East Whiteland >> The Great Valley girls’ basketball team, featuring four new starters in its lineup this season, found there’s no place like home to open a brand-new campaign, capturing the Great Valley Tip-Off Classic title with a 51-35 win against Avon Grove Saturday.
The Patriots (2-0) advanced to the championship final with a 67-39 victory against Pottstown Friday evening at Great Valley, then came out smoking in the championship contest, bolting to a 34-10 halftime lead Saturday.
“We have a lot of young varsity players – we lost four starters to graduation last spring – and I think the confidence our players gained from the win against Pottstown Friday spilled over into the first half today,” said Great Valley girls’ basketball head coach Alex Venarchik. “I think our players came into the game today more used to the rhythms of the game, and were a little more comfortable today than they were last night.”
In the first quarter, Great Valley allowed only one field goal, holding a commanding 20-4 lead at the end of the period.
Venarchik said, “Defensively, we were just trying to keep Avon Grove in front of us – we wanted to keep them out of the paint. Avon Grove moved the ball well last night [a 40-36 win against Upper Merion Friday evening], so our key was just kind of keeping them on the perimeter and not giving them easy shots early in their offense.
“In the first half, I thought [sophomore guard] Julia Dill and [junior guard/forward] Leah Valyo played outstanding on the perimeter. They had tough matchups with Avon Grove’s point guard, No. 22 [senior Kaelin Salley] and No. 4 [senior forward Jamie Perkins], and they did a great job of not giving them easy looks in the first half.”
In addition, Great Valley junior guard came up with four steals, and freshman forward Gia Sioutis added two more.
Seven different Great Valley players scored in the first half, as the Patriots passed the ball early and often. Junior guard/forward Emma DeRobertis led the way with five assists.
“Today, we showed that when we move the ball well, we can knock down shots,” said Venarchik. “When we use our screens and we stay within our offense, our girls get open shots, and today we were able to find the open girls.”
Senior forward Tessa Liberatoscioli, the Patriots’ lone returning starter, finished with 15 points to lead the Patriots. In the 67-39 win against Pottstown Friday, she once again led Great Valley in scoring, with 15 points and eight rebounds.
Great Valley did a nice job of rebounding Saturday, particularly in the first half. Liberatoscioli grabbed 12 rebounds, junior forward Sarah Flynn snared seven boards, and junior guard Emily Dupont came up with four.
“Compared to the other teams in our league, we’re about average size, so we really focus a lot on boxing out with your legs, pushing girls back with your legs, and keeping your hands free to go get the ball,” said Venarchik. “Rebounding is one of the areas where we have to be good every night if we want to be able to compete.”
In the second half, Avon Grove (1-1) turned the tide. The Red Devils’ full-court man-to-man defensive pressure, which caused numerous turnovers in its 40-36 win against Upper Merion Friday, began to force missed Patriot shots and turnovers, and gradually crept back into the game. Red Devil senior forward Caroline Malone, who scored seven of Avon Grove’s 10 first-half points, nailed a trio of field goals in the third period, as did Perkins, and the visitors outscored Great Valley in the third quarter, 14-9.
“We started attacking the basket in the second half,” said Avon Grove girls basketball head coach Bart O’Connor. “We played a lot smarter in the second half, and we shot 50 percent after halftime.”
In the second half, Avon Grove outscored the Patriots, 25-17.
Venarchik said, “It was a tale of two halves for us today. In the first half, we handled their defensive pressure; in the second half, Avon Grove guarded us well and we kind of lost our composure a little bit; it could be because of our inexperience, but that’s stuff we have to learn as we go along, and get better.”
In the fourth quarter, Avon Grove narrowed the gap to 47-35 with 53 seconds left, but Liberatoscioli hit a couple of free throws to make it 49-35, and a Red Devil turnover gave the ball back to the hosts, who finished up for a victory.
Nine different players scored for Great Valley, led by Liberatoscioli (15 points), Valyo (eight points, all in the first quarter), Dupont (seven), Dill (six) and sophomore guard/forward Gracen Curley (five).
For Avon Grove, Malone led the Red Devil offense in both halves, finishing with 17 points, while Perkins chipped in with 13.
In the Red Devils’ 40-36 win Friday, Perkins led the way with 13 points (nine of them in the second quarter) and Salley tallied 11 (including a 6-for-8 performance from the free throw line). Junior center Kylie Norris was a strong presnce in the middle, grabbing numerous rebounds.
Last year, when Avon Grove posted a 6-15 record under rookie coach Bart O’Connor, it marked a solid improvement over the past couple of years. With a 1-1 record, the Red Devils look to continue that pattern of improvement in O’Connor’s second year.
Venarchik said, “In the second half [Saturday], Avon Grove proved that they’re going to beat some teams this year.”
In the consolation game at the Great Valley Tip-Off Classic Saturday, Upper Merion defeated Pottstown, 60-41.
Great Valley 51, Avon Grove 35
Avon Grove 4 6 14 11 – 35
Great Valley 20 14 9 8 – 51
Avon Grove (35): Dontel 1 0-0 2, O’Connor 0 0-0 0, Gardner 0 0-0 0, Perkins 5 2-4 13, Brooks 0 0-0 0, Mills 0 0-0 0, Reynolds 0 0-0 0, Cavalier 0 2-4 2, Malone 8 0-0 17, Miller 0 0-2 0, D’Angelo 0 0-0 0, Norris 0 1-5 1, Salley 0 0-0 0, Totals 14 5-15 35.
Great Valley (51): DiPrinzio 0 0-0 0, Liberatoscioli 4 7-12 15, Dill 1 3-4 6, DeRobertis 1 0-0 2, Dupont 2 3-7 7, Sioutis 1 0-0 3, Flynn 1 0-0 2, Valyo 3 2-2 8, Lum 1 0-0 3, Curley 2 0-0 5, Totals 16 15-25 51.
Three-point field goals: AG – Perkins, Malone. GV – Dill, Sioutis, Lum, Curley.
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