Souderton locks down Garnet Valley, heads to District 1-6A final

BENSALEM >> The ball wasn’t even in Kate Connolly’s hands for a second.

No sooner had the Souderton senior caught a pass in the high block, like a soccer one-touch pass, she kicked it to a cutting Alana Cardona for a reverse layup in the first quarter against Garnet Valley on Wednesday. It was an early bucket, but a big one for the Indians who had an unusally off night offensively.

Baskets like that were big and No. 1 Souderton made enough of them to back out a dominant defensive effort in a 47-30 win over the No. 4 Jaguars in the District 1-6A semifinals at Bensalem.

“I think we’re just trying to get there right now, we’re almost in awe of how well we’re playing in general,” Cardona said. “At the end of games, we just want to get to the championship and now that we’re there, it’s still one more game then we’ll celebrate, one more game then we’ll celebrate, it’s holding it in and we still have to play well on Saturday.”

Cardona led Souderton (25-2) with 15 points, adding nine rebounds two blocks and a steal while Connolly was the most impactful player on the floor. Aside from guarding GV’s talented Emily McAteer, Connolly scored eight, rebounded seven misses, dished four assists, blocked five shots and came up with five steals.

Connolly’s hands were everywhere, on passes to teammates, on deflections that led to some of the team’s other nine steals, altering shots she didn’t block and tapping rebounds around before she or someone else in white and red could grab it. Even though they couldn’t buy a bucket most of the night, the Indians were always firmly in control.

“Shots weren’t going in so we knew we had to get scores in other ways,” Connolly said. “We had to work their zone, get a good look and hopefully knock them in. We just try to work as hard as we can on defense and it works into our offense. When you can get those steals and take possessions away from them and give yourself extra possessions, it’s always helpful.”

What else stood out was just how calm the Indians stayed. Even when good open look after good open look didn’t drop, nobody started to force shots. When the Jags closed the first half on a 7-2 run, nobody panicked. When the game ended, nobody went over the top celebrating.

Souderton’s Alana Cardona battles Garnet Valley’s Madi McKee for a rebound during their District 1-6A semifinal at Bensalem on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Connolly and Cardona couldn’t point to where their collective calm comes from, but it’s been that way all season. The goal was to get to Temple, where they will face Central Bucks South at 4 p.m. Saturday and when they did, it was a businesslike celebration.

“I take my lead from them, they take it like ‘when’s the next game,’ there’s no celebrating yet, we feel like we’re not done here,” Souderton coach Lynn Carroll said. “I don’t really have to get too riled up too often with this group. I trust them so much on both ends of the floor, we’re getting contributions off the bench.”

Souderton scored the first seven points of the game and led 11-2 after a quarter. The extended it out to 17-4, then took a 20-6 lead when senior Sami Falencki hit a wing three off a pass from Tori Dowd. Amazingly, the Indians shot just 2-of-16 from beyond the arc in the game and they went to the half shooting just 8-of-26.

For a while, McAteer was the main reason her team was still in the game.  The forward paced the Jaguars with 12 points and had five in the third quarter as GV cut the lead down to 25-18 about midway through the frame.

GV’s zone caused some trouble for the cold-shooting Indians, but once the ball started moving and found its way back to Connolly, the buckets started to follow. Connolly had two assists in an 8-0 run that put Souderton up 33-18, including a pass to a cutting Cardona.

“It definitely flows and I think Kate and I have a really good connection,” Cardona said. “I don’t even have words for it, because we both just make good plays like that and it helps us in the flow of the game.”

Dowd scored just two points but had her handprints all over the game as well, dropping five assists and coming up with six steals, three of them in the final quarter. Megan Walbrandt scored 11 and Megan Bealer came up with eight points despite an off night and put her energy into a game-high 10 rebounds.

The Indians haven’t cared who’s done the scoring all season and Connolly said when they hit a rough patch offensively, they fall back on hard work on the defensive end. It’s a belief across the team that if they keep working for good shots, they’re going to make some.

“We just look at it like this is the game we have to focus on, we have to get through this and then we can focus on the next one,” Connolly said. “We’re really excited but we’re also trying to stay calm. It’s just how we are.”

Souderton’s Megan Walbrandt goes for a layup during the Indians’ District 1-6A semifinal against Garnet Valley at Bensalem on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Souderton and CB South will meet for the fourth time this season. The Titans handed Souderton a loss in the first meeting but the Indians have taken the last two, including the SOL tournament title. South, the No. 2 seed, edged No. 3 Spring-Ford  39-36 in a foul-filled game.

While the celebration wasn’t over the top, make no mistake, Souderton is very excited about the chance to play at the Liacouras Center.

“After plays, we’re high-fiving, we’re smiling, it’s just a lot of fun to play basketball with these girls,” Cardona said. “I don’t even know what to say because it’s nothing we’ve ever done before. We’re excited to see what the locker room at Temple looks like.”

GARNET VALLEY 2 11 8 9 – 30
SOUDERTON 11 11 11 14 – 47
GV: Emily McAteer 4 2-2 12, Jillian Nagy 1 0-0 2, Nicole Barnes 1 1-2 3, Madi McKee 2 0-1 4, Brianne Borcky 2 1-2 5, Liesl Dentinger 1 2-2 4. Totals: 11 6-9 30.
Souderton: Alana Cardona 4 6-8 15, Tori Dowd 1 0-4 2, Megan Bealer 1 6-8 8, Megan Walbrandt 4 3-4 11, Kate Connolly 2 4-4 8, Sami Falencki 1 0-0 3, Eric Stephens 0 0-2 0, Megan O’Donnell 0 0-0 0. Totals: 13 19-30 47

3-pointers:; GV – McAteer 2;  S – Falencki, Cardona.

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