Henderson finishes season sweep of Downingtown East

WEST CHESTER >> The murky three-way race for two spots in the Ches-Mont League Final Four didn’t get a whole lot clearer Tuesday night as West Chester Henderson used a key run in the second quarter and survived a cold shooting stretch to stave off Downingtown East, 40-31, in a key National Division girls basketball contest at Reichert Gymnasium.


The win gave the Warriors a rare regular-season sweep over the Cougars — they won, 57-49, at East on Jan. 5 — and put them into a first-place tie with Coatesville for the division lead at 8-2. The Cougars fall to 7-2.

“We just wanted to come out strong and play good defense,” said junior guard Maddie DePrisco. “They’re a great team, so it feels great to get the win.”

Much like the first meeting, the Warriors came out to a slow start. East jumped out to a 6-0 lead, thanks in part to Bella Smuda scoring the first two baskets.

“I guess I have to change my pre-game speech,” said Henderson coach Greta Neff. “That’s what this team does, they fight and fight. I’m real proud of them.”

The Cougars led, 10-6, before a 3-pointer from Erin Thompson cut the deficit to one. Two free throws from Vicki Kneis with 2.3 seconds left in the quarter gave Henderson its first lead of the game. That little mini-spurt was a forshadowing of things to come in the second. Following a Smuda basket to start the quarter, East took a 12-11 lead with 6:40 left. It would prove to be its last of the evening.

East would go nearly the rest of the stanza before hitting another field goal, while Henderson carved out enough points to build the advantage. Thompson hit another three with three seconds left for a 21-14 lead at the break.

The Warriors had chances to get farther in front, despite being the smaller team, they beat the Cougars to the offensive glass, but could not convert a number of close-in shots.

“It always drives me nuts,” said Neff of missing the shots. “But they were contested. We were shooting against girls, 6-3, 6-4 and 6-5.”

That disparity wasn’t lost on East coach Tom Schurtz.

“I thought it was a well-played game,” he said. “That game wasn’t won or lost in the last four minutes, that game was lost on the glass in the first half. I thought they did a better job of getting offensive rebounds than we did in the first half.”

The Warriors, playing aggressive defense, hurried the Cougars, who missed seven of nine shots from the floor in the third. While the Warriors only made one basket themselves — a three from DePrisco — they took a 27-20 lead into the fourth.

The cold shooting continued to plague the Cougars. When Kneis tallied with under five minutes left, Henderson had its largest lead of the night, 34-21.

“Basketball is a miss-or make game,” said Schurtz. “I didn’t think we did anything not to get the shots we wanted. I though we got good looks. A couple of them rattled out and a couple of shots didn’t go down for us.”

East used an 8-2 run to get within seven with 1:38 left, but that was as close as they would come. Henderson saw the game out to the delight of the home crowd.

The Cougars face a must-win showdown with Coatesville on Thursday, before finishing with Avon Grove and Bishop Shanahan.

Henderson hosts Coatesville next Tuesday, before wrapping up the regular season against Avon Grove.

“I’ll wait a day or two before I worry about Coatesville,” said Neff. “I’m going to let the girls enjoy this.”

W.C. Henderson 40, Downingtown East 31
Downingtown East: Tyrell 0 0-0 0, Dienes 1 0-2 2, Smuda 3 3-4 9, Phelan 4 0-0 8, Person 0 0-0 0, Williams 3 4-4 12, Crum 0 0-0 0. Totals: 9 7-11 31.
W.C. Henderson: DePrisco 2 2-3 8, Kneis 1 2-3 5, Torrance 0 0-0 0, Bertrando 2 7-8 11, Cullinan 0 0-0 0, Thompson 2 0-0 6, Shea 2 6-8 10, Ferguson 0 0-0 0. Totals: 9 17-20 40.
Downingtown East    10    4    6    11 – 31
W.C. Henderson    11    10    6    13 – 40
3-point goals: Williams 2, Thompson 2, DePrisco 2.

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