LOWER MERION >> Katie Mayock was not on the Conestoga team that lost to Springfield in last season’s Central League semifinal.
“There was a huge amount of revenge,” said Mayock, who transferred from Academy of Notre Dame.
Mayock did her part to ensure the Pioneers would not experience a bout of déjà vu Sunday afternoon at Harriton. The 6-4 junior center scored 14 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, dished two assists, had two blocks and made two steals in the Pioneers’ 34-25 victory.
Conestoga (20-3) will play Garnet Valley (20-2), which finished the regular season unbeaten in the Central League, for the championship Tuesday at Marple Newtown. Springfield (19-4) will have to wait more than a week to play its next game in the opening round of the District 1 Class 5A tournament. The Cougars earned the No. 1 seed.
Mayock asserted herself after halftime following a relatively quiet first half. She scored nine points and hauled in seven rebounds in the second half, when the Pioneers outscored the Cougars, 21-11.
“They take a long time with their possessions and as a defense, that can kind of wear you down,” said Mayock, who went 5-for-7 from the field and 4-for-4 from the free-throw line. “The big thing for us at halftime was, we couldn’t let them dictate and stop us from what we wanted to do. We had to take our shots and we really needed to get rebounds. We weren’t doing that in the first half.”
The Pioneers carried a 6-0 run to close the first half — they trailed by a point at intermission — into the third quarter. Lindsay Erickson made a pair of free throws and Emma Powell (10 points, seven rebounds) hit a 2-pointer to give the Pioneers a three-point edge. They would never relinquish that lead.
Springfield maintained its tempo for most of the opening half — holding the ball and not trying to force bad shots — but the Pioneers were able to knock the Cougars out of their rhythm late in the second quarter. Due in large part to freshman guard’s 10 first-half points, including eight in the first period, Springfield jumped out to leads of 8-2 and 10-4.
“Tempo wasn’t as much as an issue for us as, ‘Who’s leading the game?’ They can be much more patient when they’re winning,” Conestoga coach Chris Jeffries said. “We talked at halftime, if you don’t want the fourth quarter to feel like the last two minutes of that second quarter, you have to play with a lead. So the first couple of minutes of the third quarter became very crucial for us. We came out very strong in the third quarter, scored the first six points and gave ourselves a lead. That kind of made it difficult for them because they’re a very different team when they have to play from behind.”
Ultimately, Springfield struggled to make its shots. With the exception of Long, who was 5-for-10 with a game-high 14 points and four steals, the Cougars were anemic from the field. They shot 2-for-17 over the second and third quarters, and finished 8-for-39 for the game.
“They definitely went on their run in the second quarter and that sort of changed the entire game,” Long said. “We were doing really well in the first quarter. We were pushing the ball and getting transition points, but when we set up against their zone, it was much harder to score. We got some shots and all the looks we wanted, but we just couldn’t knock them down today.”
Sophomore Jordan D’Ambrosio was the Cougars’ second-leading scorer with six points. Senior guard Maggie O’Connell, one of the top 3-pointer shooters in Delco, and sophomore Belle Mastropietro were held scoreless. Mastropietro played well despite the goose-egg on the scoreboard, as she racked up four steals and a team-high five rebounds.
Mayock swished two free throws in the fourth quarter to give ’Stoga its biggest lead of the game at 10. Springfield chipped away, but never got closer than four points.
“I felt like we couldn’t get into an offensive rhythm today,” Springfield coach Kylynn McNichol said. “It just seemed like we couldn’t get any shots to drop in today. I thought we did a better job of moving the ball in the second half and taking good shots, it just wasn’t happening for us today. Give Conestoga credit. I thought they did a nice job with their zone, which took us out of our offensive game. I thought we did a nice job defensively, holding them to 35 points, but we didn’t do enough to capitalize on our end on offense.”
Conestoga will hope the third time’s the charm against Garnet Valley. The Pioneers fell to the Jaguars, 49-46, in the teams’ regular-season finale last Friday night.
It’s almost impossible for any team to beat another three times in one season, right?
“I’ll hang my hat on that then,” Jeffries said. “What I know is that they will be on top until they’re not on top. They’ve earned that. They’ve won a lot of games by being smart offensively and they’re a very talented team. We’re going to have to play our best game to beat them, for sure. They have every right to be the No. 1 seed and every right to feel confident going into the game. We hung with them this year and last year, and sooner or later we’ll climb that mountain. Tuesday night seems like the right time.”