Defense leads Abington Friends past Friends’ Central in PAISAA quarterfinals

ABINGTON >> It’s tough enough to beat any team twice, much less a third time.

When the opponent is a major league rival and the second and third games take place just 10 days apart, then things really interesting. Abington Friends School’s girls basketball team hadn’t played since it won the Friends School League title last Friday night. As the No. 1 seed in the PAISAA tournament, the Kangaroos earned a first-round bye.

Because things like this love to happen, their quarterfinal opponent was going to be Friends’ Central, a team the Roos had beaten in the FSL semifinals just 10 days prior. That game was an offensive clinic for AFS. When the two teams met Friday in AFS’ Hallowell Gym, it wasn’t quite like the last meeting.

However, the result was the same as Abington Friends used its defense to claim a 42-31 win and advance to the PAISAA semifinals on Feb. 24.

“They and Shipley have been our biggest rivals in the past few years,” AFS coach Jeff Bond said. “This time of year, to play a team you’re so familiar with and just played 10 days ago, and having played really well against them, it’s going to factor into your thinking as a team.”

AFS had just four players score points, a departure from their usually more balanced attack and a lot of the Roos’ shots just weren’t going in. On top of the week-long layoff from games, Abington Friends was also trying to get itself hyped up for a second championship run after expelling a lot of energy and emotion to win the FSL title.

Just to pile on, the upper grades had off from school Friday, so the players had to get themselves back to campus and in game-mode for the 4p.m. start with a long weekend looming.

So it wasn’t the fastest of starts for AFS, but senior guard Khadijah Hickson picked up the slack, closing the first quarter on a personal 7-0 run to put the Kangaroos up 9-5 heading into the second frame. Friends’ Central closed within a point on a basket by Brianna Cypress to make it 15-14 with 4:14 left in the first half.

From there, it was all AFS and more specifically, all Jade Young and Kendall Hodges. Young, a senior, and Hodges, a freshman, combined for all 14 Kangaroo points in the second quarter and AFS ended the period on an 8-0 run to take a 23-14 edge into the break.

“I’m looking at this game as the one where we get out the leftover emotions from winning the Friends School League,” Bond said. “The Friends School League hangover is past us. We came out, played a hard game and won.”

Hickson led AFS with 18 points and also gave her team energy by attacking the backboard, pulling down five of her seven rebounds on the offensive end. Young posted a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds, freshman center Paige Mott had eight points and Hodges finished with six.

The defense was what got the Roos going in the second quarter and again in the second half. AFS had 14 steals as a team, led by five from Young, four from senior Alyssa DeNofa, two from Hickson and Hodges and the last from Jordan Smith.

“We knew if we defended, we’d have a chance,” Bond said. “We defended well, they had 14 points at half. The girls are tired, it’s been a long season, we’ve been at this for three-and-a-half months and we’ve played 27 games so we have to battle fatigue as well as our opponent.”

Abington Friends’ Khadijah Hickson drives the baseline against Friends’ Central during their PAISAA quarterfinal on Friday, February 17, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

AFS got up 32-16 with 90 seconds left in the third, but its entire second half was plagued by turnovers. Some of them were players trying to do too much to get a score and try to ice the game while others were a good thought but just not executed cleanly. There were quite a few passes thrown at the ankles of the recipient, making for a tough catch and resulting in a giveaway.

“We got up by about 15 and one or two more baskets would have gone a long way toward closing it out and we knew that,” Bond said. “Jade’s out on a break and turns it over; we had another move go out of bounds. That’s the lack of sharpness, that’s the week off and being late in the season. We’ll have to clean that up if we hope to continue in this tournament.”

AFS will face its other major league rival, Shipley School, in the PAISAA semifinals next Friday at Malvern Prep. The Roos are 2-0 over the Gators, who topped Penn Charter 51-49 in overtime in the quarters, including the win in the FSL final.

The Kangaroos will be adding their 33rd title banner to their gym at some point this year, but among all of them, there’s only one silver-colored one that signifies a state title. Bond told his players they were looking at a three-game season if they wanted to double that number and now, they’re one-third of the way there.

“We’re in rarified territory,” Bond said. “It’s our goal to put a second silver banner in our gym so we’ll see. We’ve got a chance.”

Abington Friends 42, Friends’ Central 31
Friends’ Central 5 9 5 12 – 31
Abington Friends 9 14 9 10 – 42
Friends’ Central (31): Jordan 3 1-3 8, Ginsberg 2 0-0 4, Cypress 3 1-1 7, Smith 3 0-2 6, Carruth 1 0-0 3, Adson 1 1-2 3. Nonscoring: Shoemaker, Berger. Totals: 13 3-8 31.
Abington Friends (42): Khadijah Hickson 7 3-6 18, Jade Young 4 2-8 10, Kendall Hodges3 0-0 6, Paige Mott 4 0-0 8. Nonscoring: Alyssa DeNofa, Jordan Smith, Paige Osborne, Brianna Davis, Mya Osborne. Totals: 18 5-14 42
3-pointers: FCS Jordan, Carruth; AFS – Hickson.

Top Photo:  Abington Friends’ Paige Mott turns to take a shot during the Kangaroos’ PAISAA quarterfinal against Friends’ Central on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

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