WEST CHESTER >> Emma Bertrando was speechless once West Chester Henderson’s dream became a reality.
Bertrando couldn’t believe the feat her team accomplished. The Warriors came up on the short end of close games too many times over the last two years.
Not against Downingtown East. This time Bertrando and Henderson were able to seal the deal, sending shockwaves throughout the Ches-Mont National Division.
“It’s a really good feeling and well-deserved,” Bertrando said. “We had to work extremely hard for this. It’s great we were finally able to get a big win.”
Bertrando finished with 20 points and eight rebounds as West Chester Henderson held off Downingtown East in the final seconds of a stunning 57-55 victory over the Cougars in a Ches-Mont National Division game Tuesday night.
The Warriors (5-1 league, 9-5 overall) defeated Downingtown East for the first time in school history and are in sole possession of second place of the National Division with the victory. The Cougars (4-2 league, 8-5 overall) fall to third place at the halfway point of the league schedule.
Henderson had no answer for Paige Warfel until the final seconds. Warfel finished with a game-high 25 points and 24 rebounds along with three blocks and two steals in a phenomenal performance, but was called for a travel in the lane with with East trailing 56-55 and 6.1 seconds left.
The travel call stalled East’s opportunity to steal the game after being down by as many as nine in the fourth quarter. Trailing 51-42 with 4:21 left, the Cougars made their rally. A layup by Laura Ochsner and a 3-pointer by Aryah Aungst cut East’s deficit to 51-47 with 2:19 to play.
After Jenna Maratea hit a pair of free throws to extend Henderson’s lead to 53-47, Warfel and Ochsner converted back-to-back layups to cut the deficit to 53-51 with 1:46 to play.
With East having to foul, Erin Thompson made 1 of 2 at the line to extend Henderson’s lead to 54-51, but Warfel responded with a layup for her final bucket of the night to make it 54-53 with 52.9 left.
Henderson turned the ball over on its ensuing possession and Ochsner hit a layup to give the Cougars a 55-54 lead with 32.1 to go. The lead was East’s first since 16-14 in the seven-minute mark of the second quarter.
Thompson made sure the lead was short lived as she drove the lane and hit a jumper to give Henderson the lead for good at 56-55. With 28.4 to play, the freshman became the hero of the night for the Warriors.
“Honestly I was just reading the defense as I came down the court,” Thompson said. “If someone double teamed me, I would get by them and find the open player or just hit the shot.”
“That’s exactly what you do in that situation,” said Henderson head coach Greta Neff. “Hit them while they’re celebrating. She came up big all-around for us tonight. I’m so proud of her and all the kids for what they accomplished tonight.”
Losing a nine-point lead in the final minutes didn’t phase Thompson nor Henderson. Instead the Warriors decided they weren’t going to lose another close contest against one of the Ches-Mont’s powerhouse teams.
“We were still in control,” Neff said. “Even once the lead evaporated, we still had time to push the ball and look for what we wanted on offense. We were able to do that.”
“I know we can accomplish anything,” Thompson said. “It was a big accomplishment that we never got down on ourselves and retook the lead.”
East had one final chance to force overtime in the final seconds as the Cougars scrambled for a final shot after Thompson hit 1 of 2 from the line to put Henderson up 57-55. Warfel threw a long pass to Kate Crum, who found Aungst open in the left corner. Aungst deferred the winning 3-pointer in favor of an open jumper, but went strong off the backboard as the Henderson celebrated its biggest win this decade.
The Warriors have arrived among the Ches-Mont’s best teams. Now, they have a statement win to back up that claim.
“We had a little chip on our shoulder going into this one,” Bertrando said. “No one really thought we could win this game. It feels good to do it. I’m happy.”
“It’s like a broken record, but how can you not be proud of these kids,” Neff said. “They came together and stayed positive throughout the night. We’re being considered among the league’s best, but we have some work to do to stay there. If you work hard on every possession, the result will show on the scoreboard. That happened tonight.”
West Chester Henderson 57, Downingtown East 55
Downingtown East (55): Aungst 2 0-0 6, Tyrell 1 3-5 6, Warfel 8 9-10 25, Kent 1 0-0 2, Ochsner 5 1-3 11, Crum 1 0-0 3, Dienes 0 0-0 0, Welker 1 0-0 2, Phelan 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 13-18 55.
W.C. Henderson (57): Thompson 2 2-3 6, Kneis 4 0-0 8, Maratea 3 6-6 12, Bertrando 7 5-11 20, Shea 2 0-0 4, Cullinan 0 0-0 0, Jones 1 0-0 3, Fergguson 2 0-0 4. Totals: 21 13-20 57.
Downingtown East 14 11 15 15 – 55
W.C. Henderson 12 20 14 11 – 57
3-point goals: Aungst 2, Crum, Tyrell; Jones, Bertrando.
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