EAST WHITELAND >> Prior to the start of the girls’ basketball season, Unionville coach Fred Ellzy said that Great Valley and West Chester Rustin were the teams to beat in the Ches-Mont American title chase. But in the span of three days, the Longhorns have gone from potential contender to the early frontrunner after knocking both off.
On Tuesday it was a comeback triumph over Rustin, and then Thursday Unionville used a similar late-surge to top Great Valley, 39-31. The Patriots went undefeated to win the division crown a year ago.
“This is probably the best three-day stretch we’ve had since my first season,” said Ellzy, who is in his sixth year at the helm. “This is a good group but we are still trying to put four strong quarters together.”
For the fourth time in as many outings, the Longhorns were rather lackluster in the first half only to come on like gangbusters in the second. On Thursday, Unionville trailed most of the way but pulled it out by scoring 10 of the game’s final 11 points, and they all came from the free throw line.
“(Unionville is) a very physical, hard-working team, and Fred has them playing well,” said Patriots head coach Alex Venarchik.
“Our style is that we play strong in the second half,” added UHS junior forward Anya Bedow.
“Usually at the half our coach gives us a good talk. He tells us we need to get it together or we are going to lose, and so far we’ve been able to do it.”
The Longhorns improve to 3-0 in the division (4-0 overall) and will take on West Chester Henderson Friday in a Ches-Mont crossover battle. Great Valley falls to 1-1, and afterwards Venarchik said that his team just needs to work out the kinks by playing games.
“It was (Unionville’s) fourth game and they looked pretty smooth and crisp,” Venarchik said. “I would have loved to have had a full preseason, but everybody is in the same situation (due to the coronavirus).
“This was our first game against an opponent that is really going to get up and play hard. I thought we rushed some shots that were pretty wide open, and that will come with getting experience.”
With a steal, a transition bucket and a free throw, Bedow sparked a 9-0 run to end the third quarter, which gave the Horns their first lead since the opening minutes. There were four lead changes in the final period, but Unionville got into the bonus early and closed it out by knocking down seven of eight from the line in the final 1:13.
“Our players have been doing a good job of finishing at the foul line,” Ellzy said. “We like to attack and that gave us an opportunity to get into the bonus.”
Clinging to a 32-31 lead, Emma Dempsey went 3-4 from the free throw line, and then freshman guard Milana Amoss grabbed a defensive board, was fouled and made both from the foul line to make it 37-31 with 38.3 seconds remaining. Sophomore guard Riley Angstadt added two more to round out the scoring.
“We kind of looked a little disjointed offensively, but that is going to come with playing games,” Venarchik said.
“Our goal was to hold them under 40 points and that gave us a chance, but the ball just didn’t drop for us.”
Guard Laura Lum came off the bench to pace the Patriots with 14 points. The sophomore spearheaded a 9-0 second quarter surge, helping Great Valley take an 18-12 lead into the break.
“(Unionville) was the champs last year and they came out with a championship mentality,” Ellzy said. “I told our girls that we had to match that intensity or they were going to run all over us.
“The slow start in the first half is something we have to work on, but we play good defense and that keeps us in games, and then our offense comes around.”
The Longhorns would up outscoring the Pats 27-13 in the final two quarters, and once again they did it with balance. Angstadt led the way with 10 points and Dempsey chipped in seven.
“I will take that every game,” Ellzy said. “If we have eight players score 6-8 points, this team can be difficult to guard because at any moment someone else can step up and do well.
“It’s nice to get these wins out of the way but there is a long way to go.”
Great Valley managed just five field goals in the second half, and other than Lum and sophomore point guard Ashley Sullivan (nine points), nobody else on the Patriots had more than two points.
“We don’t have a long time to figure this out, but they shouldn’t hang their head,” Venarchik said. “Losing is bad but this is a tough league and we are going to have more opportunities to get where we want to be.”
Unionville 39, Great Valley 31
UNIONVILLE – Dempsey 1 4-6 7; Brown 3 0-0 6; Robbins 1 0-0 2; Bedow 1 4-5 6; Angstadt 3 3-5 10; Amoss 1 4-4 6; West 0 2-2 2. Totals 10 17-22 39.
GREAT VALLEY – DeRobertis 1 0-0 2; Sullivan 4 1-2 9; DuPont 1 0-2 2; Dill 1 0-0 2; Lum 5 1-2 14; Pyc 1 0-0 2. Totals 13 2-6 31.
Unionville 8 4 15 12 – 39
Great Valley 8 10 7 6 – 31
3-pointers: Dempsey, Angstadt, Lum 3.