Abington tops CR South, spreads holiday cheer

ABINGTON >> On paper, it looked like an easy win for Abington’s girls basketball team.

While the Galloping Ghosts finished in front by a wide margin, the actual game didn’t look like it. Despite having three quality players, all future Division I athletes, at the top of its rotation, the rest of the team is glaringly young.

That youth showed at times in a 60-35 win over visiting Council Rock South Friday night. After the game, Abington continued its annual tradition with its Joy of Giving night, giving a local family in need a pile of holiday gifts.

Bob Raines--Montgomery Media Abington's Leah Simmons lays up a shot past Council Rock South's Rachel Millstein Dec.18, 2015.
Abington’s Leah Simmons lays up a shot past Council Rock South’s Rachel Millstein during their game on Friday, Dec.18, 2015. (Bob Raines/Montgomery Media)

“It’s really cool and so much fun to help someone out in the holiday season,” Abington junior forward Lizzie O’Leary said. “We wanted to come out and play well for them, let them have a fun time here and then hopefully give them a good Christmas.”

O’Leary posted another solid stat line in the young season, leading the Ghosts with 17 points, 15 rebounds, two assists, two steals and five blocks. Senior Sammy Lochner chipped in with 15 points while forward Leah Simmons had 10 points and freshman Kassandra Brown scored five with eight rebounds.

Coming off a loss to Neshaminy earlier in the week, Abington came out with purpose early, storming up to a 20-4 lead with 5:01 to play in the second quarter. Then, the passes weren’t crisp, the defense was a little sloppy and the rebounding lacking in aggression.

“We’re young and our bench is young,” Abington coach Dan Marsh said. “We’re playing a lot of freshmen right now and we have to get it figured out. We get Jordyn Allen back Tuesday which helps our depth, but we have to get better. We got sloppy again in the second and third quarter and if we want to play at the level we play it, we have to get better.”

With O’Leary, verbaled to Delaware and Simmons, signed to Canisius for volleyball, up front and Brown coming off the bench, Abington has an imposing front line. Yet, the Golden Hawks kept slicing in for offensive rebounds, grabbing 18 in the contest. Marsh noted that was a problem and he also said the defense is lacking at time and the team’s tendency to foul is becoming a problem.

Lochner, committed to St. Peter’s, is a solid one-on-one defender and O’Leary has been posting a lot of blocks, but with so many sophomores and freshmen getting minutes, the rotations aren’t always quick or clean and shooters have been left open. Against CR South, it didn’t hurt Abington too much, but it is something that needs to be sharpened up.

“We had to stop fouling,” Lochner said. “We got into foul trouble a lot, it put a lot of us on the bench, whether it was Lizzie, Leah, me or Brit (James). Our bench played well when we got in foul trouble, but we’ve been getting foul trouble a lot this year.”

CR South cut the lead to 20-10 but the Ghosts took a 27-16 lead into the half. After the Hawks got within 27-18, Abington responded with a 9-2 run that put them up 36-20 with 2:53 left in the third. Lochner hit two 3-pointers to start the run, her only two shots of the frame.

Bob Raines--Montgomery Media Abington's Elizabeth Oleary shoots over Council Rock South's Faith Turner Dec.18, 2015.
Abington’s Liz O’Leary shoots over Council Rock South’s Faith Turner during their game on Friday, Dec.18, 2015. (Bob Raines/Montgomery Media)

Caroline McGovern was a spark off the bench for CR South, leading the team with 15 points and she spurred a 5-0 run to answer Abington and get back to 36-25 before the Ghosts took a 40-28 lead into the final quarter. The Hawks didn’t make the most of their open shots or trips to the foul line and thus, never put a real scare into Abington.

“At the end of the quarter, we took the time to say we needed to calm down,” O’Leary said. “We were forcing passes inside and taking some bad shots. We wanted to calm down and get open and good looks and not just force something up.”

The fourth quarter was much, much better for the Ghosts as they outscored the visitors 20-7. Lochner and O’Leary did the bulk of the early lifting, though sophomore Sam Brusha had three points midway through the frame to put the game out of reach. Nine of Lochner’s 15 came after the half and her steady hand was a big part of the strong fourth after being hampered by fouls earlier.

Other than seniors Toni Washington and Ajah Heard, every player that played for Abington was an underclassmen. James, Camryn Lexow, Brusha, Miranda Liebtag and Tamia Wessels are a big part of the program’s future, but also needed cogs in the present.

“We have to continue to work on leveling off and playing better defense, right now we’re not very good defensively,” Marsh said. “We’re in the wrong spots, making the wrong reads.

“Because of the youth, we’re going to have ups and downs, it’s going to be a roller coaster. That’s when Lochner has to take over and calm the team down and I thought she did a good job of that.”

Once the game ended, the teams changed focus to helping those less fortunate. While the team gets some outside contributions, most of the gifts and funds come from the players’ efforts.

“The kids love this every year,” Marsh said. “It’s a lot of fun to make someone else happy for the holidays.”

“It’s really cool to see their faces, and especially the kids, how happy they are,” Lochner said.

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