CB West holds off Plymouth Whitemarsh, advances to SOL final

BENSALEM >> Central Bucks West saw what was once a 24-point lead over Plymouth Whitemarsh dwindle down to just five.

But in the most tense moments of the fourth quarter, the Bucks refused to be swallowed up by the moment.

“When things are moving fast like that, we just gotta take it back to the basics,” Tori Abelson said after Saturday evening’s Suburban One League semifinal at Bensalem High. “We had to play together, slow down the pace, but also play how we wanna play, which is getting defensive stops and turning that into offense.”

A strong drive to the hoop by Abelson provided a trip to the foul line. She made one of two, extending the lead to six.

West came up with a defensive stop, battled through the PW press and soon found a wide open Maggie Rakowsky all alone underneath the basket. The lead was eight.

Maddie Burke tracked down a high-bouncing defensive rebound, Rakowsky soon set up Abelson for what would be a three-point play, and Central Bucks West survived quite a comeback by the Colonials, winning 73-63 to advance to Monday night’s 6 p.m. final against rival North Penn.

“It’s awesome. We really wanted to get back here,” Abelson said, “so it’s really exciting and a good team win.

“At this point in the season, we’re really coming together and playing how we wanna play.”

The Bucks played close to perfect early on.

West blew out to a 31-7 lead by the second quarter, threes by Alex Burkauskas, Burke, Rakowsky, Bailey Tracy and Diane Nicholson — just about everybody in a black and gold uniform was hitting from the outside — to suggest it might be over quick.

“Our shots were on,” Rakowsky said. “We were able to surprise them a little. But they were able to adjust.”

Taylor O’Brien got going for the previously-unbeaten Colonials (22-1). She scored several different ways, helping make it a 12-point game by the break.

“Our motto with playoff basketball is ‘onto the next play,’” PW coach Dan Dougherty said. “I probably could have made an adjustment sooner in the first half but I felt like we were right there.

“We just missed free throws, missed layups to start the game, and (the Bucks) were knocking down their threes. There was no panic. We felt like we were getting what we wanted — the shots just weren’t going down.”

The shots started falling for the Colonials. O’Brien scored a game-high 24, Lauren Fortescue hit a trio of threes and scored 16 in all, and Ali Diamond had 12.

A pair of free throws by Laurel Suchsland made it 65-60 with four minutes to play, but Abelson, Rakowsky and the Bucks (18-4) regained control from there.

“Credit to them. They’re obviously a very good team,” Dougherty said. “I thought that was a very high-level basketball game out there today.”

Playing loose early and refusing to break late, the Bucks’ effort was widespread — Burke and Rakowsky each had 13, Burkauskas and Abelson each had 12, and Nicholson added 10.

West used an 8-3 spurt to close things out and hold off PW.

“(O’Brien) played a great game, and they had a little game going where you have a shooter and a driver, and if you take one away, you’re giving up the other one,” West coach Terry Rakowsky said. “And they did a really good job with that.

“They were 22-0 and there’s a reason for that. They have shooters, they handle the ball well. They made shots, got rebounds when they needed them.”

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