Abington goes all in, falls short in PIAA AAAA quarters against Cumberland Valley

NEW HOLLAND — All season, Abington girls basketball coach Dan Marsh had a picture of Cumberland Valley celebrating last year’s Class AAAA state title.

He had plenty of game film on the Eagles as well, and it was for one reason. Marsh fully expected his Galloping Ghosts to run into CV during this year’s state tournament.

He just hoped it would have come a few rounds later.

Down by 15 points a minute into the third quarter, Abington decided it wasn’t going down without a fight. The Ghosts clawed their way back in, twice getting within three points in the final minute, but ultimately fell 46-42 in a thriller at Garden Spot High School Friday night in the PIAA 4A quarterfinals.

“We have five films on them, we’ve been filming them all year because they’re our goal,’ Marsh said. “Our goal was to meet them in a different circumstance at Hershey. They were our goal, to get a chance to play them because we knew they were the best team in the state, I think they’re better this year than they were last year, which is scary.’

A slow start out of the gate and a big run by the Eagles to close the first half ultimately proved too much for Abington to overcome. While the Ghosts trailed the entire game, they had CV on its heels in the final moments.

Ghosts star senior Deja Rawls went down swinging, scoring 12 of her team-high 16 points in the final frame as she simply had her way with CV’s defense. Rawls also played stellar defense on CV’s star junior, Villanova-committed Kelly Jekot, holding Jekot to 10 points.

“We never gave up, especially the fourth quarter,’ Rawls, who will continue her career at Siena, said. “We just said we have eight minutes left, we’re playing like its out last game. Despite the fact it was our last game, I’m happy for my team, this was the best year and I wouldn’t trade my teammates for anything.’

The Eagles came out, like Marsh described them, as a machine, taking an 11-2 lead over the Ghosts before four minutes had elapsed. Abington didn’t shoot particularly well in the first quarter, but they also couldn’t stop CV in transition, where Jekot’s sister Katie kept burning the Ghosts.

Katie Jekot led Cumberland Valley with 16 points and used her sister’s vision to great effect in helping CV open up a 19-9 lead after one. Abington recovered early in the second and got a few buckets out of its high-low to cut the Eagles lead down to 21-17 with 4:53 to go in the half.

Rawls, Lizzie O’Leary, Bre Bermel and Leah Simmons each scored a hoop in the 8-2 run that got the lead down to four. But, the Eagles responded like a championship team and ripped off the next nine points to take a 30-17 lead into the break.

“That was big because it was back up to 13 and that’s what it was when we got the game started,’ CV coach Bill Wolf said. “That was huge for us to go in with that 13-point lead and as it turned out, we needed all 13 of those.’

The Ghosts have been very successful in the third quarter all year, and their comeback bid started in the period. The defense turned up and prevented CV from getting out in transition and junior guard Sammy Lochner jump-started the offense.

Lochner scored all seven of her points in the first six minutes of the third quarter, which the Ghosts won 10-7 and she, along with Rawls and Gabbie Nolan, amped up the defensive pressure. Lochner will be one of the team’s top players next season, and the third was a sign of things to come from her.

“Sammy can play, she can be streaky at times where she defers to Deja, but she won’t be able to do that next year,’ Marsh said. “She’s gotta step up and do her thing. You’ll see good things from Sammy next year.’

If there was ever a time to defer to Rawls, it was that final quarter. The senior was relentless getting into the lane and to the hoop where she scored eight of the Ghosts’ first nine points.

A dish to O’Leary on a drive with 2:31 left made it 42-37 in favor of CV and set up the finish.

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