Dowd, Hewlett, Suchsland igniting special seasons for their squads

Souderton’s girls basketball team defeated Owen J Roberts on Jan. 9 and since then, the Indians have lost just once in their final 12 games.

That loss was to current No. 1 seed in District 1- 6A North Penn and Souderton didn’t have something it had for every other game on this current run. Point guard Tori Dowd missed that game with an injury, depriving the Indians of a player who defines the term unsung hero.

Dowd isn’t a top scorer but if she’s not on the floor, Souderton is a different team. Her defense sets the tone for Souderton and it’s something her teammates draw from.

“She sets the bar so high that everybody else has to reach that bar,” Indians forward Alana Cardona said after Saturday’s win at Methacton. “You see her working her butt off out there and you think I have to help her because you don’t want her to be upset you’re not matching that level. She pushes all of us to be better.”

Plenty of teams around the area have a player like Dowd, someone who may not be a big scorer but who provides so many other things that help establish a team’s identity or lead to the handful of swing plays that end up determining the outcome.

It’s not always plays that result in a recordable stat either. Setting screens, causing deflections and well-timed defensive rotations play as much impact as a timely 3-pointer or a hard-fought rebound. Any player who can provide this sort of impact

Here are a few examples of some unsung heroes, but by no means all of them, around the area.

The Vikings’ offensive system is built on balance and patience and their defense is much the same, so all of their players have to embrace doing all the little things. Neher, a senior co-captain, is in her first season as a starter and has made an art form out of going under the radar this season.

She’s usually good for a basket or two off a sharp cut each game but Neher’s true impact comes with making the sharp passes that keep Wood’s offense humming and setting plenty of screens to free up other cutters or shooters for open looks. Defensively, the senior is sound too and had a crucial deflection and steal that helped seal up the team’s overtime win at Neumann-Goretti on Sunday.

Like many Vikings, Neher was a bench player before she was a starter, so she knows how to maximize her minutes on the floor. Wood coach Mike McDonald noted Neher’s impact early in the season, after the team returned from its tournament in Arizona and the Vikings will need more of it as they try to defend their Philadelphia Catholic and PIAA titles.

Watching PW play, it’s easy to see what Taylor O’Brien, Lauren Fortescue, Ali Diamond or Lauren Coscia do for the team. With Suchsland, their senior co-captain, it’s a little less obvious at first. But ask Colonials coach Dan Dougherty and the picture becomes clearer.

When Fortescue transferred in before the season, it meant Suchsland was going to have to change positions and play as a forward. It also meant she was going to be defending players who were bigger than her and her shots weren’t going to come as frequently.

Still, the senior goes out every night and battles, using smarts and determination to counter for the size mismatches she runs up against. Plus, she’s tough, shaking off a twisted ankle in a game on a number of occasions this season to help keep PW undefeated so far.

After serving as understudy and back-up at point guard the last two seasons, James took over the reins this season. The Ghosts had a rough patch right before Christmas, but have been on a roll ever since, winning 10 of their last 12 games and jumping up to 10th in District 1’s 6A rankings.

Senior Lizzie O’Leary is still the centerpiece of the offense, forward Kassondra Brown is a force down low and Sam Brusha can burn teams with her shooting but James is the one that’s made it all click. The junior guard has found her voice this season, speaking up in halftimes and providing some fire and motivation in a few big games.

James is a good complementary scorer and uses her speed and aggression well on the defensive end. Abington, like most teams, hopes to be reaching its peak as the postseason begins and James is certainly doing her part while playing her best basketball of the season.

Hewlett fits the classic tweener mold, a player who rebounds like a forward but can shoot like a guard. Jess Huber has been on a tear offensively, Sam Carangi is a playmaker at point guard and Irisa Ye is one of the most respected defensive players in the area, but Hewlett has quietly put together an all-around solid season for the currently to-seeded Knights.

Offensively, Hewlett can score inside or from the perimeter, giving North Penn another versatile option that can cause mismatches. For a team that’s limited on the number of forwards it has, Helwett’s rebounding is also extremely important.

Hewlett may not be at the top of a team’s scouting report on the Knights, but she’s capable of making anyone pay for not paying attention.

GA’s senior co-captain isn’t a player who will post an eye-popping number in any single section of a stat sheet, but she’ll put a few tallies in each one of them.

The Patriots’ roster has had a difficult time being at full strength this season, with a couple of players missing games with various injuries and ailments. Starzecky has been an exception, going out every game and doing a little bit of everything regardless of who she’s playing with.

Despite all the missed games, GA is in line to take a share of the Inter-Ac title. With co-captain Lilly Bolen out for the rest of the year with a knee injury, the young Patriots will rely even more on Starzecky’s model consistency.

Balasa is the epitome of a team-first player, always looking to make the right play or find a better shot before taking one herself. Cardinals coach Morgan Funsten certainly appreciates that, but he also doesn’t mind if teams want to try and play off the 6-foot senior. That’s because Balasa is good enough to make them pay if they do.

The senior has been an instrumental part of UD’s success the past few years with her timely offense, rebounding and defense. Funsten can put the forward on pretty much any opposing player and know Balasa is going to make them work for every shot. On a similar note, she makes UD’s zone defenses work.

Consistency is an underrated talent but Balasa just has it. She won’t always shoot if the shot is there, but she will almost always make the right play and that counts for a lot.

Spacing is a vital part of today’s game and Michael gives plenty of it to the Vikings.

A consistent marskman from the perimeter, the guard usually accounts for two or three made 3-point shots per game and just have a player like that forces opposing defenses to pay attention. With a strong inside player in Jordan Wilson, Michael’s perimeter shooting provides that all-important spacing for the Vikings, who are the No. 2 seed in the PAC playoffs in just their first season in the league.

Michael gets it done on the defensive end too, part of a team defense that allows less than 35 points per game.

Top Photo: Souderton’s Tori Dowd dribbles up the court during the Indians’ game against Germantown Academy on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

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