BENSALEM >> The Upper Dublin girls basketball team doesn’t ever seem to mind making the trip to Bensalem High School.
“The last two years, we beat Abington in the state quarterfinals here,” said inside force and senior leader Kara Grebe, “so we definitely have a good vibe in this gym. And it was very exciting to win here again today.”
Upper Dublin brought good vibes and plenty of defense, and played like it wants to be back at Bensalem sometime in the postseason. The Cardinals clamped down on rival Plymouth Whitemarsh and earned a 39-35 win over the Colonials in the Suburban One League Challenge Semifinals.
“Our biggest thing is getting stops and getting them off the offensive glass,” Grebe said. “It comes down to defense with us. (The Colonials) always grab every 50-50 ball and offensive rebound so our biggest thing was getting to those.”
The Cardinals allowed PW just three field goals in the decisive fourth quarter.
Upper Dublin pushed ahead when PW was hit with a double technical, and Sarah Eskew hit three of four foul shots to make it 31-30.
The Cardinals (12-2 SOL American) later went in front for good when Dayna Balasa hit one of the Cards’ five 3-pointers to make it 34-32.
“Their pressure – it can either make or break us,” said Grebe of PW. “I think we handled it really well today. And our big thing was kicking it opposite. We got a lot of shots off in transition but they weren’t falling, especially in the second half. Dana’s three just gave us a lot more energy.”
The Cardinals got another stop on PW (13-1 SOL American) and then strengthened its lead to 36-32, when Balasa scored inside.
Upper Dublin then put it away at the line, with Anajae Smith and Jackie Vargas (12 pts) each hitting one of two to make it 38-32 with 46 seconds left.
The Colonials, led by Kaitlyn Flanagan’s 15 points, didn’t get closer until Abby Sharpe hit a deep three with four seconds to go. But another free throw by Smith iced it, and sent Upper Dublin to the final.
“This would really give us a big boost of energy going into the postseason,” Grebe said.
Said Grebe of her rare three pointer, which came in the third quarter: “I don’t shoot that often and I missed three shots in the first half. (On the three), I was just kind of wide open and I shot it and it went in.”
A lot of things are going right for the Cardinals, state champs two years ago and state semifinalists a season ago.
“Everyone’s back. No one’s hurt,” Grebe said. “We have a deep bench. We love it. We’re all into it and trust each other.
“We lost to (PW) by 20 last time and kind of had a bad week that week, lost to Upper Moreland. It was kind of scary, didn’t know where the season was going. But we turned it around and I’m really excited.”
SOL Challenge Semis
Upper Dublin 39, Plymouth Whitemarsh 35
Upper Dublin 9 10 9 11 – 39
Plymouth Whitemarsh 9 7 10 9 – 35
Upper Dublin: Anajae Smith 3 3-5 9, Jess Polin 1 2-2 4, Kara Grebe 2 0-0 5, Sarah Eskew 0 3-4 3, Dayna Balasa 2 0-0 6, Jackie Vargas 5 0-0 12. Totals 13 8-11 39.
Plymouth Whitemarsh: Kaitlyn Flanagan 4 7-8 15, Abby Sharpe 2 0-2 5, Erin Daley 3 2-6 9, Gabby Cooper 1 0-2 2, Jordyn Thomas 2 0-0 4. Totals 12 9-18 35.
3-pointers: UD-Grebe, Balasa 2, Vargas 2; PW-Shapre, Daley.
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