UPPER DUBLIN >> The third quarter has been pretty kind to the Upper Dublin girls basketball team recently.
It hasn’t been as kind to Spring-Ford. When the teams met Wednesday afternoon in the title game of the Cardinal Classic at Upper Dublin, the third proved to be the difference.
The Cardinals started the period hot and closed it pretty well to take a lead they never gave back in a 41-35 win on their home floor.
“As hard as it was, because there were so many frustrating plays in the first half, we did feel good,” UD coach Morgan Funsten said. “We said, look, we’re down one and it feels like it’s a lot worse that it is, one basket and we have the upper hand. We didn’t change anything we were doing, we just started doing it better.”
The hot streak to start the second half has become a bit of a calling card for UD (7-2, 4-0 SOL American), which trailed 14-13 at the half. The first featured a lot of misses and quite a few turnovers both ways. In Spring-Ford’s case, the Rams (5-5, 4-1 PAC-10) could not seem to get shots to go down while their defense was giving Upper Dublin fits.
Spring-Ford did an excellent job in forcing UD point guard Allison Chernow into a number of uncharacteristically poor decisions and its aggressive man prevented the Cards from running their sets. The Rams just couldn’t put any distance between the teams on the scoreboard.
“We had some good looks, we put some down and didn’t put others down,” Rams coach Mickey McDaniel said. “When you play Upper Dublin, you get those good looks, you’ve got to make them. They don’t give you many good looks at all.”
McDaniel liked his team’s defensive effort and said it got the kind of possessions it was looking for on that end. The Rams just couldn’t stop UD coming out of the half.
After scoring the last four points of the second quarter, the Cardinals scored the first five of the second half. Chernow rediscovered her game and hit senior Ashley Barber for a layup to start the run. The guard then swung a pass to Josie Barrett for a 3-pointer to put UD up 18-14.
Upper Dublin actually had an 8-0 run to open the third, but the final three points came nearly four minutes after the first five. Both teams went silent from the 7:01 mark until 2:59 when Chernow buried a trey off a Barber assist.
“It was the same as yesterday for us,” McDaniel said. “We’re going to have to really evaluate that and get them rolling in that third quarter. That quarter, the beginning of that third quarter today kind of became the game. That’s something we have to take care of.”
Chernow paced Upper Dublin with 12 points and seven assists while Barber, named the tournament MVP, posted 10 points and 15 rebounds.
Upper Dublin’s defense was geared to stop Spring-Ford’s Sydney Wagner and Maddie Haney, the potent inside-out tandem. One thing that McDaniel noted as the Cardinals doing especially well was keeping his team off the foul line. Spring-Ford shot just six free throws and the coach said this is one of his best foul shooting teams.
That kind of defense is all part of Upper Dublin’s formula.
“That’s the one thing that doesn’t go away for us,” Funsten said.
The UD coach credited Maggie Weglos’ defense on Wagner, who has two points and Demi Balasa on Haney, who scored eight, as the catalysts on defense. Barrett was the only Cardinal in foul trouble early, having to sit about three minutes in the third, not coincidentally the same time the offense went quiet.
Funsten said UD’s ability to keep foes off the charity stripe is a result of its more conservative defense. Cardinal players aren’t flying out for steals or right up in opponent’s faces, so the team is rarely left in odd-man situations.
“That kept us in the game,” Funsten said. “That run we went on is kind of like a patented run that we’ve been going on lately in terms of frustration, frustration, frustration and then boom, we kind of explode. It was a fun little run we went on.”
Upper Dublin won the third 14-5 to take a 27-19 lead, but Spring-Ford came back with the first five of the fourth, then got a triple from Emily Walker after a UD foul shot to cut the lead down to 28-27 with 5:13 to go. Barrett gave her team some space with a deep three from Weglos but after a couple possessions, a hoop by Molly Hynes cut it back to 31-30.
McDaniel said he still has a lot of faith in his team, which is relatively young and in solid standing in the PAC-10.
UD’s foul shooting wasn’t great in the final three minutes, but Chernow kept making plays, going 4-of-5 from the line, scoring a lay-up and hitting Nicole Kaiser for a score to close it out. Barber was also big down the stretch, with five of her boards coming in the final frame.
“People just bounce off Ashley,” Funsten said. “She’s so strong and such a strong post presence, she forces teams to make shots from outside.
“She had a slow start to this season, but she’s scored double figures in three straight and her rebound totals have been there all year. She’s such a talented girl and every day she’s getting more comfortable and thinking less on the court.”