EAST ROCKHILL >> Pennridge was making its push, trying to make up for a slow defensive start.
Just as the Rams’ girls’ basketball team was finding a spark, Central Bucks South struck back hard. The Titans ripped off a 12-0 run in the latter half of the third quarter to put some space on the scoreboard.
It turned out they needed most of it as the Rams refused to go away. Thanks to a strong outing from senior Jordan Vitelli, South held on for a 58-53 Suburban One League Continental Conference victory.
“(Pennridge) shot about 70 percent from the 3-point line and when you’re shooting that well, you’re going to have a good night,” South coach Beth Mattern said. “Pennridge came out ready to play.”
It still goes down as a loss for Pennridge (9-8, 3-7 conference), but it was a marked improvement for the Rams after South (14-4, 8-2) ran them off the floor in their first meeting. But the Rams also showed why they’re not at South’s level just yet, with some key sequences marking the difference in the game.
The first quarter started with the teams trading hoops and South started to break down the Pennridge defense. All game, the Titans set plenty of good screens that got shooters the bit of space they needed. Vitelli took advantage, going off for 12 of her team’s opening 16 points on four 3-pointers.
After Pennridge took an 11-10 lead on Gillian Anderson’s free throws, Vitelli hit a pair of 3s just 30 seconds apart as the Titans closed the first on a 12-4 run for a 22-15 lead.
“The first quarter really killed us,” Rams coach Lindsey Tennett said. “When you give a team 22 points to start off with, it’s hard to come back. The biggest thing was our girls never gave up. We were down by 16 at one point and we end up down by five, it’s baby steps. It’s a team we can compete with and the girls started to realize that.”
Rams senior captain Lydia Konstanzer embodied that kind of effort, scoring a team-high 18 points with 13 rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two steals. Konstanzer had to really work though, with South sending Courtney Dietzel and Melissa Veal at her defensively. South’s posts denied easy entry passes and got hands in the way, causing a number of deflections.
The Rams didn’t let South build on the lead and trailed 28-22 at halftime. A pair of Taylor Dunn buckets early in the third put South up 32-25 before Brooke Bechtle scored four straight for Pennridge to cut the lead down to 32-29 with 5:16 left in the period.
The next four minutes would change the game.
“That’s the big thing coming out of halftime, you have to make sure that you’re on top of it,” Tennett said. “We started out doing OK and were down by three then they came back. That’s something where if it happens, you can’t give up, you have to find a way to keep that next basket from going in.”
With 5:07 left, Dunn drilled a try to start a 12-0, 4:02 minute run that stretched the Titans lead out to 44-29 with 1:05 left in the third. Vitelli was the major catalyst, with an assist and the final seven points of the charge while the Rams couldn’t buy a hoop. The run came to an end with Devan Rimmer’s foul shots in the final minute, but the bulk of the damage was done.
“We did a good job being aggressive and attacking,” Mattern said. “We needed that, we needed every point to come out of this one with a W.”
Pennridge outscored South by eight points in the final frame with Sam Muredda connecting on a pair of 3-pointers and Konstanzer, Anderson and Rimmer handling the rest of the scoring details.
Konstanzer had five offensive rebounds in the game, and her relentless effort inside not only hurt South, but let her teammates get second chances to cut into the lead.
“We went four-out, one-in to make it easier for her,” Tennett said. “She gets hounded all game and everyone knows to clog up the middle. Her working for offensive rebounds, she got a lot of put-backs up and she never gives up. A lot of players, when they’re over-played, they check themselves out and she doesn’t do that, she doesn’t give up until the buzzer goes off and that’s why she’s a captain.”
Slowly but surely, the Rams cut into the lead, getting it down to five when Konstanzer hit two at the line with 14 seconds left. Two free throws by Mackenzie Ehresman stretched it back out and reduced Rimmer’s late layup to consolation instead of a threat.
Aside from Rimmer and Konstanzer, the two seniors, the rest of the team is young, starting two sophomores and a freshman. Last year, the Rams made the district playoff for the first time under Tennett and she would like to see her squad get that experience again.
Sitting at 9-8, the Rams face Souderton, North Penn, Lansdale Catholic, Hatboro-Horsham and Quakertown to end the year.
“Every year that you get in, it just gives you a little more confidence,” Tennett said. “That’s what you play for, you play to get in the playoffs and no matter your seed, everyone has a chance. Getting there is the big thing.”