Abington wills way past Bechai in OT

ABINGTON >> In case of emergency, call on a soccer player.
With just less than four-and-a-half minutes left in regulation Saturday evening, the Abington girls’ basketball team trailed Bethlehem Catholic by five points and things weren’t going well. Center Lizzie O’Leary had four fouls and the Hawks were in control. So, Ghosts coach Dan Marsh turned to his two soccer players on the bench to make something happen on defense.
Cam Lexow and Toni Washington were up to the task. Their energy, coupled with a determined effort by O’Leary on offense, helped force OT and eventually, a 41-36 win.
While Lexow, a freshman and Washington, a senior, combined for just one point, they gave Abington just what it needed.
“They’re both Division I caliber soccer players so we know that they can play lateral defense and know they can guard somebody,” Marsh said. “That’s why we use them and they did great. All of our bench did great.”
Abington led 20-14 at the half and O’Leary was thriving with 11 points. But after the break, the Ghosts stopped going to their D-I center and settled for some bad shots while Bechai started to gain some confidence. Quick Jordan Jones shook off a foul-troubled first half and spurred her team back into it.
Jones had seven points in the third quarter as the Hawks came back to tie the game 24-24 going into the fourth quarter then an assist by Jones and a 3-point by Morgan Orloski gave Bechai a five-point run. O’Leary scored, but Jones responded and the Hawks had the upper hand with 4:26 to go.
“We need to understand that it has to go to Lizzie and that’s where our offense needs to start,” Marsh said. “It doesn’t always have to finish there but it has to start there. I don’t know why, but sometimes we get away from that.”
Bechai looked plenty content to run as much time off the clock as possible so Marsh opted to run some players at the Hawks. Washington is no stranger to stingy defense, anchoring the Ghosts’ back line on the soccer field while Lexow, a dynamic midfield attacker, can cover a lot of ground in not a lot of time.
Using a mix of those two, seniors Sammy Lochner and Ajah Heard along with Sam Brusha and Miranda Liebtag, the Ghosts caused all sorts of chaos in the halfcourt for Bechai. What it led to was four turnovers in the fourth quarter and two more in overtime, allowing Abington to claw back in.
“I was really nervous because I knew this game meant a lot,” Lexow said. “I knew everyone wanted to win so I needed to step up and I’m younger than everyone but I needed to work hard and give all my effort, don’t foul and do my best.”
The freshman freely admitted her offense has a lot of room to go before it catches her defense, but she’s found a niche as a defensive specialist off the bench. A few weeks back against CB South, Lexow and Washington had a similar role late in the game, coming in on defensive possessions and pressuring and trapping ball handlers.
“I’m better on defense, my offense isn’t the best, but I’m getting there,” Lexow said. “I’m quick with my feet so I can play good defense.
For O’Leary, who only played the offensive possessions, it was tough to sit and watch, but she had plenty of faith in her teammates’ ability to get stops. The junior paid them back by coming up big at the line down the stretch. After missing a pair of foul shots with 3:54 left, O’Leary hit 7-of-8 to finish the game.
O’Leary finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds and hit four foul shots to pull the Ghosts within 31-30 with 1:39 left. Abington got another stop after her third and fourth freebies, with Lochner collecting a long rebound and getting fouled, hitting two foul shots to put the team up.
“I knew their focus was going to be on me and they were going to throw the double team at me so I was trying to score myself or find the open person,” O’Leary said. “When I got the ball, I took the foul if I had to, I just did whatever I needed to so I could score.”
Bechai split a pair with a minute left to force OT, where the defensive lineup continued to put in work. A runner by Jordyn Allen put the Ghosts ahead for good while Lochner and O’Leary kept getting to the line. Bechai missed an open 3 down 37-34, with O’Leary getting the board and the next time down, Abington deflected a pass that Lexow was able to cover, earning the freshman a trip to the line.
She split, but also put her squad up six with 21 seconds left.
“It felt like (a playoff game) because there was so much pressure,” Lexow said. “I knew I had to keep the intensity when I went in. Going up to the foul line, I was so scared.”
“Going into OT we knew what we had to do to score and we executed well,” O’Leary said. “If it wasn’t through me, everyone contributed.”
Abington closes out the regular season today and is a likely qualifier for the District I tournament. O’Leary said keeping a steady state of intensity, executing and making the right reads would all be important in the last few games.
If Abington needs a refresher on intensity, it has a couple of soccer players turned defensive stoppers it can look at for guidance.
“I look up to the seniors and juniors, they know what they’re doing and inspire me to do better,” Lexow said. “It helps in soccer we run a lot and I always know where I have to be so it transfers over to the court so I know where I need to be.”

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