Upper Dublin stays connected in win over Cheltenham

CHELTENHAM >> Morgan Funsten has a term to describe his team’s defense.

Stay connected. Upper Dublin wins with its defense and to do that, the Cardinals all have to be on the same page, no matter which five players are on the floor.

Stay connected means that if someone goes to trap or help, the next player up makes the slide over or gets in position to take advantage of any deflections or desperate passes. For almost eight minutes Tuesday night, the Cardinals were on their heels, but they continued to stay connected.

The end result was a 42-26 win at Cheltenham and the team’s defense was the star. Trailing 12-6 after one, the Cardinals gave up a combined 14 points over the next 24 minutes.

“I think of everyone being on one rope and if one person goes out, we all have to push in and match up,” UD junior point guard Maggie Weglos said. “We have to cover any wide open players and make sure if there’s a shot, it’s not an easy look and make every team work for the shots they get.”

Stay connected is a pretty common term to hear and Weglos estimated she hears it at least 10 times a week during the season

Cheltenham (12-10, 8-6 SOL American) honored its four seniors pregame and they contributed the first 12 points of the game for the Panthers. Nashira Brown, a four-year varsity player, had seven in the first quarter, using her size and experience to exploit a matchup with Upper Dublin freshman Kara Grebe.

Grebe started in place of Jackie Vargas, who was sick but gutted it out to give the Cards good minutes off the bench.

The Cardinals on the other hand, couldn’t make a thing, a 3-pointer by Josie Barrett their only points until the final second of the first. UD (16-5, 11-2) started 1-of-15 from the floor and trailed by nine before senior Demi Balasa canned a long trey in the final second to cut the lead to 12-6.

“I can always count on Demi and trust her to do something big,” Weglos said. “It really fired us up and put us back in perspective that we need to focus and do our job. We knew (Cheltenham) is very athletic and we had to stay focused, do out job and keep the defense strong.”

It was a timely shot and seemed to spark the Cardinals, who then scored the first seven points of the second quarter. Barrett and Weglos, plus Meg Barbera off the bench, were able to pressure Cheltenham’s guards and began turning the Panthers over.

“We did something a little different with our full-court man pressure,” Cardinals coach Morgan Funsten said. “We thought we could get something off it and practiced it yesterday. We were able to create some easy baskets in transition off of our defense.”

The Cardinals combined for 16 steals on Tuesday, which Funsten said was a season-high.

A put-back by Grebe gave UD a 13-12 lead and then a baseline runner by Barrett with 4:40 left put them up for good over the rest of the first half.

A Weglos triple preceded back-to-back baskets by Nicole Kaiser, who had started 0-of-5. The junior’s swipe of a floated pass and ensuing layup gave UD a 22-14 edge and the Cards held a 22-16 advantage at the break.

Cheltenham turned the ball over 10 times in the first half, six of them in the second quarter. The turnover plague continued in the second half, with the Panthers coughing up the ball on their first three possessions.

Weglos (four) and Barrett (six) had 10 of the UD steals.

“Josie and I have been playing since we were in eighth grade, I know what she does and she knows what I do, we work well with each other,” Weglos said. “I can always count on her, if I force my girl one way, to come behind and work with me. We’re almost telepathic, we know what each other is thinking.”

Upper Dublin on the other hand continued to push its lead, scoring the first five points of the quarter.

Four different UD players scored in the third with Weglos and Kaiser each hitting a 3-pointer. Kaiser led UD with 12 points while Weglos had nine and Barrett scored eight.

Nashira Brown led the Panthers with nine, scoring just one basket after the first quarter. Caitlin Wallace had six and UD was able to hold Mia Leonard to just four points, although the senior did rip down 13 rebounds and blocked four shots.

Weglos capped her night with a three-point play with 7:19 left to go, putting UD ahead 37-20.

There wasn’t one standout player for Upper Dublin, but by staying connected, the defense was the star of the show on Tuesday.

“We always focus on keeping their best player to a certain amount or under their average,” Weglos said. “We do our best to take away their strengths, and focus on our defense, keep each other connected and keep each other disciplined.”

Upper Dublin 42, Cheltenham 26
Upper Dublin                  6 16 12 8 — 42
Cheltenham                    12 4 4 6 — 26
Upper Dublin: Nicole Kaiser 5 1-2 12, Josie Barrett 3 0-0 8, Demi Balasa 1 0-0 3, Maggie Weglos 3 1-1 9, Jackie Vargas 3 0-0 6, Kara Grebe 1 0-0 2, Meg Barbera 1 0-0 2. Totals: 17 2-3 42.
Cheltenham: Mia Leonard 1 2-4 4, Caitlin Wallace 2 0-0 6, Danielle Brown 0 1-4 1, Nashira Brown 4 1-2 9, Taylor Johnson 0 3-7 3, Madison Rorer 1 0-0 3. Totals: 8 7-17 23.
3-pointers: UD – Barrett (2), Weglos (2), Kaiser, Balasa; C – Wallace 2, Rorer.

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