DOYLESTOWN >> Walking off the floor at halftime, Jess Broskey was feeling a little down on herself.
The Central Bucks West senior hadn’t shot the ball very well, even with North Penn giving her the extra space to do so, but any negative vibes wouldn’t survive past the threshold of the team’s locker room. This was a time for positivity and Broskey got loads of it during the break and came firing in the second half.
Broskey and fellow senior Olivia Irons proved to be as clutch as they come as the No. 2 Bucks withstood a furious charge from No. 10 North Penn to pick up a 68-59 win in their District 1-6A girls basketball quarterfinal game Saturday evening.
“We always come together at the end, we’re always ready to pick each other up,” Irons said. “Jess had a tough go of it in the first half and we just told her ‘keep shooting.’”
The third meeting between the SOL Continental foes proved to be an absolute barnburner in front of a packed house at West. While the Bucks swept the regular season series with the Knights, West coach Zach Sibel confessed North Penn was not a team he had hoped to see again this season.
North Penn jumped out to a quick 7-3 lead before West senior Maddie Burke took over to end the first quarter. The Penn State bound guard notched 11 points in the frame and West closed on a 7-0 run for a 20-14 lead after eight minutes.
Saturday’s contest was also a physical one that saw North Penn put West in the bonus not 30 seconds into the second quarter, so the Knights had to adjust what they were doing to try and slow down the Bucks.
“I’m so proud of the kids, there were a lot of factors today, we were in foul trouble, we had kids on the bench we couldn’t play because we didn’t want them in more foul trouble and it would have been really easy for them to give up,” North Penn coach Jen Carangi said. “They didn’t. They fought and kept fighting and that’s the thing as their coach I’m so proud of.”
The Knights stopped short of throwing their water cooler out there defensively by using a lot of face-guarding on Burke and sophomore Emily Spratt, cutting the lead to 30-25 at the break. While nobody had more than Valerie McGriff’s six at break, six Knights had scored and they held Burke to just one second quarter point.
Broskey managed five in the frame but she was still unsure as the Bucks gathered to regroup at half.
“I give it all to my teammates, everyone could tell I was down, so every single person walking into the locker room kept saying ‘Jess, keep shooting,’” Broksey said. “It was everybody, I could name every single person in the locker room. It’s a thing where I hold my follow-through so they if that’s what it takes, let it fly.”
Irons saw something that Broskey didn’t and on three straight plays to open the third quarter, the guard found Broskey behind the arc and she just let it fly. Broskey netted the first 11 points of the quarter for the Bucks and finished the frame with 14 points as West opened up a 12-point lead.
Even as those first three looks, follow-through held way up, went in, Broskey didn’t try for the heat check.
“I know my limits, I wanted to take the smart shots and the right shots,” Broskey said. “But once I started going, I kept going.”
Irons added to her three assists with five points as the two seniors combined for all 19 West points in the third and again forced North Penn to adapt.
“They scored 30 points from the three-point line, so even when you try to take away a player like Maddie who is phenomenal, they have so many other weapons and there’s nobody you can really leave alone,” Carangi said. “We tried to do that in the first half, then Broskey hits the three straight threes to start the second have and we have to change again.”
North Penn was far from finished and roared back in the fourth. McGriff and Rachel Dunn scored the first six of the stanza before freshman Abby Plaugher banked in a trey to turn West’s 12-point lead to a mere three with 6:20 to go.
Burke’s known as a shooter but the senior is not a one-dimensional player. With a tremendous amount of hustle and desire, she managed to poke the ball away from a North Penn player, chase it down and dive on the ball for a steal right in front of the Bucks’ bench with 5:33 to go.
Sibel had to use a timeout with Burke on the floor, but it worked out as Broskey found energizer Paige Gilbert for a three off the inbound for a huge swing play.
“To have a player like Maddie make a play like that, it’s everybody doing that, we’re a hustle team and an energy team,” Sibel said. “In that timeout, we just said we have to be solid with the ball, not doing anything crazy, just make the right passes and the right reads.”
Easier said than done as North Penn’s press caused the Bucks to get a little too sped up and the teams went on a frantic spree of trading turnovers with Carley Adams managing to sneak a bucket in for the Knights. McGriff was able to score with 3:35 to play and suddenly, West looked up to see its lead at just 54-52.
West got an inbound under its offensive basket and Burke, again being covered, found Broskey in the right corner. The senior again let it fly, canning the three with 3:03 to go for a five-point lead.
“They were facing Maddie and Spratt, we ran a downscreen and it just so happened I was open,” Broskey said. “They were giving me a lot of space, so I just let it fly. They were giving me so much space, everyone kept telling me I had to take advantage. I was in my head a little, but once I got out there, I knew I had nothing to lose.”
The three was the last of Broskey’s 22 points in the game but the game was still far from over. Irons was ready as the Knights started to foul trying to extend the game. She hit 9-of-10 at the line over the final 2:53 of the game and coupled with a pair from Burke, West closed 11-of-12 at the line to ice their trip to the semifinals.
“I’m pretty confident on the line,” Irons said. “I tell myself to relax, do your routine and let it fly.”
Irons, who closed out the second round win over Neshaminy at the line, was in her zone.
“I told her to put on a clinic,” Broskey said.
“I didn’t hear that,” Irons said. “It’s not what I was thinking, but when everyone is yelling and saying things, their student section I think was barking, I just tune it out.”
North Penn will try to build momentum for states in the 5-8 playback bracket, starting with a third game against CB East on Wednesday. The Knights split with the Patriots in the regular season.
McGriff led the Knights with 14 points, Alli Lindsay had 13 and seven rebounds and Rachel Dunn chipped in 12 off the bench.
“That’s the important thing, we get to finish out next week and play for the best seed we can,” Carangi said. “Beyond that, our season almost starts all over again with states.”
West will face No. 3 Spring-Ford, a 48-46 winner over No. 11 Central Bucks East at Wissahickon in its first semifinal since 2017. Irons finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists, Broskey added five offensive rebounds, Burke closed with 16 points and Gilber netted seven with five boards, four steals and three charges drawn.
The current seniors were freshmen in 2017, so this time it’s a little different.
“We have a list of goals in the locker room, this was one of them and we keep taking one game at a time,” Irons said.
“We wanted to go out with a bang,” Broskey said. “It means a lot that we can rally each other when things don’t go our way, the way we keep picking each other up, it’s like no one can stop us.”
CENTRAL BUCKS WEST 68, NORTH PENN 59
CENTRAL BUCKS WEST 20 10 21 17 – 68
NORTH PENN 14 11 14 20 – 59
CBW: Paige Gilbert 2-4 7, Olivia Irons 1 11-12 14, Emily Spratt 1 2-3 4, Jess Broskey 7 4-6 22, Maddie Burke 4 5-6 16, Lilly Evans 1 0-0 2, Anna Blue 1 0-0 3. Totals: 17 24-31 68.
NP: Alli Lindsay 5 0-0 13, Alaina Mullaly 2 0-1 6, Kate Early 2 0-0 5, Carley Adams 2 2-6 6, Valerie McGriff 5 4-4 14, Rachel Dunn 4 4-4 12, Abby Plaugher 1 0-0 3, Imani Plaza 0 0-2 0. Totals: 21 10-17 59.
3-pointers: CBW – Broskey 4, Burke 3, Blue, Irons, Gilbert; NP – Lindsay 3, Mullaly 2, Early, Plaugher.