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Villa Maria handles Academy Park, rolls into rematch with the Mount

MALVERN >> Villa Maria wasn’t about to be caught looking ahead.

Even in the playoffs with the season on the line, teams can be vulnerable to the dreaded ‘trap’ game. With a ten-day break since their last contest in the Athletic Association of the Catholic Academies (AACA) playoffs, and with a potential showdown with league rival Mount St. Joseph looming, Villa Maria found themselves in that tricky spot against a visiting Academy Park Tuesday night.

But the fourth-seeded Hurricanes removed any doubt early on, cruising past the 13th-seeded Knights and advancing to the District One 5A quarterfinals, where they will host fifth-seeded Mount St. Joseph’s, a winner over Harriton, on Friday.

“Honestly, part of me always hates this game,” said Villa coach Kathy McCartney, “because it is so tough coming off the lay-off (from the league playoffs). But it’s good to get that first playoff game under your belts.”

The Hurricanes started fast, varying defensive looks to force a half-dozen first quarter turnovers, which they were able to convert into several fastbreak layups in the other end. Academy Park didn’t score their first field goal for almost five minutes, giving the Hurricanes time to build a 23-5 lead.

The second quarter saw the Hurricanes establish their dominance on the boards, limiting the Knights to one shot and creating second and third opportunities on their own end. Villa’s defense continued to dictate the pace — highlighted by a Faith Iacone rejection in the final minutes — but struggled to stop Academy Park’s Lashay Jackson, who accounted for all 16 of her squad’s first-half points. Nonetheless, the Hurricanes built a 23-point lead by the break with Maddy Ryan going 7-11 from the field.

The Hurricanes connected on only one 3-pointer — a rarity in today’s game — but still won convincingly thanks to precision ball movement and inside presence.

“We have outside shooters who can get the job done,” Ryan confirmed. “Honestly, sometimes I think we ease up on the gas pedal, which we won’t be able to do going forward.”

Academy Park hung in gamely in the second half, getting Gabrielle Jackson and Sierra Thomas involved offensively. Villa’s control of the boards persisted, as they never allowed the Knights closer than 15. Maddy Ryan finished with the team lead for the Hurricanes with 19 points.

Friday’s showdown between the two AACA squads would have plenty on the line even without the postseason ramifications (which are numerous.) On January 21, Villa Maria exacted revenge for a December loss to the Mount, squeaking out a 39-37 decision at home.

The Hurricanes will host Friday’s rubber match, which doubles as a District quarterfinal with a berth in PIAA 5A states the reward for the winner. Friday’s loser will have to fight through playbacks if they hope to continue the season.

“I think we’re going to see more zone against Mount St. Joe’s,” said Ryan, who will play at Millersville University next fall, “so the outside shooting will be important.

“But if we’re patient, we can go where we need to offensively.”

For Academy Park, the 2019-2020 season comes to an end at a mark of 12-11. The Knights have high hopes for next season, led by game-high scorer Lashay Jackson (23 points) and losing only one senior in Gabrielle Jackson.

“Our game plan was to force them into jump shots early,” said Ron Bright, head coach of Academy Park. “But they hurt us early in transition, and we couldn’t keep them from getting solid post position.

“Hopefully this offseason we’ll get some (underclassmen) into the system — we need to improve our depth. You have nights like tonight, you just hope it doesn’t happen in the playoffs.”


Villa Maria 66, Academy Park 46

Academy Park (46): Martin 0 0-0 0, Thomas 3 0-0 9, Kinlaw 1 0-0 2, L. Jackson 7 6-10 23, G. Jackson 5 0-3 12, Young 0 0-0 0, Abidu 0 0-0 0, Wilson 0 0-0 0, Solis 0 0-0 0, Hill 0 0-0- 0, Myrick 0 0-0 0, Totals 16 6-13 46.

Villa Maria (66): Chieffalo 3 0-0 6, Morgan Warley 4 1-1 10, Myla Warley 2 1-2 5, Ford 2 0-0 4, Ryan 8 3-4 19, F. Iacone 4 1-2 9, Trebelev 2 2-4 7, Tague 1 0-0 2, Kirby 0 0-0 0, Lange 1 0-0 2, Steinetz 0 0-0 0, Cronley 1 0-0 2, E. Iacone 0 0-2 0, Murphy 0 0-0 0, Totals 28 8-15 66.

Academy Park 5 11 16 14 — 46

Villa Maria 23 16 11 16 — 66

Three-point goals: L. Jackson 3, Thomas 3, G. Jackson 2, Trebelev, Morgan Warley.

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