CB West can’t find the mark, falls to Cumberland Valley in PIAA AAAA final

HERSHEY — Cumberland Valley’s Taylor Sneidman drove the baseline and on the verge of stepping out, rifled a pass out to the wing.

The outstretched hand of a Central Bucks West defender grazed the bottom of the ball, but it still found its way to Jennifer Falconer wide open on the left wing. Falconer drilled the 3-pointer with 6:03 left to put the Eagles up 14 and it felt like the dagger had been inserted.

CV didn’t play anywhere near its best game, but the Eagles made CB West look even worse. The Bucks struggled with everything on the offensive end, from shooting to passing as they fell 40-35 to CV in the PIAA Girls Class AAAA title game at the Giant Center.

Cumberland Valley repeated as state champions.

“It probably wasn’t a great game to watch with the missed shots, fouls shots and stuff going around,’ CB West coach Terry Rakowsky said. “But hopefully people got their money’s worth with the energy that was out there.’

Every time the Bucks got close, Cumberland Valley had an answer. On a night where CB West catalysts Nicole Munger and Mackenzie Carroll struggled, that was enough.

Yet for all those struggles, the Bucks were in it right to the end because CV simply refused to close out the game. The Eagles couldn’t make a foul shot in the fourth quarter, going 1-of-12 in the frame, but it outlasted a Bucks team that couldn’t hit anything from the floor.

Munger shot 4-of-15 from the floor for nine points, while Carroll went 2-of-13 and scored six points. Forward Corrine Godshall scored eight, but battled foul trouble much of the game and couldn’t play as effectively as usual.

It’s an accepted mythos that teams visiting the cavernous Giant Center for the first time struggle with depth perception and shooting, but Rakowsky didn’t want to use that as an excuse.

Still, there is some truth to that. CV would know.

“That is certainly true,’ Falconer said. “I remember my sophomore year, we played and lost in the state championship. It was huge, it’s totally different, you perception is off.’

The Bucks were a total of 13-of-53 from the floor (24.5 percent), though CV wasn’t much better at 14-of-43 (32.5 percent) Munger got West off to a sensational start, swiping the ball then winding her way up the floor past three defenders and finishing with a great move. But that was pretty much the high water mark. Cumberland Valley closed the first with a 12-5 lead and scored the last seven in the frame.

What got the Bucks into trouble was foul trouble on Godshall. With their inside presence tagged for two quick fouls in the first, CB West couldn’t get its offense in synch.

“We didn’t make shots, it was one of those nights where or shot was not falling,’ Rakowsky said. “Corrine not being in the game changes a lot of what we do because we don’t have that inside presence without her.’

CB West found its feet in the second quarter and closed the half down 17-19. Bucks point guard Maggie Rakowksy had two key assists while Godshall scored four points and dished for another hoop in the quarter.

After turning the ball over seven times in the first quarter, CB West coughed it up four more times in the second, but that was enough of a decrease to get CV out of its transition game. Stabilizing the game was key, even with the Bucks unable to get their big guns rolling.

“We tried to get back to our defense and keep taking the shots we were taking,’ Munger said. “We were hoping they could have fallen at some time but sometimes they don’t, and that’s OK.

“We made our run, and this is going to sound cliche, when we started hitting the shots, its hard to hit shots and for the other team to transition, so we got them out of our transition game a little bit. Then they did the same thing in the third quarter to us.’

CV started the third quarter on a tear, keyed by a pivotal nine-second sequence early in the frame. With 6:01 left in the quarter, Godshall was called for her fourth foul on a moving screen, a turnover with the Bucks down three.

Nine ticks off the clock, and CV’s Morgan Baughman was hit shooting a 3-pointer and calmly drained all three tries to put her team up six. CV continued to build on that while West was held to a single point until Makenzie Mason scored with 2:29 left in the period.

Munger was held scoreless in the second and third quarters as the Eagles aggressively defended the Michigan recruit, an effort headed up by Falconer.

“Basically, the plan was to not let her get the ball, be in her head a little bit,’ Falconer said. “She’s a great player, it was incredible to even be on the same floor as her, she’s going to do great in college. I just wanted to be in her head a little bit and not let her catch the ball.’

CV also made Munger’s drives to the paint agonizing. Munger was bumped and pushed and never given an easy path to the rim, forcing her to start using her midrange and pull-up shooting game more in the second half.

“The help was there,’ Falconer said. “She beat me a couple of times but Meghan (Rhoades) was there, Kelly (Jekot) was there to stop her. They did a really good job with help defense today.’

Kelly Jekot scored a game-high 13 points while Baughman had seven to lead Cumberland Valley. Falconer scored six, but her impact was disrupting Munger long enough.

“They really went after her,’ Rakowsky said. “They were banging her on the drives. I was telling her, maybe pull up and hit that 15-footer more, she’s deadly from there and in the fourth quarter she started to instead of taking it all the way to the rim where we weren’t getting those calls.’

CB West closed the gap to 32-24 after three but again, its shots would not go down early in the fourth. CV scored the first three points of the period to take a 35-24 lead, then after Carroll missed on a longball, Sneidman made her fateful drive along the baseline.

“It did (feel good), I don’t know, she made a great pass to me,’ Falconer said. “It felt good and it went in.

“It was a huge moment, my teammates played great and Taylor was the one who passed me the ball so I wouldn’t have been able to do that without her.’

The shot staked CV to a 38-24 lead with 6:03 left and stunningly, the Eagles would score just two more points the rest of the way. Munger did come to life, scoring seven points in the quarter but the Bucks shots just 4-of-16 overall in the quarter.

“Our shots weren’t falling, especially in the beginning, but sometimes that happens,’ Munger said. “We have to keep our heads up, it was a remarkable season and just being with these girls, it’s like family, we all love each other.’

Munger’s bucket with 39.3 left made it 40-35 and after CV’s Katie Jekot missed two foul shots, the Bucks stormed back down and Munger put up a 3-pointer. The shot was off the mark and though CV missed two more foul shots, that was the Bucks’ last stand.

It marked the end to a stellar season that saw the Bucks win their division, the first-ever SOL title and District I championship. They will send three players — Munger, Carrol and Godshall — to Division I basketball programs and the fourth senior, Peyton Traina inspired on and off the floor.

“We kept battling and that’s something to say,’ Munger said. “We kept fighting and that’s what it’s about.

“I think the momentum shifted, maybe a little too late for us, but, we tried and like Coach said, we battled to the end. It speaks to our character and how we play and hustle and is a testament of our four years because that’s how we play, to the end.’

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