ABINGTON >> The Abington Friends School girls basketball team had done a lot of work to put itself in position to host a Friends Schools League semifinal.
So, there was no doubt the Kangaroos weren’t going to let that effort go to waste. Right from the start, AFS was aggressive, played great team defense and knocked down a lot of shots as they wanted to send a message. The fact that the Roos’ opponent was Friends’ Central, last year’s nemesis, certainly added some fuel to the fire.
Senior Jade Young led the way with a near-triple double and AFS never let up in a 69-42 win over the Phoenix, Tuesday afternoon.
“Basketball is such a long season,” AFS coach Jeff Bond said. “We started back in November and here we are in February and the girls have worked to put themselves in position to host this home playoff game. The girls realized we wanted to play two playoff games, not just one, so we wanted to just attack and we feel like when we attack, it’s harder for teams to guard us.”
The win sends the Roos into Friday night’s FSL final, where they will face Shipley at Haverford College in a 7 p.m. tip.
Young, the Hartford-bound senior, scored 23 points, pulled down 12 rebounds and dished eight assists, going right at Friends’ Central’s defense and either finishing or finding a teammate for a shot. Last year, FCS beat Abington Friends in the regular season and again in the Friends Schools League final, so the Roos seniors were plenty motivated to get a little payback.
Two weeks ago, AFS won on Friends’ Central’s home floor but the Roos felt like their defense could have been better, letting the Phoenix hang around and hit too many open shots. Tuesday, Abington Friends wanted to make the game as one-sided as possible and that would start on the defensive end.
“The last game we played them wasn’t like this at all,” AFS senior guard Alyssa DeNofa said. “They were getting a lot of wide-open 3s and we weren’t contesting any shots, they got easy layups. This game, we focused on playing hard defense, hard gap defense and I think today, honestly, was the best team defense we’ve played all year and that had a lot to do with our win.”
AFS opened up a 20-9 lead after one quarter, with Young leading the charge. The senior scored five points in the frame and assisted four other baskets, including a pair of 3-pointers by DeNofa. Young then scored 12 points by herself in the second quarter.
DeNofa, who hit on 4-of-5 from beyond the arc in the first half, said Young was playing with a determination to show she was the best player on the floor. As Young was doing all that, mostly by driving to the rim and finishing, her teammates seemed to feed off the momentum the guard was creating.
“When we saw were playing them again, we knew we had to go hard and we wanted to give no mercy on them,” AFS senior Khadijah Hickson said. “We wanted to play our game in a way that they never had a chance to come back.”
Bond said it’s hard to quantify momentum, especially in his team’s offense, but he did have an explanation for the way the Roos seemed to snowball scoring the ball. The roster has three seniors — DeNofa, Hickson and Young — but they look at the other players as teammates and not whether they’re sophomores or freshmen.
So, whenever one of them scores or makes a positive play, Bond said there’s a desire from everyone else to get in on it.
“We were very fired up,” DeNofa said. “The whole day, we all knew we had a big game but at least for me, I was trying not to get too hyped up. Then when warmups came around, things started clicking again and we all got right back on that hyped-up level.”
If Young was the driving force on Tuesday, DeNofa was the bolt of adrenaline that spurred the Kangaroos to such a fast start. The senior, who is playing next year at Mansfield University, scored all 12 of her points in the first 11 minutes of the game, her final 3-pointer putting AFS up 30-11.
While it was early in the game, her four 3s in that opening span just highlighted how locked in AFS was and that nothing Friends’ Central had was seemingly going to be enough to slow the Roos down. DeNofa said she knows her shots aren’t always going to fall, but she was also wide open on every attempt Tuesday and AFS will take that shot anytime it can get it.
“I think she’s kind of sneaky with it,” Hickson said. “She’ll come down the court, sometimes set a backscreen and she’s running the baseline. Anytime she’s in the corner, she’s got a chance to be open and we tell her to load it, let it go and it’s going to fall. I’m glad she trusts her shot and stays confident.”
Up 42-19 at the half, AFS was in firm control of the game. Even a 9-0 Friends Central run in the third quarter barely made a dent in the Kangaroos lead and AFS pushed the advantage to 31 points in the fourth quarter.
Shipley tested the Roos in their first meeting and both DeNofa and Hickson said they have to go into Friday with the same kind of energy and take-no-prisoners mentality they used on Tuesday. AFS is on a mission right now and they know it’s not the time to hold anything back.
“It’s the trust between each other,” Hickson said. “I think it’s wanting to win as a team. There’s never one person on the court who doesn’t want it as bad as anyone else. Having that and all five players wanting to win and play hard, it makes the game easier and it keeps everyone else motivated for the next play and the next game. We just have to keep playing hard and if we play like we played today, we’ll continue to be successful.”
Abington Friends 69, Friends’ Central 42
Friends’ Central 9 10 13 10 – 42
Abington Friends 20 22 17 10 – 69
Friends Central: Berger 2 0-0 5, Jordan 0 2-2 2, Ginsberg 4 0-0 8, Cypress 4 0-1 8, Smith 2 1-4 5, Carruth 4 0-0 10, Shoemaker 1 0-0 2, Adson 0 2-3 2. Totals: 17 5-10 42.
Abington Friends: Khadijah Hickson 4 1-1 9, Jade Young 10 2-4 23, Kendall Hodges 4 0-1 10, Paige Mott 6 0-1 12, Alyssa DeNofa 4 0-0 12, Paige Osborne 1 0-0 2, Mya Osborne 0 1-2 1. Totals: 29 4-9 69.
3-pointers: FCS – Carruth 2, Berger; AFS – DeNofa 4, Hodges 2, Young.