MILFORD TWP. >> They were down by as many as 13 points, playing against freshly-minted, 1,000-point scorer Sydney Heller, and on the road against an archrival, which had its brand-new gym rocking in the first half.
But Jenkintown did what it has done all season long, and that’s find a way to win a basketball game.
“We always say the third quarter is the biggest part of the game,” said the Drakes’ Carly Mulvaney. “The third quarter changes everything, so we knew we had to win the third quarter to win the game.”
Jenkintown turned up the pressure and turned the game around, taking the lead for good in the third and never letting go of it, as the Drakes pulled away to a 46-35 victory over the Lions Tuesday night.
The Drakes, raising their unbeaten record to 21-0, clinched the Bicentennial Athletic League Constitution Division with a spotless 13-0 record. Faith is now 17-4 overall, with an 11-2 mark in the Constitution.
In a battle of the top two teams in District 1-1A, Jenkintown’s defense tilted control.
“We put the press on,” Drakes coach Jim Romano said of the third quarter. “We stayed off of it in the first half because I didn’t want to tire the girls out. We didn’t panic. These girls are getting it done.”
Mulvaney scored a team-high 16 points, with Lauren Brockwell scoring 14 and Molly Walsh adding 11 and Katie McGrath chipping in with five, including one of the Drakes’ nine 3-pointers.
“When you have four out of the five girls – (Cady Westkaemper) is more of a defensive player — that can score, it’s hard to cover all four,” Romano said. “And I think in the first half, we just got out of sync. Faith came out to play. And I’m really glad (Heller) got her 1,000th point. In the first half, she was unstoppable.”
Faith jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the opening moments, with baskets by Heller and Abby Bowersock.
Heller was showing some tremendous burst to the basket throughout the first quarter, getting some tough shots to fall.
Jenkintown took its first lead of the game when Brockwell connected for a three, making it 5-4.
But the Lions pulled ahead again when Izabella Forker passed to Joy Hissner in transition, and Faith led the rest of the opening period.
Heller scored six in the first quarter, all on quick drives to the hoop, and Faith took a 12-7 lead into the second.
Heller soon extended her range, hitting a three to make it 15-7 Faith as the second quarter began.
Faith momentum continued to build.
A Heller layup in transition gave the Lions their first double-digit lead at 20-10.
Her three-point play soon after made it 25-13 midway through the period, and that put her over 1,000 points for her career.
Heller, who had 19 first-half points, scored on a rebound to make it 27-15 Lions and later hit a three to ensure a 30-19 cushion at the break.
But Jenkintown came roaring back in the third.
The Drakes clamped down defensively, allowing Faith just four points in the period. They would be held to five in the second half.
Meanwhile at the other end, Brockwell hit a pair of threes and Mulvaney calmly hit one at the buzzer to send the Drakes into the final quarter up 35-34.
A three by Walsh in the opening moments of the fourth widened the gap and sent Jenkintown on its way.
The Drakes were 4-of-5 from the foul line in the fourth in padding their lead and they refused to let the Lions get into any kind of offensive flow.
Said Mulvaney: “We started pressing, which I think really helped us. We really live by our press. That’s what helps us win games.
“And we normally hit our shots, and that’s something we take a lot of pride in. We’ll practice shooting all the time. We finally picked up some momentum (in the third) and it was great. Once somebody made a shot, we took that momentum and kept going.”
These two teams very well may meet again, down the district playoff road.
“I’m sure we’ll see them again,” Romano said. “So this was really a good game for us. They had a lot going for them – brand-new gym, 1,000-point scorer, and it was basically for the Constitution Championship. If they knocked us off, we would have had to share the title, but winning it outright is nice.
“We wanna try to finish (the regular season off Wednesday with a win), get ready for the BAL Playoffs, and go on from there.”
Lions Roar Early
Faith would have liked to duplicate its first-half performance.
“Tale of two halves,” Lions coach David Forker said. “Jenkintown really came out and changed the game around. We talked at halftime about how they were gonna turn up the pressure, but you can talk about it all you want – when they turn up the pressure, it’s a different animal.
“And it wasn’t just their defense. They were hitting threes, getting to the foul line, hitting foul shots, and they just played a perfect half.”
Heller provided the drive for Faith, scoring a game-high 20 points.
“It was a big stage, and there was a little bit of pressure for her in that moment,” Forker said. “And when it happened, she was just like ‘let’s keep playing.’ Jenkintown’s an amazing team, and for us to score that many points in a half (30), with Sydney leading us, it’s testament to who she is as a player.”
In what the Lions take from this game, Forker said: “We have to work on playing two halves instead of one. But knowing that when we do play well, we can play with them, and Jenkintown’s definitely one of the best teams in the state.”
Heller would like to see the Lions be able to close things out next time around.
“We wanted to punch the game in the mouth. We wanted to show them who we are, show them that this isn’t gonna be a blowout like years in the past,” she said. “We wanted to finish that game off and win. But going into districts, it’s not like we can’t do it. We can beat them. We just have to pull it out in the second half. We have to figure out the press, score, and settle down. We’re ready for a playoff run.”
Jenkintown has its regular-season finale Wednesday at Chester Charter and Faith closes out the regular season Thursday at Lincoln Leadership.
Jenkintown 46, Faith Christian 35
Jenkintown 7 12 16 11 – 46
Faith Christian 12 18 4 1 – 35
Jenkintown: Cady Westkaemper 0 0-0 0, Katie McGrath 1 2-4 5, Lauren Brockwell 4 2-4 14, Molly Walsh 4 1-2 11, Carly Mulvaney 3 8-10 16. Totals 12 13-18 46.
Faith Christian: Sydney Heller 8 2-3 20, Joy Hissner 3 0-0 7, Izabella Forker 0 0-1 0, Niky Cassiani 1 0-0 2, Karleigh Garber 3 0-0 6. Totals 15 2-4 35.
3-pointers: J-McGrath, Brockwell 4, Walsh 2, Mulvaney 2; F-Heller 2, Hissner.
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