UPPER DUBLIN >> Upper Dublin and Abington finished atop the Suburban One League American Conference standings last season with matching 13-1 records.
Despite a lot of new faces for the Galloping Ghosts, the league rivals looked as evenly matched as ever Thursday night.
The Flying Cardinals scored the final 10 points of the game to overcome a one-point deficit late in the fourth quarter and beat Abington, 59-50, at Upper Dublin High School in the SOL American opener for both schools.
Abington’s Khalis Whiting went end-to-end after grabbing a steal to give her 11 points in the fourth quarter and give the Ghosts a 50-49 lead.
Upper Dublin responded, going inside to Jackie Vargas, who scored a basket and was fouled. Her free throw made it a two-point Cardinals lead, 52-50. Vargas was at it again the Cardinals next trip down the floor, scoring in the paint for a four-point lead.
With one minute left in the game it was Jess Polin who hit the dagger. Her straight-on three-pointer made it a seven-point game and she hit a pair of free throws on the Cardinals next possession to make it 59-50.
“A younger team would get shaken up by what Abington was doing,” Upper Dublin coach Morgan Funsten said, “It was remarkable what they were doing on the court. Whiting had the breakaway layup to go up by one. I thought the girls did a great job of getting Jackie a simple touch. We talk about getting Jackie simple touches. If you can get her the ball inside, just throw it. Get her a simple touch. Regardless of where she is, get her a simple touch and let her make a good decision because she’s a good decision-maker, especially when she’s playing simple. I thought she made a great decision to attack the basket. She got fouled and-one. It let us breath again. Then we got a couple defensive stops and Polin ended it with that three.”
“We’ve been in that position a lot of times before in our past playoff runs,” Polin added. “We just had to stay composed, work as a team to get there. Simple touches to Jackie Vargas in the post always get us great shots and great layups for us. We knew to just keep doing that.”
The Ghosts (1-3, 0-1 SOL American) got off to a red-hot start. They hit five three-pointers in the first quarter and led, 17-10, after eight minutes.
The long-range shooting never really cooled off for the visitors. Twelve of their 17 made field goals in the game were from beyond the arc.
“You have to hope you took their best punch,” Funsten said of Abington’s hot start, “but they kept punching. They came ready to play. We saw all three of their games and they show flashes of the talent that they have. They have a lot of talent. They’re very young. In the three games we watched they made a lot of mistakes. They didn’t make a lot of mistakes tonight. They shot the heck out of the ball.
“The credit goes to them. We’re really excited about winning this game. We know the expectations on us, we know the bulls eye is on us. I thought the girls responded really well to some major adversity.”
The Cardinals (1-1, 1-0 SOL American) trimmed their deficit to three, 29-26, going into halftime and took their first lead early in the third quarter. A Polin three-pointer put Upper Dublin ahead, 31-29, and was part of a 10-0 run to open the second half.
“We talked in the locker room about coming out and being better defensively,” Funsten said. “We came out and played a great few minutes and then we relaxed. We had a few defensive lapses, but at the same time Abington just shot the lights out. Several of them were contested, but they were determined tonight and they really competed hard.”
The Ghosts responded, closing the third on a 10-4 run to send the game to the fourth with the Cardinals ahead, 40-39.
Vargas scored a game-high 19 points and added nine rebounds, six assists and three blocks. Polin finished with 12 points and Dayna Balasa had 11.
Whiting led Abington with 17 points. She scored all 11 of the Ghosts fourth-quarter points. Amanda Jackson and Cire Worley joined her in double figures with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
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