Trio of talented teams battle for Ches-Mont American Division lead

After beating Unionville Tuesday, Kennett (8-6, 4-2) will face a tough American Division challenge when it hosts West Chester Rustin (8-7, 5-1) Thursday.
“We will have our hands full with Rustin,” said Kennett head coach Vince Cattano. “They are very talented and have multiple players that can score. They will be highly motivated, playing to stay in first place. We beat them the first game [44-35 on Dec. 15] – so Rustin will want to make a statement.
“We have to limit their scoring – if the game gets in the 50’s we are in trouble. In our first game against Rustin, we limited our turnovers – that needs to happen again.”
Rustin has been making some noise this week in the Ches-Mont American Division, handing Oxford (8-5, 5-1) its first division defeat Tuesday to move into a tie for the top spot in the American loop.
A couple of junior forwards have been leading the way for the Golden Knights (8-7, 5-1), Maggie O‘Hare and Erin Gallagher. O’Hare scored a total of 34 points in Rustin’s back-to-back wins over Great Valley and Oxford; while Gallagher proved a force in the paint with 14 points and nine rebounds.
The Blue Demons are strong and deep at the guard position, with junior Caroline Hertz (12.7 ppg); sophomore Andrea Prestianne (12.4 ppg); senior Vicky Gallivan (“our lock-down defender,” according to Cattano); and senior Melissa Houck (knocked down a couple of big treys against Unionville).
The Blue Demons starting center, junior Marnie Rodgers, has been out since the second week of the season, but junior Alexa Hussey has played well as her replacement, according to Cattano.
Heading into its game against West Chester Rustin Tuesday, Oxford (8-5, 5-1) was coming off a 38-32 win Jan. 12 against a Unionvile squad that had won seven of its last eight contests. The Hornets, under head coach Brian Urig, feature a tough defense – good enough to upset Coatesville in the West Chester Christmas Classic semifinals last month. Oxford was sluggish in the first half against Rustin, though, allowing 32 points.
Urig said, “I think, with the exception of the first half [Tuesday] night, we have played good defense [this season] – it is a point of emphasis for us. We also have been shooting our foul shots well down the stretch.”
In Oxford’s win against Unionville, two of its seasoned veterans, high-scoring sophomore guard Miranda Porretta and junior guard Madeline Williams, combined to go 16-for-18 from the free throw line, most of those in the second half.
Downingtown East (9-3, 5-1), which defeated Bishop Shanahan 54-50 in overtime Tuesday, has been getting standout performances from a quartet of underclassmen.
Freshman Bella Smuda is making her 6-5 presence felt in the post, and keeps getting better as the season progresses. Smuda has compiled triple doubles in three of her last four games (Coatesville, Owen J. Roberts and Bishop Shanahan). She blocked 11 Shanahan shots and pulled down 13 rebounds Tuesday, and is currently averaging 11.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg and 7.5 bpg.
Junior forward Erin Phelan (9.5 ppg) has scored in double figures the last four games, and is shooting 55 percent from the field.
Junior point guard Dani Tyrell scored a season-high 12 points against Shanahan, and is running the East offense smoothly, compiling a postive assist to turnover ratio.
Junior Olivia Williams (7 ppg) also is a pinpoint passer, dishing out at least five assists in her last four games.
Coatesville (11-3, 5-1), the No. 2 team in the Daily Local News rankings, has been getting solid play in the last week from a couple of underclassmen, freshman forward Amaya Douglas and sophomore guard Sarah Huston. They each scored 16 points in the Raiders’ win against Great Valley, and combined for 24 points in Coatesville’s 54-49 victory against West Chester Henderson Jan. 12.
“Amaya and Sarah have been playing well, and have stepped it up in the last few games,” said Coatesville head coach Tem Mack. “They have given us [both] scoring and defense.”
The Coatesville seniors, who have seen three different head coaches during the past four years, are having a good time these past few weeks too. On Jan. 14, senior 6-0 forward Brianna White (13.2 ppg), coming off of an injury, made her 2017 return a good one in the Red Raiders’ 53-45 win against Great Valley, scoring nine points. An all-around performer, she has been providing solid rebounding and defense for the Red Raiders when she has taken the court this season. All-league senior guard Dee Dee Irwin is averaging 17.5 ppg, while senior forward Siani Brown has been Coatesville’s leading rebounder.
Coatesville’s second-year head coach Tem Mack said, “Our seniors have been through a lot in four years, and I think they are having fun now.”
Villa Maria (10-5, 5-1) threw a scare into Conestoga Tuesday, pitting an aggressive defense against the then-undefeated Pioneers and surging to a 14-8 lead at the end of the first quarter. Although the Hurricanes lost 43-41, sophomore guard Julia Samar and freshman forward combined for seven steals. Senior forward Marissa Picinich pulled down 12 rebounds, a real accomplishment against the tall Pioneers (featuring 6-5 center Katie Mayock).
Earlier in the week, the Hurricanes defeated AACA rival Merion Mercy, always a solid contender, by a 44-30 score.
After struggling to beat Villa Maria Tuesday, top-ranked Conestoga (14-1) suffered its first loss of the season the following day to Garnet Valley. As of Wednesday, 6-5 junior center Katie Mayock was averaging a double-double (15 ppg, 11 rpg) and senior forward Liz Scott averaged three steals per game, a product of the Pioneers’ tough defense.
Conestoga head coach Chris Jeffries noted that, against Villa Maria, “Liz was grabbing loose balls all over the place, and inbounding the ball against their pressure defense without a single turnover.”

DLN Girls Basketball 7 Best
1. Conestoga
2. Coatesville
3. West Chester Henderson
4. Downingtown East
5. Villa Maria
6. Oxford
7. Bishop Shanahan

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