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Penn Wood’s roll in districts is hard to overlook

All it took was three straight District One Class AAAA playoff appearances — and three undefeated seasons in the Del Val League — but Penn Wood girls basketball is finally on the map.

For years, the Patriots, a No. 17 seed that dismantled 16th-seeded Cheltenham last Saturday in the first round, wanted to be noticed. So, coach Monique Boykins, the architect of arguably the greatest three-year run in program history, bulked up her team’s nonleague schedule. They participated in top showcases including the She Got Game Classic in Washington (D.C.) as well as the Play By Play Classic at Philadelphia University.

But Penn Wood didn’t feel vindicated until after its performance against Cheltenham, which had handed the Patriots three straight losses, including a three-point setback in December and a season-ending defeat in last year’s district tourney. All Penn Wood did Saturday was win by 41 points.

To paraphrase the late Notorious B.I.G, if you don’t know the Patriots, now you know …

“I always feel like Penn Wood belonged in a realm like this. I just feel like people slept on us and didn’t really pay us any attention, and that’s fine,” Boykins said. “They have no other choice but to pay attention to us now.”

Two years ago, Penn Wood reached the second round of districts. The Patriots nearly pulled off the improbable — defeating eventual district champs and PIAA finalists Spring-Ford — but ran out of steam late in the fourth quarter and lost by six points.

In their first 9th/10th-place playback, they fell to Methacton in overtime and the season was over. All-Delco Dahnye Redd, Joy Morton and Gabrielle Hairston were junior starters two years ago. When the Patriots began this season at 1-5, the senior nucleus that helped turn Penn Wood into a Delco power was left reeling.

“In order to accept the win you had to accept the loss and (her players) had trouble in the beginning of accepting the losses,” Boykins said. “They were really down on themselves. We lost four or five back-to-back and they were really discouraged. But I said to them that this is the schedule that we have, we’re playing good teams, and they’re going to score. We just had to tighten up and help motivate them for the rest of the season. We went on a big winning streak and we have only six losses, which is a blessing.”

Now the Patriots, who have won 16 of their last 17 games, take on No. 1 North Penn (22-2) Wednesday night. The Pats are considered an underdog, but that’s nothing new. Winners of 18 in a row, the Maidens are led by Villanova commit Sam Carangi and Mikaela Giuliani, who scored her 1,000th point in last Saturday’s first-round win over 32nd-seeded Penncrest.

Penn Wood tortured Cheltenham with a flawless transition game as Redd had her way driving to the basket for easy points. A well-run North Penn team will have to figure out a way to take the Patriots out of their game.

“It’s exciting,” said Redd, who leads the county in scoring at 21.8 ppg. “If we can beat them, I feel like maybe everyone is going to see now how good we can be, that we can be a powerhouse.”

At the very least, people should remember this season’s Penn Wood squad.

In another District One Class AAAA game Wednesday:

No. 14 Spring-Ford at No. 3 Garnet Valley, 7

The Jaguars (22-3) claimed a 60-45 win over No. 30 Oxford in the first round, while the Rams (15-8) earned a 42-34 decision over No. 19 Plymouth-Whitemarsh. Garnet Valley freshman Emily McAteer had the best game of her young career with 28 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks.

Spring-Ford relied on its fast-paced transition game and a 17-point effort by junior guard Sydney Wagner to beat the Colonials.

In Tuesday’s District One Class AAA first round:

No. 10 Sun Valley at No. 7 Nazareth Academy, 7

After winning the program’s first district playoff game and advancing to the semifinal round last winter, the Vanguards have struggled through a rebuilding campaign. But they’ll always have a chance with Kate Lannon on the floor. Only a junior, Lannon scored her 1,000th career point earlier this season and is averaging 16.9 points per game.

Becca Rhoades is one to watch for Nazareth (8-14).

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