North Penn readies for District 1-AAAA playbacks after heartbreaking loss

North Penn’s collective heart got racing when Jess Huber provided a lead in the final seconds then it nearly stopped when Jordan Vitelli’s half-court bomb tied things up, sending Central Bucks South to a 57-54 win in overtime on Saturday.

But from their quarterfinal ashes the Lady Knights intend to rise, with a playback game at home Wednesday night against Neshaminy.

With a spot in states already secured, the season is far from over for North Penn.

“At this spot in the tournament, you can’t come out and play two and a half quarters of not-smart basketball,” Lady Knights coach Maggie deMarteleire said. “When we get tentative on both sides of the ball, that’s when we get into trouble.

“We need to play more aggressive and more confident and when we play like that — like we did in the last 10 minutes of the game — we’re a completely different team.”

The top-seeded Lady Knights (24-3) took the game over down the stretch in the fourth quarter, rallying back from a 39-27 deficit to surge ahead by three.

“We were still down by eight just over three minutes left, so that’s a great effort on their part,” deMarteleire said of her team. “Then, unfortunately for us, Jordan hits that shot.”

Heroes emerged for North Penn in that fourth quarter, as Bri Hewlett and Jess Huber kept coming up with big shots. Mikaela Giuliani’s presence inside was instrumental for NP, but the Lady Knight’s foul trouble continued, with Giuliani fouling out early in OT.

“She is such a presence on the court, being vocal, being smart and being a leader,” deMarteleire said. “When she fouled out, that hurt us.”

But through it all, North Penn is still very much alive, its fifth straight trip to states still ahead. The Lady Knights look to win out in playbacks — which would grant them the fifth-place spot out of District One — and go into states with some momentum.

“We have to make sure we play smart for 32 minutes — that’s the whole key,” deMarteleire said. “It’s not the end of the road. We just have to make sure we come out prepared for the next game because every team we play from here on in, it’s gonna be a tough game.”

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