EASTON >> Chopping down an eight-point, fourth-quarter deficit, Souderton Area got to within a point of Freedom, and later, in the game’s final seconds, had a chance to force overtime with a three.
But the Patriots didn’t allow an open shot and Megan Walbrandt’s hurried attempt in traffic did not fall. Freedom came up with the rebound with two seconds to play, Kailey Turpening made two free throws at the other end, and the Patriots held on for a 50-45 victory in the first round of the PIAA-6A Tournament.
“They’re very good,” Big Red coach Lynn Carroll said of the runner-up from District 11. “It’s hard to understand the kind of speed they have by watching game film. That team is really good and really, really quick, and they gave us a run for our money defensively.
“These kids just kept battling. I feel like it was important to them that they finished with no regrets, that they left it all out there. And they can 100 percent say that.”
To fuel Souderton’s rally in the fourth, Megan Bealer had six points, Curran O’Donnell hit a three, and baskets by Mikaela Reese and Walbrandt drew the Indians closer.
O’Donnell’s three brought Big Red to within 46-45. A pair of foul shots by Brenna Ortwein gave the Patriots their three-point lead, which they clung to in the final seconds.
O’Donnell’s 14 points led Big Red (22-5).
“I’m extremely proud of them,” Carroll said of her squad. “Once the dust settles and they get some time away from the season, they’re gonna realize how special of a year that it was. And this senior class is the winningest in Souderton history, and I told them in the locker room how proud I am but also how much I’m gonna miss them.”
Big Red made 17 of 19 foul shots.
“Nerves of steel at the free-throw line,” Carroll said.
Souderton led by as many as seven in the opening minutes of the first quarter.
Reese scored inside, and Walbrandt and Megan O’Donnell hit jumpers to quickly give Big Red a 6-0 edge.
Souderton had leads of 8-2 and 11-4, but Freedom settled in. Jennifer Kokolus (game-high 18 pts) was a force underneath and also hit a three, helping to bring the Patriots even at 12 apiece.
The first quarter finished to Souderton’s advantage, as Reese batted a ball out of the passing lane, made the steal and fed a surging Megan O’Donnell, her layup giving Big Red a 14-12 advantage.
But then the Patriots (23-5) made a run.
Freedom scored the first 11 points of the second quarter, including threes by Jewel Levy and Kailey Turpening. Corrin Gill’s quickness and ball handling were becoming key factors.
The speedy guard set up Kokolus for an easy two and she also drove for a basket of her own, helping Freedom to build its momentum.
Souderton was held scoreless the first four minutes of the second quarter until a three by Curran O’Donnell fell through. That was the only field goal Freedom allowed in the period, as the Patriots went to the break up 27-18.
Souderton cut into the lead in the third behind threes by Curran O’Donnell and Walbrandt.
Big Red’s defense also tightened, making Freedom search for open shots.
A basket by Kokolus helped the Patriots maintain a 36-32 lead going into the fourth and Freedom would widen the gap to 46-38 before Souderton made its rally.
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