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Abington’s twin towers shut down Great Valley in district opener

Malvern – Boosted by its twin towers, senior Leah Simmons and junior Lizzie O’Leary, Abington jumped out to an 18-2 lead against host Great Valley on the way to a 51-25 win Saturday evening in the opening round of the PIAA Class AAAA District One girls’ basketball tournament.

Simmons (a Division I volleyball recruit bound for Canisius) and O’Leary combined for 33 points, 15 field goals and a number of key rebounds throughout the game.

Abington head coach Dan Marsh said, “We wanted to establish the inside, and we wanted to speed [Great Valley] up and put some [defensive] pressure on them.”

The Galloping Ghosts are the 18th seed in the tourney, but Marsh pointed out that Abington (17-6) has lost to only two teams in Pennsylvania this season. Abington has one of the most prolific offenses in District One, averaging more than 55 points per game.

Great Valley head coach Alex Venarchik said, “We tried to limit the touches of their two big kids [Simmons and O’Leary]. But we couldn’t get our hands above 6-foot-2. [Abington] had too many second chances.”

Once Abington bolted out to its 18-2 lead with 5:55 to go in the second quarter, Venarchik called a timeout.

“I told [our players] to take a deep breath – we’ve been in this situation before and have come out of it [victorious],” said Venarchik.

A minute later, Great Valley sophomore guard Sadie Buzan hit a three-pointer from the top of the key, then Patriot senior forward Stephanie Aker followed with a trey in the right corner. Another Aker three-pointer late in the first half cut the gap to 19-12.

“I love the way we responded after that [18-2 deficit],” said Venarchik. “That’s the kind of guts and effort we’ve been showing all year.”

Early in the third quarter, Great Valley senior guard Kodi Campetti drive in for a basket following a Patriot takeaway, and the hosts trailed by a 27-14 margin. The Galloping Ghosts then went on a 13-0 run to pretty much put the game away.

“Our 1-3-1 trap worked well against [Great Valley],” noted Marsh.

Campetti and Aker, each playing their final game for the Patriots, led Great Valley with seven points apiece.

Venarchik said, “What our four seniors (Campetti, Aker, starting guard Christina Porreca and starting forward Ashlyn Smith) left on this program is more than just wins and losses. They left a [good] example for the rest of the team to follow in the future.”

The Patriots had one of the most effective defenses in District One this winter, allowing less than 34 points per game heading into the district tourney. They also had a balanced offense.

Venarchik said, “We had a very unselfish team this year – we really shared the ball, and it’s the most balanced [scoring] team I’ve ever had. I don’t think we had one double-digit scorer this year. We had five players [on the court] at any one time who could beat you.”


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