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Districts Preview: Youth key to Garnet Valley’s tourney run

It’s difficult to imagine where Garnet Valley would be without its underclassmen starters.

Seniors Sam Tomasetti and Maddie Ireland acknowledge that the youngsters have performed key roles for a 21-win team.

The Jaguars wrapped up their third straight Central League championship Monday night with a 53-36 rout of Springfield and earned the No. 3 seed in the District One Class AAAA tournament. GV hosts 30th-seeded Oxford in a first-round game Friday night.

Sophomore Nicole Barnes (22) has become a key player for No. 3 seed Garnet Valley, which starts its District One Class AAAA tournament Friday night against Oxford. (Digital First Media/Robert J. Gurecki)

Sophomore Nicole Barnes (22) has become a key player for No. 3 seed Garnet Valley, which starts its District One Class AAAA tournament Friday night against Oxford. (Digital First Media/Robert J. Gurecki)

Coming into the season the Jags looked to fill the void left by All-Delco Jordan Ireland and Macy Goldbach, both of whom averaged better than 11.5 points per game as seniors. They were two of the Jags’ leading scorers a season ago, along with senior guard Maddie Ireland.

Tomasetti will never be mistaken as a pure scorer. She makes the occasional big shot, but her job is to play excellent defense and rebound. She does that very well.

Maddie Ireland is the engine, and the weight of carrying the team could have fallen entirely on her shoulders this season. But freshmen Emily McAteer and Brianne Borcky as well as sophomore Nicole Barnes, made sure that wouldn’t be the case.

McAteer is averaging 11.8 points per game and Borcky is chipping in 8.2 ppg. Those scoring outputs supplement Ireland’s team-leading 13.0 ppg. Barnes picked up her scoring in recent weeks and has the potential to grow into a floor general at the point. Barnes netted a season-high 12 points in the Central League championship game.

“They’ve been huge and really helped us, especially with the loss of Macy and Jordan,” Tomasetti said. “Maybe they were nervous the first one or two games, but they settled in really well.”

Ireland knows what it’s like to be a newcomer expected to contribute as a young player. She’s been there and done that.

“I can definitely relate to them because I was in their position before. I know they’re still learning,” Ireland said. “They’ve stepped up a lot and they’ve been a big part of the team.”

The winner of Oxford-Garnet Valley plays the winner of No. 14 Spring-Ford and No. 19 Plymouth-Whitemarsh in the second round.

In other District One Class AAAA first-round games:

Saturday
No. 32 Penncrest at No. 1 North Penn, 1:30 p.m.

The Lions (11-11) are a heavy underdog against the Maidens (20-2). An example of how good North Penn is: the Maidens pummelled Garnet Valley, 73-41, at the Blue Chip Super Showcase Classic in late-January and captured the Suburban One League championship by defeating Central Bucks West.

Penncrest qualified for the district tournament for the first time in 13 years. The Lions began the season with a 9-2 record, but have lost nine of their last 11 games. They are led by junior guard Katie Russo and sophomore forward Grace Harding.

No. 17 Penn Wood at No. 16 Cheltenham, 1:30 p.m.

The Patriots (16-6) meet the Panthers (15-7) in the first round for a second straight year. Coming off a third straight Del Val League title, the visiting Pats hope this year’s outcome goes their way. Cheltenham defeated Penn Wood, 71-56, in last year’s game and also handed the Pats a 60-57 loss earlier this season. The Patriots will rely on All-Delco senior forward Dahnye Redd, who is the top scorer in the county with 21.7 points per game. Redd went off for 29 points in the teams’ previous meeting.

No. 29 Radnor at No. 4 Mount St. Joseph’s, 1:30 p.m.

The Raiders (11-11) dropped five of their last seven decisions and enter districts on a three-game skid. They fell to Mount in the second round of last year’s tournament before winning in playbacks to take ninth place and earning a spot in the PIAA tourney. Senior forward Kristin Hamill averages a team-high 13.0 points per game.

MSJ fell to Gwynedd Mercy in the Catholic Academies League championship game Tuesday, 35-28. Ashley Smith led with 12 points in the loss.

No. 25 Haverford at No. 8 C.B. South, 1:30 p.m.

The Fords (12-10) are back in the district playoffs for a second year in a row following an up-and-down regular season that concluded with three consecutive defeats. They’ll go as far as senior point guard Mollie Reynolds will lead them, but the Fords also have sharpshooting senior guard Ashley Murphy, one of the best 3-point shooters in Delco, and power forward Amanda Battista to lean on.

The Fords will have their hands full against C.B. South, which had won eight straight before falling to C.B. West in the SOL playoffs last week. Senior guard Jordan Vitelli is one to watch.

No. 24 C.B. East at No. 9 Springfield, 1:30 p.m.

The Cougars (18-5) were one of the county’s best comeback stories in 2015-16. Under second-year coach Ky McNichol, they are back in the postseason on the heels of their run to the Central League title game. Junior guard Maggie O’Connell is an ace floor general and freshmen Belle Mastropietro and Jordan D’Ambrosio continue to emerge into standout players with bright futures. Springfield is vying for its first district playoff win since 2013, when they beat Upper Darby in a first-round overtime thriller.

The winner advances to play Haverford or C.B. South in the next round.

NOTES >> Only one Delco team qualified for the girls tournament in District One Class AAA. Sun Valley (8-13) is the 10th seed and will travel to No. 7 Nazareth Academy Tuesday… The Christian Academy earned the fifth seed in District One Class A as a first-year member of the PIAA. The Crusaders (15-5) hit the road to play No. 4 Jenkintown. Meanwhile, Delco Christian (18-6), behind Bicentennial League MVP Siani McNeil, is the second seed and will host No. 7 Friends Select. Class A play gets under way Saturday, Feb. 20.

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