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West Chester East completes trifecta, qualifies for states by beating Penn Wood

LANSDOWNE — The theme that was talked about often during the West Chester East girls basketball season was “Playoffs, Plus.”

“We wanted to be in the Ches-Mont playoffs, and we were,” head coach Erin Listrani said. “We wanted to be in the district playoffs, and we are. And we wanted to be in the state playoffs.”

With Tuesday night’s 52-43 Class 5A district play-back round victory at Penn Wood, the Vikings have achieved the last of their three goals. They know they will be either the fifth or sixth seed from District 1 when the PIAA Class 5A tournament begins at the end of next week.

On the other hand, Penn Wood’s season, which included the Del Val League championship, came to an end Wednesday night.

West Chester East outscored Penn Wood in the fourth period, 17-8, with 14 of those points coming on 19 attempts from the foul line. Junior Lauren Klieber (13 points, eight rebounds, three steals, two blocked shots) hit a 3-point field goal in the opening minute of the period for the Vikings and went 4-for-4 at the line before the final buzzer.

Freshman Mikayla Kushner (nine points, nine rebounds, four assists) got five of her points on free throws in the last eight minutes, and Mary Grace Kerns (eight rebounds, six assists) dropped in three of her four foul shots in the fourth quarter.

“The thing about this team is its selflessness,” Kerns said. “We’re more than a team because of the way we stick up for each other.

“At the beginning of the season, people were worried because we didn’t have any seniors. Our attitude has always been positive. Even if we had a loss, we came back and were so much better the next game.”

WC East overcame 6-for-17 shooting in the opening period to claim a 14-10 lead and walked off the floor at halftime leading by five points.

Ashley Cyrus (23 points, four steals, two assists) scored eight points in the third period, pulling Penn Wood even entering the last quarter. The Pats, who were missing injured starter Xenia Gillis, lost two starters on fouls in the closing minutes as East paraded to the foul line.

“We played well together and never gave up,” Listrani said. “The turnovers we had early might have been from all the excitement of playing on the road and knowing what this game meant. We knew Penn Wood had a great team, but we had to have the drive to go after our goal.

“Once we realized what it would take to extend the season as long as we can, we were much more composed, especially in the second half. I can’t say how pleased I am with all that they have done. And now we’ll get back to practice (Wednesday) knowing that we have other games to prepare for.”

Jada Hutt, who grabbed nine rebounds, had one assist and blocked one shot, was Penn Wood’s other double-figure scorer with 10 points.

“Going 19-6 in my first year back here, I have to be proud of what we have done,” said Monique Boykins, a former Penn Wood player who is in her second stint as Patriots head coach. “These young ladies have worked so hard and have learned about what it means to be a team.

“They’ve learned our system and run it very well. They gained confidence in each other by working together. We knew that there could be times when discipline might be an issue. But they did so much, and with only two seniors playing, we’re hoping those who will be coming back will realize what they built this year and will want to improve on it next season.”

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