CHELTENHAM >> St. Basil was both efficient and overwhelming, opening state play with a win by 38.
For the playoff-tested Panthers, however, the key number is four.
“Now it only takes four games,” coach Terry Mancini said after his team’s 57-19 victory over Philadelphia Academy Charter. “The important thing is we came out aggressive and we did a very good job defensively.
“That’s been our key,” Mancini said. “Our defense has been outstanding all year.”
Pressuring the Charger guards and choking the production of a trio of impressive scorers in Taylor Fritz, Alley Berdel and Elisa Curtin, Basil advanced to Wednesday’s PIAA-3A second round in impressive fashion, preparing to meet Dunmore, a 55-40 winner over Hughesville.
“It’s gonna get harder — the girls know it, the coaches know it,” Mancini said. “We gave them off Sunday to rest — we were going hard at them all week. And be ready for Wednesday.”
The Chargers (17-5), fifth place out of District 12, played Basil basket-for-basket in the early going but the Panthers found their way towards the end of the first quarter and pulled away.
A 24-point second quarter saw several offensive weapons begin firing for unbeaten Basil (28-0), the District One Champs getting solid scoring from many.
“It’s good for Natalie (Kucowski) that she doesn’t have to put it on her shoulders every game,” Mancini said of the senior center, “and girls have been stepping up, which is good to see.”
Kucowski had 10 and junior small forward Jules Gura had the game-high with 11, the Panthers building a robust 41-12 lead by the break.
“We were just focusing on playing our game, keeping up the defense and doing what we do best,” Gura said.
The Panthers had such a tight grip on the game that the running clock would be enforced in the fourth quarter. Casey Remolde added eight points for the Panthers, who missed states last year but were quarterfinalists in 2015.
“We’re not taking it for granted,” Mancini said of his team’s states-level intensity on Saturday.
For Philly Charter, Fritz, Berdel and Curtin capped off their high school careers with another trip to the big tournament.
“We lost our three seniors, and they’re basically the ones who built the program from the beginning,” coach Jack Smith said. “We made the four-year state run with those three.
“I told the younger girls ‘ya gotta run with the tradition the seniors built and try to excel from that.’”
Top Photo: St. Basil’s Elizabeth Deal returns to the bench as coach Terry Mancini pulls starters in the fourth quarter in the Panthers’ PIAA 3A 1st round win over Philadelphia Academy Charter on Saturday, March 11, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)
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