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North Penn holds off CB East, clinches 2nd straight outright SOL Continental title

BUCKINGHAM >> For Irisa Ye, being a part of conference champion as a freshman showed her what the North Penn girls basketball team could do.

Now as a senior, earning a conference title is what Ye and the Knights should do.

“When I first got it with the seniors as a freshman, it was just something new ‘Wow, we could accomplish something like this,’” Ye said. “And then just the pressure was bigger this year cause we’re seniors and expectations are so high. And I’m just glad that we did what we had to do and just got the job done.”

Tied 30-30 with host Central Bucks East at halftime Tuesday night, North Penn ran off 11 straight points to begin the third quarter. The Knights held another 11-point advantage with 5:15 left in the fourth before holding off a late Patriots charge to claim a 55-49 victory and clinch their second-straight outright Suburban One League Continental Conference title.

“It’s good, especially (because) we had two losses in the first go-round, the first half of the season so for us to come and win it outright was pretty big,” North Penn coach Maggie deMarteleire said.

Jess Huber finished with 14 points  as the Knights (19-2, 10-2 conference) had four players in double figures and captured a fourth SOL Continental title in the past five years – their last three (2013-2014, 2015-2016, 2016-17) outright.

A 48-34 home loss to Central Bucks South Jan.5 had North Penn at 2-2 in the conference and two games behind then-leader South. But the Knights have not tasted defeat since, collecting 13 consecutive victories – eight of those coming SOL Continental play.

“That just made us realized with all the expectations around us, we can’t expect to just walk in and just beat teams,” Ye said of the CB South defeat. “And every team’s going to bring their A game and we got to bring our A-plus game. And that game, we brought our F (game). It was just the worst we ever played. So, we vowed after that we’re never playing even close to half that bad.”

Ye and Bri Hewlett both added 13 points while Jenny Hulmes scored nine of her 12 points in the second quarter to help North Penn rally from an early seven-point deficit.

“She was great for us today, especially since they were guarding me, Sam (Carangi) and Jess and Bri real tough and just sagging off on the fifth girl so we couldn’t really get many open looks,” said Ye of Hulmes. “So when we kicked it out to her and she was able to knock down those shots, it put pressure on the defense and also helped us get back into the game. Just so proud of her.”

North Penn ends its regular season with a non-conference matchup at Neshaminy 7 p.m. Tuesday. After that, The Knights try to defend their Suburban One League tournament title then move on to District 1-6A tournament. North Penn was the top seed in the 6A latest power rankings.

“The goal is to get the state ‘chip but our mind set is to get better each day,” Ye said. “Like we’re not thinking about ‘Oh, this is just a game that’s going to get us one step closer,’ we’re just taking it ‘OK, it’s just this game, do our job in this game, alright got the win, next game, now we’re focusing on the next game.’”

North Penn’s Bri Hewlett shoots over Central Bucks East’s Grace Stewart during their game on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

Bridget Birkhead and Megan Brown both had 14 points – Birkhead with a dozen in the first quarter – while Bri Talbot chipped in 12 points for Central Bucks East (13-8, 6-6), which had a four-game win streak snapped. The Patriots, 14th in the 6A rankings, visits Perkiomen Valley 7 p.m. Thursday.

Hewlett provided six points during the Knights’ 11-0 run to open the second half. She hit a jumper for a 32-30 lead then after a Huber transition 3-point made it 35-30, Hewlett scored off an offensive rebound then connected on a foul-line jumper. Ye banked in a short turnaround jumper for a 61-50 advantage.

“We basically just talked about getting stops on defense,” deMarteleire said. “Like one at a time, get stops on defense.”

Six straight points from CB East cut the margin to 41-36 before Huber scored off a drive to put the Knights up seven heading to the fourth.

North Penn did not have a field goal in the fourth, but made 12-of-15 from the foul line with both Ye and Huber both going 4-for-4.

“Jess made them, Jenny made them, Bri made them, Sam made them,” Ye said. “It was just all important that we were able to hit down the free throws cause that’s what kept us ahead by five the whole time.”

Two Ye free throws at 5:16 had the Knights leading 47-36 however East put together a 9-1 run to pull to within one possession.

Talbot connected on a jumper to make it 47-38. A Hulmes foul shot at 3:37 put NP ahead 10 but Bailey McManus drained a 3-pointer and Talbot and Browne each went 2-for-2 from the line to cut the Patriots’ deficit to 48-45 with 1:52 left.

Tracking down a long-distance inbound throw, Ye was tripped up and East was called for a foul at 1:51. Ye hit both from the line for a five-point lead. After the Patriots missed two free throws at 1:26, Hulmes converted two foul shots for a 52-45 NP advantage at 1:10.

Talbot scored off an offensive rebound to have Eat within four in the last minute but Huber hit two foul shots with 29.9 remaining.

“Then at the end, something we do very well – rebounds – we weren’t. And that kept them in the game,” deMarteleire said. “Give them credit, CB East, (coach) Liz (Potash) always has them prepared and I thought they played very well.”

Two Huber free throws at 3:23 and a Hewlett 3-pointer gave North Pen a 13-8 lead in the first quarter, but Birkhead buried back-to-back 3s in scoring the period’s last 10 points to put East ahead 18-13.

“We were just leaving her way too wide open in the beginning which was not according to our game plan,” Ye said. “But we got it fixed. We had to.”

Talbot’s jumper had the Patriots up 20-13 in the second quarter before Hulmes posted six points during a 12-4 NP run that had the Knights leading 25-24 after back-to-back Hulmes jumpers.

A Hulmes triple gave North Penn a 30-28 edge but a bucket from Browne send the teams into the break tied at 30.

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