As soon as Hannah Griffin’s shot went through the net, Maddie Newell rushed toward the Mount Saint Joseph Academy player receiving the inbound pass.
The Gwynedd Mercy Academy junior, teaming up with senior Kaylie Griffin, forced a turnover on the baseline late in Saturday’s comeback win over the Mount. Newell gave the Monarchs seven crucial points over the weekend, but it was her defensive presence that stole the show for unbeaten GMA.
“Maddie’s done that all season,” Gwynedd Mercy coach Tom Lonergan said. “If you watch her practice, she practices like she’s trying to tell me ‘I’m staying in this role.’ That’s just her and how hard she plays.”
Newell has served as the Monarchs’ first player off the bench most of the season, but with forward Bianca Coleman sidelined with an injury, she moved up a spot into the first five. Embodying a stay ready to be ready mantra, Newell gave her team a lot of what it needed against the Mount.
The junior, listed at 5-foot-5 on the Monarchs’ roster, came up with four steals and her defensive pressure helped cause a handful of other turnovers, including Kaylie Griffin’s steal that led to Hannah Griffin’s three that cut the lead to 47-46.
“The biggest thing I give her credit for is with her defense, she used to reach and foul a lot and she’s cut back on that,” Lonergan said. “She realized her instincts are so great as far as reading and reacting to the ball, if she stopped fouling, she could cause turnovers. She loves when we press, if you asked her, she’d want to do it 32 minutes every game.”
The Monarchs will need Newell to step up again this week as the travel to Villa Joseph Marie on Tuesday before hosting St. Basil Academy on Friday. St. Basil hasn’t lost since dropping the season opener to Gwynedd Mercy and should the Panthers get past Mount Saint Joseph Academy on Thursday, the end of the week could determine the AACA regular season title.
INVITES TO THE DANCE >> Late last week, District 1 finally offered some insight into what the postseason is going to look like.
With only district champions advancing to the PIAA tournament this winter, the District 1 tournaments are starting later than usual and accepting fewer entrants. This isn’t a huge surprise, given the district took the same approach in the fall with reduced playoff fields.
In Class 6A, 20 teams will qualify for the playoffs instead of the usual 24. Class 5A will take 10 teams instead of 16 for both the boys’ and girls’ championships.
The Class 4A girls tournament will consist of four teams while the boys playoff will contain just two teams. In boys Class 3A, two District 1 qualifiers will join 10 teams from District 11 for a regional playoff, while on the girls’ side, two District 1 teams and nine District 11 entrants will form the field.
Class 2A will take the top two teams into a championship game for both boys and girls. In Class A on the boys’ side, four teams will qualify while the top two girls teams will face off with the winner taking on the top team from District 12 in a regional playoff.
The seeding meeting for District 1 is scheduled for March 3, with the first round of Class 6A and 5A games set to begin March 6.
ABINGTON’S OPPORTUNITY >> The Abington girls’ basketball team has a potentially big week on tap.
Starting on Tuesday, the Ghosts have three games on deck and two of them could go a long way toward determining the SOL Liberty conference. Currently No. 6 in the District 1-6A rankings, Abington could also make some noise at the top of the table as it hits the road to face No. 2 Upper Dublin on Tuesday and No. 1 Plymouth Whitemarsh on Saturday.
In the middle, the Ghosts will host neighborhood rival Cheltenham in a non-conference game on Friday.
Abington dropped its first meeting with the Cardinals 49-38 on Jan. 29 while the Ghosts fell in agonizing fashion against the Colonials on Feb. 9 when PW’s Gabby Cooper hit a free throw with 1.6 left in a 44-43 setback.
Plymouth Whitemarsh, currently 10-0, has two conference games this week against Wissahickon and Hatboro-Horsham prior to Saturday’s SOL Liberty finale with Abington.
The Ghosts have also scheduled nonleague games with Souderton (No. 17 in rankings) on Feb 25 and at Methacton (No. 7) on March 2.
JAY THE DISTRIBUTOR >> William Tennent is hoping to finish strong and qualify for the District 1-6A boys’ basketball tournament.
The Panthers, who have 10 seniors on their roster, will be relying guard Jay Stanfield to help the set table for their last surge. Tennent will host Hatboro-Horsham on Tuesday and Springfield Twp on Wednesday this week before finishing with three nonleague road games.
Tennent has games tentatively scheduled with fellow 6A teams CB South (Feb. 20), Neshaminy (Feb. 23) and Bensalem (Feb. 25) and currently stands No. 17 in the district rankings.
In Friday’s loss to Cheltenham, Stanfield showed some of the passing prowess that’s become a larger part of the Panther’s offense. The senior had seven assists and it’s something coach Robert Mulville has asked Stanfield to do a little more as the season’s gone on.
Tennent has a certified scorer in senior forward Derrik Cosenza, who benefitted from three of Stanfield’s assists and with shooters like Mike Scheller, Kirby Mooney and Walter Young when he returns from injury, Stanfield has plenty of places to go with the ball.
“He’s doing a really good job penetrating into the lane and looking for kick-outs or looking for Derrik,” Mulville said. “He’s creating a lot of offense without scoring, although he’s probably still scoring just as much. He’s focused on getting into the lane and we’re scoring a lot more points.”
Stanfield was the team’s second-leading scorer at the start of the season but was primarily a perimeter scorer. Friday, he only attempted one 3-pointer and scored his eight points inside the arc, including a putback followed by a steal and layup in the final three seconds of the first half.
“He handles the ball a lot, so there are going to be mistakes but it seems like over the past two or three games, he’s seen how it can help us,” Mulville said. “When teams start to look for him to past first, he can explode into the lane and score. It’s something he’s added to his game that’s helping us a lot.”
EXPLORERS SET COURSE >> After two losses to open the PCL season, La Salle has seemed to find its stride with three straight wins.
Games against Neumann-Goretti and Archbishop Wood, a pair of teams expected to contend for spots in the PCL title game, put La Salle in an 0-2 hole but the Explorers went on the road and picked up wins over Archbishop Carroll, Bishop McDevitt and Cardinal O’Hara last week.
A theme for the week, aside from winning on the road, was career nights offensively. Against Carroll, it was junior Sam Brown going off for a personal best 28 points while junior sharpshooter Nix Varano posted a career-best 23 against McDevitt only to top that with 24 in Sunday’s win at O’Hara.
Sophomore Horace Simmons bagged a career-high 26 in the season opener as the Explorers’ offense has posted at least 60 points in four of five games this winter.
La Salle hosts archrival St. Joe’s Prep on Wednesday and welcomes Lansdale Catholic on Friday. The Prep (1-4) is led by Jimmy King, a Holy Cross baseball signee off to a hot start on the hardwood averaging 24.4 ppg.
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