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WINTER SPORTS

Connolly, Cardona lead way for Souderton in win over CB West

FRANCONIA >> Kate Connolly has been stepping her game up when her team has needed it.

Souderton’s junior forward did it again Tuesday, scoring six of her 14 points in the fourth quarter to help the Indians stave off a late rally by Central Bucks West for a 43-38 win. It was the kind of closing performance the Indians needed as the Bucks threw everything they had at Souderton in the fourth.

Connolly closed the game, but only because her teammates put her in position to do it.

“During the fourth quarter we all had it in our mind that we just needed to calm down, focus and stay composed,” Connolly said. “We just had to make shots. When we got to the foul line, knock them down then just calm down and make sure to keep playing. We all got a little more aggressive.”

Junior Alana Cardona was on her game early, scoring the first six points of the game for Souderton and 10 of the side’s first 17. Cardona scored a team-high 16 points to go along with six rebounds, working inside early to set a tone for the Indians. As a whole, Souderton had an extra gear on Tuesday, seemingly getting to every loose ball or up-for-grabs rebound.

With West putting Maddie Burke on Kate Connolly to start, Cardona took advantage of it early, although Burke would switch assignments until Cardona picked up her second foul midway through the second.

Burke, West’s standout freshman, hit two 3-pointers early for an 8-6 lead bit Souderton came back to score the next four on a cut by Megan Bealer and a putback by Tori Dowd with three seconds left in the first.

“It was Senior Night, we have one senior, Cara (Romaniello) and I think everyone wanted to win for her,” Cardona said. “I wanted to take it at them in the beginning to try and get fouls early and take them out of the game that way.”

Romaniello doesn’t play a ton of minutes, but the coaching staff credits the senior, who is also a three-sport athlete playing soccer and competing in track and field, for setting an example of how to show up every day and work hard. She got the Senior Night start and chipped in a third quarter jumper plus three rebounds.

Four points in a row by Cardona put Big Red up 17-9 with 5:29 left in the half, but the Indians wouldn’t score again until Connolly hit a pair of free throws with 3.4 left in the half. West wasn’t able to take advantage, scoring just three points in that window with both teams committing plenty of turnovers.

After a couple of weeks with players in and out of the lineup due to various reasons, Souderton was back to full strength on Tuesday. Point guard Tori Dowd, who missed Friday’s loss to North Penn with an ankle injury, started and provided all of her usual impact on the game.

“It’s just nice to be back to full strength,” Souderton coach Lynn Carroll said. “It feels like it’s been a few weeks. We got good contributions from everybody that stepped on the court tonight.”

Connolly, who had been quiet in the first half, buried a pair of 3-pointers in the third as the Indians opened up a 31-23 lead going into the final frame. It was an eight-point lead, but certainly a narrow one as West was getting some good shots that weren’t falling.

West’s Tori Abelson did all she could to spark the Bucks in the second half, putting in 13 of her 16 but the Indians kept coming up with answers. Abelson, who also had eight of her 10 rebounds on the offensive end, started the fourth with a steal and layup, followed by a bucket from Burke after a steal by Izzy Treon quickly put Souderton on its heels.

Connolly answered that one with a basket, then after back-to-back scores by Burke and Treon, Cardona scored to put Big Red up 34-33. Burke’s basket was quite impressive, with the freshman driving into the lane and using all the reach in her right arm to scoop the ball around Connolly and in. Abelson, who was relentless all night, got another shot to fall with 3:47 left in the fourth that cut Souderton’s lead to two.

“Tori Abelson played really, really well,” Carroll said. “Our help defense was really good and when it was early and in time, it was disruptive. For whatever reason, it’s always a good game with West when we play them here. This was a really big win heading toward the end of the season.”

After Abelson made it a one-point game, Connolly made her biggest play of the night, driving and finishing through contact adding a free throw on to cap the three-point play with 3:19 remaining.

“Whatever they were giving us, we had to take it to keep the momentum going,” Connolly said. “We just had to keep finding the open looks.”

Souderton made just two of its next six foul shots, leaving the door open enough that Maggie Rakowsky’s free throws cut it to 40-36 with 1:05 left. Connolly split a pair with 22.8 left before Abelson scored on a put-back.

Megan Walbrant hit a pair aConnolly, Cat the line with seven seconds left, giving Souderton a five-point lead and , finally, a big win. Walbrandt had four assists, Dowd chipped in five rebounds and two steals while Bealer came up big with seven boards and two helpers.

Connolly, as usual, did a little bit of everything with seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and a pair of blocks.

Souderton has two more games this week, facing William Tennent on Thursday then heading to Methacton for a Saturday night duel between two quality teams.

“We need to keep up the intensity and continue to be positive for the future,” Cardona said. “There’s constantly people stepping up, whether it’s starters or girls coming off the bench. Everybody tries to step up and people always do and it makes a huge impact.

Souderton 43, Central Bucks West 38
Central Bucks West 8 4 11 15 — 38
Souderton 10 9 12 12 — 43
Central Bucks West: Abby Spratt 1 0-0 2, Maddie Burke 4 0-0 10, Tori Abelson 7 2-4 16, Izzy Treon 2 0-0 4, Maggie Rakowsky 1 3-4 6, Diane Nicholson 0 0-2 0. Nonscoring: Burkauskas, Tracy. Totals: 14 5-10 38.
Souderton: Tori Dowd 1 1-4 3, Alana Cardona 6 4-4 16, Megan Walbrandt 0 3-4 3, Sami Falencki 1 0-0 3, Kate Connolly 4 4-5 14, Cara Romaniello 1 0-0 2, Megan Bealer 1 0-0 2. Nonscoring: Curran O’Donnell, Megan O’Donnell, Erica Stephens. Totals: 14 12- 17 43.
3-pointers: CBW Burke 2, Rakowsky; S – Connolly 2, Falencki.

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