All-Area: New post game, leadership leads D-East’s Warfel to player of year

Heading into the 2014-15 season, Paige Warfel already established herself as one of the top guards in the Ches-Mont League after a breakout sophomore season.

Warfel assumed she was going to be back at guard, ready to improve and polish her game from the perimeter. Instead, Downingtown East head coach Bob Schnure had a plan.

Warfel, also an All Ches-Mont softball player, was thrown a curveball she wasn’t sure she could hit.

“Coach Schnure asked me to play the post,’ Warfel said. “I wasn’t sure at first, but this year I was a little bigger and stronger which really helped my inside game. The coaches spent a lot of time working on my post moves during practice and coach Schnure did an excellent job looking for mismatches which allowed me to play to my strength.

“Playing in the post allowed me to become more offensively aggressive.’

Throughout the 2014-15 season, Warfel showed that aggression on a nightly basis and elevated her game to the next level, becoming a threat in the paint and on the perimeter.

As Warfel’s game improved, so did Downingtown East’s as the Cougars reached the PIAA playoffs for the first time since 2011. Warfel was the center of the turnaround, averaging 17.8 points (which led the Ches-Mont) along with compiling over 10 rebounds a game and earning a selection on the All Ches-Mont first team for the second consecutive season.

Warfel’s spectacular season earned her Daily Local News Girls Basketball All-Area Player of the Year honors.

“I was excited and honored when I found out I won player of the year,’ Warfel said. “Especially considering how many great players are in this area. My achievements this year are a direct result of all the support I received from the whole team.’

East had a talented starting lineup returning with Kaelyn Johns, Aryah Aungst and Lindsay Kent back from the Ches-Mont National Division championship team from 2013-14. The Cougars were expected to repeat as division champions and were one of the favorites to win the league title.

The start of the season did not go as expected for East as the Cougars were 9-5 after 14 games after a second loss to Bishop Shanahan, which all but dashed their division title hopes. Even with the start, Warfel had faith East would turn their season around as her newfound post game was steadlily improving.

Along with her leadership abilities on and off the court.

“I always had confidence in my team and coaches and I felt as though we got better each and every game,’ Warfel said. “Being a third year varsity player and captain gave me the confidence to help lead my team to a successful season. I worked as hard as I could every time I stepped on the court to set a good example for my teammates.

“With only one returning senior, I knew it was important for me to step up and lend support in a leadership role.’

Immediately after the second Shanahan loss, Warfel took her game to the next level. She scored 22 points against Unionville followed by leading the Cougars with 20 of the team’s 32 points against Conestoga five days later.

With Aryah Aungst out with an injury for the remainder of the Ches-Mont season (starting with Conestoga), Warfel took it upon herself to provide the spark East needed to make a run at the league title.

She played her best game of the season to date against West Chester Rustin in the Ches-Mont Final Four semifinals, scoring a game-high 20 points as the Cougars snapped the Golden Knights’ 40-game league winning streak to advance to the championship game.

Warfel’s versatility was on display in the game, outrebounding Rustin center Courtney Warley while providing two highlight-reel plays in the first half for the Cougars.

“Paige is a different type of player,’ said Downingtown East head coach Bob Schnure. “She brings the ball up and can see the floor very well, especially when handling the press. She has a lot of dimensions to her game, which was big come the playoffs.’

East entered the District 1 Class AAAA tournament as a No. 11 seed, but going to the state playoffs was a goal for Warfel and the Cougars the entire year. In the second round of the tournament, East had its opportunity to clinch that state berth against Rustin in a rematch of the Ches-Mont semifinal 11 days prior.

As if the pressure wasn’t high enough on Warfel, she was 19 points away from 1,000 for her career heading into the game. She got her 1,000th point on a pair of free throws to give East the lead with 4:34 to play.

The Cougars won the game and earned a trip to the state playoffs for the first time since 2011. Warfel became the fourth player in Downingtown East history to surpass the 1,000-point plateau.

Her best game of the season came against No. 3 Mount St. Joseph’s in the district quarterfinals five days later, scoring 25 points (10 in the fourth quarter) as the Cougars pulled off a huge upset, one of the biggest in the district all season.

Warfel led the area with 535 points and has 1,072 for her career heading into her senior season. The Cougars fell in the first round of the state playoffs, but have four starters returning next winter.

With Warfel leading the way, East will be one of the favorites to compete for the district title and make a state playoff run.

That’s just fine with Paige.

“We know we’re going to do better next year,’ Warfel said after the state playoff loss in March. “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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