DLN Girls Basketball Notebook: Downingtown East, Unionville rounding into form

Coming into this season, Downingtown East was hit hard by graduation, losing three All-Ches-Mont starters from last winter’s 21-9 squad. But a new cast of characters has ignited the Cougars to a 6-3 start this winter, including a thrilling come-from-behind 46-44 win against Coatesville Tuesday.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter Tuesday, East trailed the powerful Red Raiders, 37-29. But in the final stanza, the Cougars outscored Coatesville 17-7 to hand the Red Raiders their first division loss of the season.
One Cougar who stood particularly tall in the fourth quarter was 6-foot-5 freshman Bella Smuda, who blocked 16 shots Tuesday. Four of her blocks were in the last 34 seconds, the final one ending the game. It was a dominating performance by Smuda, who also scored 18 points and pulled down six rebounds.
“Bella is a team player first,” said Downingtown East head coach Tom Schurtz. “She truly enjoys her teammates’ successes. Her growth as a player this season has been built on her attention to detail at practice and willingness to work for her team. She is a pleasure to coach.”
The Cougars have been getting solid scoring from junior forward Erin Phelan (8.1 ppg) and junior Olivia Williams (8.4 ppg). Tuesday, Phelan made her presence felt in the paint for 13 points, and Williams knocked down a trio of treys in the second half.
“This game [against Coatesville] was won, in large measure, on the defensive effort of [junior point guard] Dani Tyrell and [senior guard] Elise Person,” said Schurtz. “DeeDee Irwin is a tremendous shooter and scorer and Dani and Elise worked each defensive trip to force tough shots and limit open looks.
“We are starting to show moments that reflect the effort and intensity it takes to compete in the Ches-Mont. One of the key factors is daily attention to detail at practice and a competitive fire each time a player steps into a gym — not just on game day. [Tuesday] night was the by-product of that effort.”
Unionville (7-3, 3-1), which has won seven of its last eight contests, has a key matchup at Oxford (7-4, 4-0) Thursday. The up-and-coming Hornets, under well-regarded head coach Brian Urig, feature a top scorer in sophomore guard Miranda Porretta, and seasoned veterans in junior guard Madeline Williams and senior center Grace Hennessey. The Hornets advanced to the championship game of last month’s West Chester Christmas Classic by handing Coatesville its first loss of the season in the semifinals.
While Unionville’s players don’t boast gaudy offensive numbers, the Indians feature a strong defense.
“The key to our success [this season] has been defense,” said Unionville head coach Fred Ellzy. “We have a tough group of girls that take pride in getting stops. We focus on the defensive end of the floor. That has been our goal all year and I believe the girls are really buying in and understanding the concepts.”
Unionville senior guard Maddie Shanahan, a first team All-Ches-Mont performer last winter, scored 11 points in the Indians’ 36-30 win against Great Valley Tuesday.
“Maddie’s biggest contributions [this season] have been her ability to take care of the ball and her rebounding,” said Ellzy. “She does not need to carry the scoring load, so she has taken on more of the rebounding responsibilities that we lost from Sam Pancoast last year. She is attacking the basket more and has been an all-around threat.”
Unionville junior 5-10 guard Grace Schrof has provided solid scoring support, while senior forward Sophia Detweiler has been an unsung hero for the Indians, providing tough defense and veteran leadership.
“Even though Sophia might not make the headlines, she has been one of our most valuable players so far this season,” said Ellzy. “Sophia leads by example and really puts in the hard work and by doing so she has helped others such as [junior] Sarah Covert, [sophomore] Sam Ciccarelli and [sophomore] Olivia Cresta become exceptional defenders as well.”
West Chester Henderson (10-2, 5-0), coming off a 63-50 win against West Chester Rustin Tuesday, will face a strong test when they travel to Coatesville (9-3, 4-1) Thursday.
Henderson senior guard Emma Bertrando has been on fire lately, averaging 20 points per game in the Warriors’ last four contests. While she’s been averaging 13 points and six rebounds per game this season, many of her top qualities don’t necessarily show up in the stat sheet, according to Henderson head coach Greta Neff.
“Emma has been whatever we need her to be this year,” said Neff. “She has really developed into a big time player and does whatever job our team needs her to do. She typically draws the toughest defensive assignment on one end of the court, and is the catalyst for our offense on the other end.”
Henderson also has been receiving sizable contributions from junior guard Maddie DePrisco (10 ppg), senior forward Viki Kneis (10 ppg, 8 rpg) and Abbey Shea (15 rebounds and 12 points Tuesday against Rustin).
“Maddie is always a scoring threat — her quickness and athletic ability are above and beyond,” said Neff. “Viki has been a huge part of our success. Abbey is a hard worker and she has good sense around the basket — as a coaching staff, we all knew that Abbey was capable of being able to influence a game.
“Coatesville is a tough, physical team who can beat you from the inside or outside. We will stick to our fundamentals [Thursday] and try to limit them to one shot and take advantage of our opportunities on the offensive end. It will be a fun game to be a part of.”
Conestoga (12-0 overall, 7-0 Central League), currently ranked No. 1 in Chester County by the Daily Local News, is off to its best start in nearly a decade (the Pioneers last captured the Central League championship in 2008). Junior 6-4 center Katie Mayock is averaging 14 points and 10 rebounds per game, and converting 83 percent of her free throws.
The Pioneers can beat you in a lot of ways. Conestoga has been pulling down plenty of rebounds, as 5-11 senior forward Emma Powell and 5-9 senior forward Liz Scott each are averaging five boards per game.
Conestoga can also play tough defense, holding Oxford to 21 points in the championship final of the West Chester Christmas Classic using a variety of defenses. Scott is averaging three steals per game.
On the passing end, junior guard Sarah Mascioli leads the Pioneers in assists with four per contest.
Villa Maria Academy (8-4) is starting to round into winning form, defeating archrival Mount St. Joseph’s 61-53 Tuesday.
Forward has been a particularly strong position for Villa Maria this season, with sophomore Abby Walheim (13.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg), senior Marissa Picinich (8.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and freshman Paige Lauder (7.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg) leading the way. Sophomore guard Julia Samar (5.0 ppg, 4.1 apg) and senior guard Murrin Tague (5.8 ppg) provide solid support.
Hurricane head coach Kathy McCartney said, “[Beating Mount] was a nice win for us. I feel like the team has found a bit of our identity and we are definitely moving in the right direction. The veteran players have done a terrific job helping the young kids learn our system and what it means to be a Villa basketball player.”

Daily Local News Girls Basketball 7 Best

1. Conestoga
2. West Chester Henderson
3. Coatesville
4. Downingtown East
5. Oxford
6. Unionville
7. Villa Maria

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