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Relentless Lansdale Catholic powers past Gwynedd Mercy Academy

Lansdale Catholic’s Timaya Lewis-Eutsey (3) drives the lane against Council Rock South during the George Snear Tournament championship game. (James Beaver/For Media News Group)

LANSDALE >> Lansdale Catholic wanted to play a game of attrition.

Watching film of Saturday’s opponent Gwynedd Mercy Academy, Crusaders girls basketball coach Eric Gidney noticed something. While the Monarchs are a good defensive team, they didn’t have many long defensive possessions, so LC wanted to make GMA play defense longer.

Coupled with a determination to score inside and a robust rebounding effort, LC wore down Gwynedd Mercy in the second half to take a 64-47 victory.

“Gwynedd is a team that loves playing defensive and does a heck of a job doing it but they don’t necessarily have long defensive possessions so we wanted to wear them down,” Gidney said. “We wanted to use our size advantage, especially in the paint and I think we did that.”

After one quarter, it didn’t look like LC’s plan was going to pay off well. The Monarchs caught fire early from beyond the arc, hitting 4-of-6 from three to build a 10-point lead before LC cut the deficit to 20-12 at the end of the frame.

Appearances however, can be deceiving. Monarchs coach Tom Lonergan saw a trend developing around the rim and it wasn’t one he expected to last long.

“Everything was inside, it was off the glass, off the drives, we had no rotation defensively,” Lonergan said. “if you’ve seen us play any other game, the drive action they  had we would have had a rotation, drop-down and double which usually results in a turnover.

“The way the game started, I didn’t think the effort was there. I knew from the first quarter, we were up 20-12 but they left a lot of points on the board, they were shooting 40 percent in the paint and it was just a matter of time until they started finishing unless we did something about it.”

Gwynedd Mercy (8-5, 6-1 AACA), while a proficient shooting team and quick on the defensive end, does not have a lot of size. That can make the Monarchs subject to disadvantages on the glass and while LC doesn’t have the most size, the Crusaders aren’t a team hesitant to go after rebounds.

Certainly, all those shots around the rim started to fall with more frequency but when they didn’t, Lansdale Catholic (11-2, 3-0 PCL Blue) managed to grab a healthy amount of offensive rebounds. Leading the charge for LC was the trio of Timaya Lewis-Eutsey, Lauren Edwards and Gabby Casey.

Casey, a freshman, ripped down 18 rebounds a night after posting 17 boards against St. Hubert and Gidney joked she might be averaging more rebounds than points. Edwards had 13 rebounds and Lewis-Eutsey added 12 as the three Crusaders combined for more than 40 boards.

Lewis-Eutsey, who led LC with 26 points, scored two second half put-back baskets when she grabbed the rebound off a teammates’ missed free throw and converted.

“Going into the locker room at halftime, our attitude shifted from the start of the game,” Edwards said. “We talked about this being our homecourt and that we needed to do whatever we had to in order to defend it and that’s what we did at the end of the day.”

“We boxed out more than normal, we tried our best and hustled after every ball,” Casey said.

Casey had a pair of putback baskets then assisted an Edwards layup in a 6-0 second quarter run to help LC close within 29-24 at the half. The Crusaders also limited Gwynedd Mercy Academy to just one 3-point make in the quarter and the trend would continue in the second half, with the Monarchs hitting just once from the perimeter after halftime.

LC came all the way back to take a 32-31 lead on a drive and score by Lewis-Eutsey with five minutes left in the third quarter. After trading hoops the next few minutes, Lewis-Eutsey scored the last six points of the quarter, including another putback basket, to send LC into the fourth ahead 42-39.

“Playing the Catholic League, we’re used to the bigger teams we have to play but with them being shooters, we had to come out a little more and play tough defense,” Edwards said. “We couldn’t just let them shoot, we had to cover the outside and inside.”

It was rough ending to what had been a good week for Gwynedd Mercy Academy. The Monarchs had picked up wins over archrival Mount Saint Joseph and Villa Maria Academy in AACA play to stay one game back of St. Basil in the league table.

GMA has a pair of road league games this week, but a chance to get back on the right path and try to keep pace with the Panthers.

“Those are two extraordinary teams we were able to beat but I give credit to LC, they came at us and we didn’t have the energy and they did,” Lonergan said. “They seemed to get even stronger as the game progressed where we faded. They started with confidence, they got stronger, more aggressive and we were just fading.”

LC, which sits atop the PCL Blue Division, will pick up next week with a road game at Abington. Gidney felt his team showed plenty by responding after a slow start on Saturday.

“As soon as we came out for the second half, we knew we had to step it up,” Casey said. “It made us want to hustle more, get the rebounds and go all-out on defense.”

“It’s a big sign of our team culture and how we stay together,” Edwards said. “When we come together, we bring that right mentality and we knew we could get it done.”

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