Downingtown East moutes comeback, but falls to Cedar Crest in state opener

WYNCOTE — The early deficit for Downingtown East ended up being too big to overcome.

Despite a frantic rally in the second half to get back in the game, Cedar Crest had an answer for the Cougars in their state tournament opener.

East ran out of time to pull off the comeback, but credit was given to the Falcons where it was due. Especially when the game plan was to contain Cedar Crest center Alyssa Austin.

“It wasn’t like you could lay off one kid and double up on the big girl (Austin),’ said East head coach Bob Schnure. “Their guards were real quick and every one of them could shoot. They were real good. They played a nice game.’

Downingtown East never had an answer for Austin (14 points), Ariel Jones (15 points) and Rachel Miller (15 points) as the Cougars never led in a 53-44 loss to Cedar Crest in a PIAA Class AAAA first round game at Cheltenham High School Saturday afternoon.

East (22-8), the third-place team from District 1, received a game-high 17 points from Paige Warfel as its season came to a close.

The Falcons (24-6), the fourth-place team out of District 3, will face Cumberland Valley in the second round of the PIAA playoffs Tuesday.

Cedar Crest had a simple game plan to contain the Cougars early. The Falcons put a double-team on Warfel in the paint and allowed Laura Ochsner open on the perimeter.

The strategy worked. Ochsner, who finished with 10 points, started 0-for-4 from the field as the Falcons built a 12-6 lead after the first quarter.

Once Cedar Crest got that three possession lead, Rachel Miller made sure the Falcons kept it.

Miller scored eight straight points to build Cedar Crest’s lead to 24-8, its largest lead of the game. She finished with 11 in the quarter, including hitting a 3-pointer from the corner with 3.2 seconds left in the half to put Cedar Crest up 29-16 at the half.

That 3-pointer closed the first of three rallies East used to get back in the game. Before Miller’s basket, the Cougars were on a 8-2 run with the momentum in their favor.

“Them burying that three there was a dagger,’ Schnure said. “But they executed there. The kid was penetrating to the basket and we went to help. She dished it out and the girl hit it. That’s real good basketball.’

East’s second comeback attempt went in the hands of Warfel, who displayed her outside shooting ability for the first time in weeks. With Austin and Cedar Crest controlling the paint, Warfel hit a putback jumper and followed with a 3-pointer to put the Cougars within 12 at 33-21.

Of Warfel’s 17 points, eight came outside the paint in the second half.

“We wen’t expecting both of their bigs to lay off in the paint,’ Warfel said. “They did a really nice job of blocking our shots and forcing us to go outside. With 43 blocking our shots, it pushed us to shoot more 3-pointers.’

Austin had nine blocks in the contest, two of which came after a three-point play by Kaelyn Johns put East witin 36-27 at the end of the third quarter.

Cedar Crest responded on the other end with back-to-back layups by Austin and Madison Rakow to put the Falcons up 40-27 with 6:49 left.

East had one frantic attempt to tie it late, but the Cougars couldn’t stop Austin in the post to get a big spurt. The closest East got to within Cedar Crest was five points when Aryah Aungst hit a 3-pointer to make it 49-44 with 41.5 seconds left.

Despite the loss, Downingtown East proved it belonged with the state’s best heading into the PIAA playoffs having won 13 of its final 16 games to close the season.

The Cougars will be expected to return to the state playoffs next season with four starters returning, including Warfel, the Ches-Mont League’s leading scorer at 17.9 points a game.

“We know we’re going to do better next year, but we’ll still miss Kaelyn (Johns),’ Warfel said. “This season was great and we played really well. I’m proud of our team. We did a lot better than we were expected.’

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