Palmyra’s defense stifles Garnet Valley

LEBANON — Nothing about Palmyra had surprised Garnet Valley in the first round of the PIAA Class AAAA tournament.

On film, the Jaguars saw an aggressive and very sound defensive basketball team. They knew who they were facing.

Palmyra held Cumberland Valley, the No. 1-ranked team in the state and District Three champion, to 26 points in its prior game. And the Cougars limited one of the best recruits in the state, Villanova-bound Kelly Jekot, whom Garnet Valley senior Jordan Ireland knows a little about, to just a couple of points in that District Three final. Palmyra proved it is a legitimate state title contender.

“I know Kelly Jekot from (AAU) Comets, she plays on the team younger than me, and I know Kelly is a great player,’ Ireland said. “So when you hold Kelly Jekot to four points in a game, you know it’s a good defensive team.’

Friday at Lebanon High School, roughly a 15-minute drive from Palmyra, Garnet Valley discovered first hand what makes the Cougars so good.

While the Jags were competitive, and showed they were worthy, it wasn’t meant to be. Garnet Valley lost, 48-35, the details of which will be explained later.

But there are some good things to dwell on about Garnet Valley’s 2014-15, one that seniors such as Ireland and Macy Goldbach, both of whom will play basketball in college, will remember fondly.

For starters, the Jags showed for the second straight year they were untouchable in the Central League, cruising to another title. They got sixth place in the District One tourney and advanced to the state dance for the third consecutive year. And they closed out the year with a 24-5 record, the most wins by a Delco team.

GV coach Joe Woods has established a winning culture, carried on from Coley Ricci to Haley Warden to Ireland and Goldbach.

“Each year, both of them have gotten better and better, both on the court and just the example they’ve set for the younger players,’ Woods said. “They stepped up this year.’

But they couldn’t get the Jags over the hump. Winning in states is no easy feat for any team, as GV knows all too well.

“You want to keep going and going, sure,’ Woods said. “One of these years, we will.’

Ireland could put her finger on what went wrong Friday night. In general, the Jags were stellar on the defensive end and forced 11 turnovers, including eight in the first-half. But it was the field-goal shooting — 11-of-53 — that proved costly.

Nothing was falling for Goldbach and the Irelands, Jordan and her sister Maddie. All three can be extremely dangerous from long distance, but couldn’t capitalize on their chances Friday.

“We would score, then we couldn’t make anything for a solid two or three minutes. Frustrating,’ said Jordan Ireland, who was the lone Jaguar in double figures with 14 points. “That was the only thing I think we did wrong, that we couldn’t make shots.’

Maddie Ireland didn’t score a point and Goldbach finished with eight. She started to heat up in the third quarter after Palmyra had been on a 13-0 run, but momentum quickly stalled. Jordan Ireland hit a free throw to pull GV within one point, 27-26, early in the final period before the Cougars (25-4) went on an 11-1 run and never looked back.

Maria Tukis had game highs in points (19), rebounds (10) and steals (two). And she was unflappable from the charity stripe, going 10-of-12. Palmyra shot 23-of-32 from the foul line, while GV struggled with a 6-of-15 mark.

“We’re coming off a great performance (against Cumberland Valley), an experience I will never forget, both personally and as a team,’ Tukis said, referencing the Cougars’ 26-25 loss in the district final to Cumberland Valley. “So, we were very confident. Knowing that (Garnet Valley) can shoot the 3 is just another thing we could add to our list to prepare. This is states, they’re going to be a great team no matter who we play.’

Juniors Sam Tomasetti and Michelle Koscinski gave the Jags a lift while Goldbach and the Ireland sisters struggled to find their scoring touch. Tomasetti, who missed the previous two District One playback games due to illness, had seven points and eight rebounds.

Jordan Ireland will take her game to NJIT next fall. Goldbach will stay local, as she’ll continue her career at Haverford College.

“Just playing with all these girls I’ve played with the last four years’ is what she’ll always cherish, Ireland said as she held back tears. “Knowing that I’ll never play with them again, that’s hard.’

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply