NORTHAMPTON >>The Jenkintown girls basketball team is not your typical basketball success story. The Drakes are undersized, undermanned and inexperienced.
Now they’re also District 1-A champions.
Behind a team effort and a suffocating press, Jenkintown defeated Delco Christian 43-33 to win its first district title in nearly a decade Saturday morning at Council Rock South.
“With a young group like this, even though we have many games under our belt at this time of the season, there are definitely spots in games when our inexperience showed up,” Jenkintown head coach Jim Romano said. “We were able to overcome that. That was the biggest thing – to stay focused the whole game.”
The Drakes, who started three sophomores and two freshmen in the game, are learning on the job, but they’re learning quickly.
“All of my sophomores and freshmen never really experienced this type of atmosphere and played in a big game like this,” Romano said. ““We could put all those girls’ names in a hat and just pick them out. All those top seven we consider starters.”
The concept of “team,” rather than any player thinking “me first” is what makes Jenkintown who they are, and makes them successful at a high level.
“They’re really a great group of girls and they just wanted to keep the tradition of Jenkintown basketball alive and move forward this season,” Romano said. “They really put it together.”
Jen Kremp led the Drakes (22-5) in scoring with 13 points in the game.
“We’re all really good friends, especially on the court we always know where each other is,” Kremp said. “We’re always gonna back each other up whenever we need it on the court.”
Caroline Arena had nine points in the game, eight of those coming in a third quarter which Jenkintown won 14-6 to salt the game away.
“We usually don’t come out very strong in the second half, so we’ve kind of been working on that the past few games,” Arena said. “My coach just kind of told us what to do, so I went out there and didn’t want them to get back in the game.”
The personification of Jenkintown being a team more than any one individual was Natalie Kolb, who had just two points but pulled in 12 rebounds.
“She has so much energy,” Romano said about Kolb. “And her sister Mia was a big contributor against Phil-Mont (Christian in the semifinals), so it switches off.”
The Drakes’ strategy is to turn defense into offense with a 32-minute press, which forced 21 Delco (20-7) turnovers.
“As you see our team is built to press and we press the whole game. That’s what got us here.
Next up for Jenkintown is the PIAA tournament, where a young team will learn some more on the fly. The Drakes face Harrisburg Academy, District 3’s fourth place finisher, in the first round Saturday at a time and place to be announced.
“It’s been quite a last month of basketball for us,” Romano said. “Once again it’s going to be new territory for these kids. We’re going to be able to say ‘Okay, now we’ve played in two pressure games to get to where we are now.”
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