Connect with us

Girls Basketball

Downingtown East defense leads the way to Ches-Mont Tournament title

Downingtown East poses with the Ches-Mont championship trophy after defeating Great Valley. (Nate Heckenberger – For MediaNews Group)

West Chester >> Storming out of the gates with its trademark aggressive defense, Downingtown East smothered Great Valley’s attack early, rolling to a second consecutive Ches-Mont Girls’ Basketball Tournament title with a 63-36 win Tuesday evening at West Chester University’s Hollinger Field House.
The Cougars (18-6) limited the Patriots to a lone field goal in the first quarter, and built a 14-2 lead at the end of the period. By halftime, the defending Ches-Mont tourney champs had a 34-10 advantage against a Patriot squad that had won 12 of its last 13 games, gone undefeated in the Ches-Mont American Division, and was ranked third in PIAA District 1 5A.
At the middle of the D-East defensive deluge was 6-foot-5 senior center Bella Smuda, the reigning All-Area Player of the Year. By halftime, she had worked her way inside for 14 points, blocked several Great Valley shots, and pulled down a bundle of rebounds.
In the first 2 1/2 minutes of the contest, the Cougars failed to score, missing several opportunities underneath. With Great Valley holding a 2-0 lead, Smuda triggered the Cougars’ subsequent 16-0 run, breaking the D-East scoring ice with a trio of layups.
“Everyone on our team was super-excited for this game, this [title] is something we’ve worked for all season long,” said a smiling Smuda. “Winning it twice [in a row] is really cool. I think our defense was really, really good [tonight.”
In the first half, D-East’s defense often limited Great Valley to one shot per possession, and pulled down enough rebounds on the defensive end to keep the ball in the Cougars’ hands. Smuda collected 11 rebounds for the game, while 5-foot-8 sophomore standout guard Lauren Kent and 5-foot-9 junior guard Caroline Brennan each grabbed six boards.
“That four-minute defensive run early really got us going,” said Kent, who combined with junior guard Mary McFillin for 21 points. “It’s great to win [this title] as a family, everyone on this team is part of the family, we all stick together.”
Great Valley head coach Alex Venarchik was impressed with the Cougars’ multi-faceted attack.
“It’s a handful to match up with [D-East’s] guards; their inside-outside combination is just a lot [to handle],” said Venarchik. “We had to do a lot of things right, including offensively and shooting the ball, to beat them. … If you’re going to get beat, you want to get beat playing your best, and our girls played their hearts out tonight.”

Downingtown East celebrates their Ches-Mont League championship. (Nate Heckenberger – For MediaNews Group)

Downingtown East head coach Tom Schurtz said, “I think the key tonight for us was defense, as it always is. We have to make shots difficult for the other team, and we have to create opportunities in our defensive sets. We came out a little sluggish early [first few minutes], but we were able to lock it in and start playing good fundamental defense.
“I thought our first half was about as efficient as I’ve seen us – we did a nice job of making it difficult for them to get easy baskets. Great Valley is a very good rebounding team, and we did a good job of keeping them off the glass. I always think of offensive rebounding as the gravy, the extra possession, and we did a good job of limiting them tonight.”
In the first half, Downingtown East limited Great Valley to three field goals, and eight of the 10 Patriots’ points were scored by the team’s lone senior, Tessa Liberatoscioli. The Patriot senior had tallied 28 points in Great Valley’s 58-53 semifinal win.
After halftime, Great Valley began to find its shooting touch, as junior guard Ashley Sullivan hit a trio of treys and junior guard Emily DuPont nailed three field goals.
“Playing in these big games is a learning experience for us, and as a young team it’s something we have to go through,” said Venarchik, whose Patriots now advance to the District 1 5A tournament. “Downingtown East has that experience and it’s something to fall back on. When we came out today, we had all kinds of adrenaline, running all over the court, and shots just didn’t fall. D-East was composed, and they excelled in the first half. Now we get our rest, and push the reset button, and look forward to the next portion of the season.”
When Schurtz was asked what his first thought was when the final buzzer sounded Tuesday, he responded, “That both teams ended the game healthy. Alex [Venarchik] is a great coach, and I want his team to find success in Districts.”
Great Valley (20-4), the third seed in District 1 5A, will open the district tournament Feb. 18 against No. 14 seed Pope John Paul.
Venarchik said, “After the game tonight, I reminded our girls that it’s going to be this type of atmosphere all the time [in Districts]. We’ve had success in the regular season playing in big games, and the playoffs are always a notch above that [in atmosphere].
“I think our girls were disappointed [after the loss], but I also think they’re ready to play in Districts. It’s a good group. So, hopefully, as more of our juniors and sophomores and freshmen get that [playoff] experience, it’s going to roll over into continued success, this year and hopefully into next year.”
Downingtown East, the No. 9 seed in District 1 6A, will play 24th seed Upper Darby in the first round of Districts on Friday. A total of 11 teams from District 1 6A will advance to States. Last year, the Cougars, the eighth seed in District 1 6A, finished eighth in the district tournament and lost in the first round of States.
Schurtz said, “I think we have a nice balance [of talent]; we’ve stressed all year about the importance of having players accept that the team comes before the individual, and this group has absolutely, wholeheartedly bought into that.”

Downingtown East 63, Great Valley 36
Great Valley 2 8 13 13 – 36
Downingtown East 14 20 10 19 – 63
Great Valley (36): Liberatoscioli 3 5-8 11, Dill 0 0-0 0, DeRobertis 0 0-2 0, Sullivan 5 0-0 13, DuPont 3 1-2 7, Sioutis 0 0-0 0, Valyo 0 0-0 0, Lum 1 0-0 2, Curley 1 0-0 3, Pyc 0 0-0 0, Totals 13 6-12 36.
Downingtown East (63): Smuda 10 1-2 21, Brennan 2 1-1 5, Kent 4 3-5 11, McFillin 4 0-0 10, Denning 2 2-2 7, Hewitt 0 0-0 0, Geary 2 0-0 4, Ford 0 2-2 2, Person 1 1-2 3, Frain 0 0-0 0, Totals 25 10-14 63.
3-point field goals: GV – Sullivan 3, Curley. DE – McFillin 2, Denning.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

one × five =


More in Girls Basketball