LOWER POTTSGROVE >> Central Bucks West’s season came to an end with a 60-47 loss to Freedom in the second round of the PIAA-6A state playoffs Tuesday night at Pottsgrove Senior High School.
The (1-1) Bucks struggled with fouls throughout the game. Senior Maddie Burke was whistled for three fouls in the first 4:14 of the game. The (11-2) Patriots were in the bonus for the final 8:26 of the first half and attempted 20 free throws in the fourth quarter.
Burke, a Penn State commit, appeared to be incorrectly credited with her third foul. The whistle came with 3:46 remaining in the first quarter and CB West behind, 7-4.
Freedom hit both free throws to go ahead 9-4 and Burke headed to the bench until there was 3:18 remaining in the first half and the Bucks trailed, 27-11.
“She’s the best player in the state,” West coach Zach Sibel said. “When that happens you’re going to have to adjust a little bit. When you have a person that can fill it up like that and she’s off the floor – that hurts. It was a tough circumstance, but it was something that we had to fight through.”
“It’s actually terrible,” Burke said of watching with three fouls, “knowing that it could be your last game. It was just tough.”
The Bucks immediately went on a 4-0 run when Burke returned. She found Emily Spratt for a layup and followed that with a put-back basket to make it 27-15. At the half Freedom led, 32-17.
The teams played an even third quarter, both scoring nine points and sending the Patriots to the fourth with a 41-26 advantage.
Burke picked up her fourth and fifth fouls back-to-back in the fourth quarter. She was whistled for her fourth with 6:24 to go trailing 41-29. Her fifth came on the ensuing inbounds pass. It was her first time fouling out this season.
The Bucks didn’t give up without their star. Spratt made a basket through contact and converted the free throw before adding another two points. It was an 8-0 CB West run and the District 1 champs were within seven, 41-34, with 5:20 to go.
“It’s just adversity and handling the adversity of the refs, the crowd and the environment of it all,” Burke said. “Just keep going. They wanted to do it for the seniors and everything.”
At 4:58, West’s Paige Gilbert was called for an intentional foul – her fifth. Freedom hit both free throws and found an open lane for a layup on the ensuing possession to build the lead back to 11, 45-34.
“(The ref) explained himself,” Sibel said of the rare intentional foul call. “He made a call. He stuck with it. I try not to talk about referees. He made a call, he stuck with it. He gave me an explanation and that was that.”
Spratt added four more of her game-high 21 points and Anna Blue hit a three to get the Bucks back within single digits, 50-41, with 2:43 to go, but that’s as close as they’d get. Freedom shot 15-for-20 from the charity stripe in the fourth and closed out the win, 60-47.
The loss, in which the Bucks were whistled for 29 fouls to the Patriots 11, ends a season that saw West win the District 1, Suburban One League Continental Conference and SOL Challenge championships.
“Amazing season,” Burke said. “It just sucks that we had to go out like that, something so out of our control. It’s a rough way to go out but we had a great season.”
“Words are tough to come by,” Sibel said, “but when you get into that locker room I looked every girl in the eyes and I saw the emotions that they had. That shows how much they really wanted this and how much they gave this season. Every single girl on that team, every single person that wore that jersey gave everything she had every practice, every game, every workout, every film session. I told them that this loss won’t define them – it’s how they handled adversity and how they continued to fight even when some of the cards were stacked against them. To be able to continue to respond and continue to fight is toughness and that’s going to be something they take to the real world.”
Freedom 60, CB West 47
Freedom 13 19 9 19 – 60
CB West 8 9 9 21 – 47
F: Ortwain 3 9-10 15, Gill 2 7-10 11, Turpening 4 1-3 12, Levy 2 0-0 4, Kokolus 5 7-7 18, Jefferson 0 0-0 0. Total 16 24-30 60.
CBW: Gilbert 0 0-2 0, Irons 3 2-2 9, Blue 2 0-0 6, Spratt 9 3-3 21, Broskey 1 2-4 4, Burke 2 1-2 5, McGarry 1 0-0 2, Evans 0 0-0 0. Total 18 8-13 47.
3-point goals: F: Turpening 3, Kokolus. CBW: Irons, Blue 2.