Upper Dublin handles Pennsbury in District 1-6A opener

UPPER DUBLIN >> Upper Dublin girls basketball coach Morgan Funsten tries to take the positives out of everything.

So when his Cardinals flip-flopped places with Council Rock North in the District I 6A seedings at the very end of the season, Funsten saw it as an opportunity. As the No. 9 seed, his team would still host a first round playoff game and it would get to play and sharpen up after a week off.

The Cardinals followed Funsten’s lead and made the most of their opportunity with a 54-24 win over No. 24 Pennsbury in the opening round Saturday afternoon.

“We thought it was important to come out today and set the tone,” Funsten said. “You can’t set the tone much better than our girls did in the first half today.”

UD, which scrimmaged Mount St. Joseph during the week, was plenty prepared to play on Saturday. Freshman Dayna Balasa sparked the Cardinals (19-4) with nine first-quarter points, including six free throws after she was fouled on a pair of 3-point shots. The sharpshooting guard ended with 12 points and her quick start was just what UD was looking for.

The Falcons finish an 11-12 season that saw them make major strides in coach Frank Sciolla’s second year at the helm. Drawing Upper Dublin in the postseason is usually a tough matchup for anyone, but especially after giving Funsten a week to prepare his team.

Still, the UD coach lauded his players for not overlooking Pennsbury or its seeding and starting the game with high energy.

“We just worked hard in practice and had a good scrimmage against the Mount,” senior forward Nicole Kaiser said. “We just focused on pushing each other in practice and staying ready to play. We didn’t want to lose sight of what our goals are for the season.”

Kaiser led UD with 16 points, shooting 6-of-8 from the floor and let her controlled style of play set the pace for the Cardinals. Kaiser and Balasa combined for 15 of UD’s 17 first quarter points and the defense held Pennsbury to just six points.

Even with two freshmen, Balasa and Jess Polin, in the starting lineup and another coming off the bench in Sarah Eskew, the Cardinals weren’t rattled by the postseason. Funsten said he doesn’t look at players’ class standing and roles and playing time is earned.

“We just told them to treat it like any other game and not get nervous before,” Kaiser said. “All we wanted was for them to come with the mindset this was our game and we still do what we wanted to do if we stayed confident.”

Upper Dublin had about as good a second quarter as possible, where it held the Falcons scoreless and stretched its lead out to 35-6 at the halftime break. Eskew scored five in the quarter while Kaiser and center Jackie Vargas each had four with six different Cardinals scoring at least one point.

Senior guard Maggie Weglos got UD’s offense rolling with five assists, four in the first half.

“We tried to look at this as a positive thing and a chance to play another game,” Kaiser said. “We were happy about that. We were ready to play, pressed full court and we were able to push the ball a lot.”

Upper Dublin was able to use the second half to work on its man-to-man defending in a game situation and the Cardinals kept playing hard even if they weren’t trapping or pressing as much. Funsten credited Pennsbury for not giving up and he felt the Falcons were the better team the first few minutes of the third quarter.

Meg Barbera scored seven of her nine after halftime for Upper Dublin and the junior tied for Polin with a team-high three steals. Kaiser had six points in the second half to go with six rebounds, while Weglos added five rebounds to her register and Vargas had a team-best seven boards.

The Cardinals will face No. 8 seed Council Rock North on Wednesday in the second round. The winner will receive an automatic berth to states while the losing team falls into the playback bracket.

“I may be a little biased but I think the 8/9, us and CR North, that’s the best second round matchup out there,” Funsten said. “They are extremely talented, big, they can shoot, they can really do it all. We’re going to have our work cut out for us.”

The Indians are led by their outstanding senior point guard, Becca Margolis along with forwards Mackenzie Tinner and Dana Bandurick. Funsten noted losing a second round game was tough, but getting to play Saturday could only help his team heading to Bucks County next week.

“We’re not playing for our life on Wednesday but I think it’s a major advantage for a team, to have a game where you’re playing for your life,” Funsten said. “If this potentially could be your last game, you can’t look past this game and we did not look past this game. These girls prepared extremely hard for Pennsbury and did not look past them.”

PENNSBURY 6 0 8 10 – 24
UPPER DUBLIN 17 18 8 11 – 54
Pennnsbury: Sydney Buell 3 2-4 9, Abbi Nassivera 0 1-2 1, Mary Miller 2 0-0 4, Cami Wiegard 3 1-2 8, Hochhauser 1 0-0 2, Lacey Taylor 0 0-1 0. Totals: 9 4-9 24.
Upper Dublin: Nicole Kaiser 6 4-6 16, Maggie Weglos 1 0-0 2, Dayna Balasa 2 6-6 12, Jackie Vargas 3 0-2 6, Meg Barbera 4 0-1 9, Sarah Eskew 2 0-0 5, Kara Grebe 1 0-0 3, Lindsey Schreiber 0 1-2 1. Totals: 19 11-17 54.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply