CONCORD — In theory, Garnet Valley didn’t have to win its District One Class AAAA playback game Saturday afternoon.
Both the Jaguars and visiting Upper Dublin hade already punched their tickets to the PIAA Tournament. The winner would get the fifth seed, the loser the sixth slot.
No big deal, right?
Coach Joe Woods doesn’t want to use the excuse that Saturday was merely a tune-up for states. He treated it like a do-or-die game and prepared his players for the same.
“We’re playing as best as we can. That’s what we do every time,’ Woods said.
Woods had recently read a story about two Tennessee girls basketball teams purposely tanking their game to avoid having to face the top-ranked program in the state tournament. The head coaches at the high schools were suspended for the 2015-16 season.
That’s an extreme case of not caring.
Of course, No. 4 Garnet Valley and No. 7 Upper Dublin played to win the game. Also, the players and coaches of both teams have something called integrity and respect for the game.
“It was a big game for us, like any other,’ Woods said.
Garnet Valley would fall to Upper Dublin Saturday, 43-31. The Jags take the sixth seed in the state tournament and will meet District Three runner-up Palmyra, which lost to Cumberland Valley in the title game by one point. The state tournament gets under way Friday. All games will be played at neutral sites.
The Jags struggled to contain 6-1 forward/center Julie Cross, an impressive big who controls the paint, shoots like a high school version of Elena Delle Donne and runs the floor with aplomb.
She, too, came ready to play.
“We have goals with each game and one of them is to be ready to take the next step,’ Cross said. “This was a huge game for momentum going into states. We didn’t want to not take it seriously. We wanted to be here, and it’s awesome that we’re still here playing, so we might as well play as hard as we can with every chance that we get.’
Cross was impossible to guard, as her impressive wingspan and ability to outrebound everything in sight caused the Jags fits. However, GV’s Kerry O’Donoghue did an admirable job considering the disadvantages. Filling in for regular starter Sam Tomasetti, O’Donoghue battled Cross under the basket and pulled down a team-leading 12 rebounds.
Cross did damage when she had the chance to score. She finished with a game-high 16 points and was a nuisance on the defensive end with five blocked shots. From 3-point land, she was 0-for-4, but showed she had the range.
Oh, and her primary sport is lacrosse, a Syracuse commit.
“We watched her on tape and you can see she’s an excellent 3-point shooter, from distance, and just a great athlete’ Woods said. “She’s a fantastic post player and can run the floor real well. She posed a big challenge for us.’
Offensively, Saturday was just one of them days that a team goes through for Garnet Valley. The All-Central League trifecta of Maddie Ireland, Jordan Ireland and Macy Goldbach, all of whom are known to be very good 3-point shooters, shot a combined 8-for-31.
“We knew who their shooters were, so we went over before the game who needed to go up high on a screen and everything. I think we had them scouted well,’ Cross said. “We know we needed to get a hand in their face when they shot. I think we were able to do that pretty often.’
Upper Dublin jumped to an eight-point lead in the second quarter. Maddie Ireland highlighted a 7-0 run by the Jags, who trailed by a point at halftime. They never regained the lead, though.
GV was limited to only one field goal in the third quarter. Maddie Ireland hit an and-one play in the fourth, but the Jags never could get things going consistently on offense. Maddie Ireland netted a team-high 12 points and her sister, Jordan, added seven.
“We’re happy to be where we are, we’ve had a great season and we’re looking to continue on in states next week,’ Woods said. “It doesn’t matter who we play. This is our third year in a row (qualifying for states) and that says a lot about how far we’ve come as a program.’
In another District One Class AAAA playback:
Radnor 43, Boyertown 28: The No. 19 Raiders continue to shock everyone but themselves.
After disposing of sixth-seeded West Chester Rustin and No. 10 Perkiomen Valley to clinch the program’s first Class AAAA tournament berth, coach Mark Jordan had his team prepared to take down another giant — how about the No. 1 seed in the land?
“Just another normal week,’ Jordan said, dripping sarcasm.
The Raiders (20-8) were able to do just that, knocking off the Bears, whose only loss came against 16th-seeded Spring-Ford in the second round of districts.
Senior guard Lauren Pacifico came through in the fourth quarter, scoring all seven of her points as Radnor closed the game on an 11-5 run. Junior forward/center Kristin Hamill posted a game-high 13 points and nine rebounds, while sophomore forward Allison Lanzone added nine points.
Radnor trailed by eight points after one quarter and stared at a five-point deficit in the fourth. Pacific made back-to-back layups to put the Raiders ahead to stay.
Nicole Massimino excelled on defense, limiting Boyertown’s top scorer, Abby Kapp, to just eight points.
“The girls scrapped, fought like crazy, like they always do,’ Jordan said.
Radnor earned the No. 9 seed in the state tournament and will play District 12 champion Cardinal O’Hara Friday night in the opening round.
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