Kremp heats up as Jenkintown avoids TCA upset bid

JENKINTOWN >> Jen Kremp called it “a spark.” When it surfaces, Kremp said, she and her Jenkintown teammates turn up their offense and their shots begin to fall.

The sparks were flying in Tuesday’s third quarter.

Teetering on a potential upset loss, Jenkintown played nearly blemish-free in the third quarter to bury The Christian Academy and pull away for a lopsided 57-32 victory in the semifinal round of the District 1-12 Class A regional.

The top-seeded Drakes (25-1) had allowed Christian Academy to draw to within seven, at 28-21, with 5:52 remaining in the third. Jenkintown responded by scoring 17 of the game’s next 21 points, erasing any doubt in its home gym as to which team deserved a spot in Saturday’s district championship game against second-seeded Sankofa Freedom Academy (19-3).

“Like Coach (Jim Romano) said, he stresses that the third is the biggest quarter of the game,” Kremp said. “When it started getting close, we all started talking to each other saying, ‘Look, this isn’t happening. It shouldn’t be happening. We beat them twice. We know what to do.’ We all kind of woke up and worked together.”

Over the final six minutes of the frame, the Drakes made all but three of their 12 attempts from the floor.

Kremp led the way. She contributed two of her five 3-pointers in that timely third-quarter spurt for Jenkintown. Kremp finished with a game-high 18 points, to go with seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.

The scoring spree by Jenkintown torpedoed Christian Academy’s hopes of swiping an unlikely victory. The Crusaders (14-9) had lost twice to the Drakes this season, including the Bicentennial Athletic League championship game, by an average of 29.5 points.

So when Kiera Cryan knocked down an open jumper, Deasia Speaks stuck a putback layup and Grace Gormley bookended those buckets with two pairs of free throws, Christian Academy had closed Jenkintown’s lead to 28-21.

“I thought we did great to get back into the game,” said Crusaders coach Jason Wilt. “We just wanted to make it as ugly as we could, and did for as long as we could. But going five-deep is not going to work against (Jenkintown).

“We gave ourselves a chance.”

Jenkintown struggled against Christian Academy’s zone defense in the second quarter. The Drakes had no such lag against the zone in the third. They shot 9-for-16 overall in the quarter and used a 17-4 run over the final six minutes to stake a 48-25 lead with the final frame looming.

“If they were going to play zone, I told our girls, ‘Just drive and kick out,’” Romano said. “We really like to shoot the ball. In the first half, it didn’t seem that way. But once the shots drop for this group, we really can score in bunches.”

Christian Academy’s players hung their heads as they trudged off the court between the third and fourth quarters.

“I think all of us got an adrenaline rush when we got it close,” Gormley said. “We were communicating and we were working better together. Jenkintown, they’re just an amazing team. We wanted to force them outside. We know they can shoot, and we wanted them to beat us with their outside shot. That was the best thing for us to do, and there’s not much you can do when they’re making shots like that.”

Jenkintown picked up 11 points, three assists, three rebounds, and three steals from Mia Kolb, and Amelia Mulvaney added nine points. The season is not over for Christian Academy, which will host sixth-seeded Phil-Mont Christian Friday night. The winner will earn the final state-playoff berth from the District 1-12 regional tournament.

For the Crusaders, it would mark a return trip to the PIAA tournament.

“(Wilt) has been saying since the beginning of the year, ‘Let’s make states,’ so we’re here now and we’ve got a shot,” Gormley said.

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