a lot of good players, all of them really, and a lot of good ballhandlers,’ said Lannon, who scored her team’s first eight points and was held off the board the rest of the way. “They have big girls who can shoot and play defense and handle the ball. They just took advantage of all of our disadvantages of being smaller than them and not being able to box out, drive and seal. They had a great press that killed us. We tried to keep our heads up, but it just got a little frustrating. It was a tough night.’

Sun Valley committed 15 first-half turnovers and trailed at intermission, 34-13. The Vanguards couldn’t summon up the magic that helped them upset Lower Moreland in the quarterfinal round Tuesday night. Gwynedd Mercy outrebounded Sun Valley, 30-18, and shot 16-of-38 from the field. The Vanguards managed just nine field goals.

Gwynedd Mercy’s plan was not letting Lannon beat them.

“We initially had one of the best defenders around on (Lannon) in Erica (DeCandido),’ GM coach Tom Lonergan said. “(Lannon) did a good job of getting herself open at first. Erica hasn’t been challenged with a post player like that, so it caught us a little bit off guard. We were able to start doubling her… and the pressure was effective. But we didn’t start off that way.’

DeCandido netted 10 of her game-high 14 points from the free-throw line. Defensively, the Monarchs had 20 steals, including eight by guard Maggie Cameron. GM showed a balanced attack on the offensive end, as seven players scored at least four points.

The good news is, Sun Valley continues its season for at least one more game. The Vanguards (17-7) are tentatively scheduled to play at No. 3 Merion Mercy Saturday afternoon for a chance to earn the third seed in next week’s state tournament. The Monarchs play No. 2 Pope John Paul II for the District One title Saturday at Upper Dublin.

“What we’re happy about is we still have a chance to make states,’ Ridpath said. “That’s been our goal all along. Saturday is a big day for us and we’re going to be ready for that one.’

Lannon has confidence the Vanguards will be ready to go.

“We know they’re a pretty decent team,’ she said. “We’re looking forward to it and I know we’re going to be prepared.’

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