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Girls Basketball: Defensive Upper Dublin gets revenge on Springfield

Springfield's Kaitlyn Kearney, right, is leaned on by Conestoga's Ryann Jennings as she dribbles upcourt in the first half of Saturday's Central League semifinal. (PETE BANNAN-DAILY TIMES)

SPRINGFIELD — In a role reversal from their previous meeting, Springfield came out flat and trailed all Wednesday evening in a 37-22 loss to Upper Dublin in the PIAA District 1 Class 6A girls playback round.

When the teams met two weeks ago, the Cougars crushed the Cardinals, 27-9, right here on Leamy Avenue.

The difference this time was that Cougars point guard Mia Valerio was in a walking boot that could sideline her for the duration while the visiting Cardinals were riding the stark improvement of freshman point guard Megan Ngo, who hasn’t met a defender she wouldn’t try to post up.

The good news for the seventh-seeded Cougars (17-10), who play Souderton Saturday for seventh place is that they’ve clinched a berth in states.

Though the loss of Valerio proved crippling, it’s also an opportunity for her teammates to show they belong.

“She’s our energizer on the defensive end of the floor,” coach Ky McNichol said. “We’ve got to figure some things out. We had kids step up last week. We’re having kids play positions that they haven’t played all year. We’re hoping this was just a bad game. We’re going to put this one behind us and hope they step up again in the next game.”

The Cardinals (17-9), seeded 19th, oppose eighth-seeded Neshaminy for fifth place this Saturday. Since the hiccup versus the Cougars, the Cardinals have won four of their last five games.

“As a team last time coming in here, we had just had two really tough league losses where we had leads in the fourth quarter against two of the top six teams in the district and we were physically and mentally exhausted,” Upper Dublin coach Morgan Funsten said. “We were just not in a good mental state that day. Since then, obviously we’ve had some big wins and we’re feeling more confident as a team. I think we’re playing more as a team than the last time we were here. And getting off to a quick start is always very helpful. We couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start two weeks ago when we here and today we obviously got off to a really good start in the first quarter.”

Freshman forward Colleen Besachio got the Cardinals in gear scoring 10 of her game-high 14 points in the first quarter, including a triple on a bank shot. That put the Cougars in a 14-8 hole entering the second frame.

The Cougars pounded away but could get no closer than six points the rest of the half and trailed by double digits in the last 12-plus minutes of the second stanza. Missed layups, bad bounces, you name it plagued the Cougars as they flailed away.

While the Cougars struggled without Valerio, freshman point Ngo (9 points) played an outstanding game at the point for the Cardinals.

“She’s playing well above her age,” Funsten said. “She did a great job of getting people the ball, especially when Springfield was doubling and that was another of the keys this time, take care of the ball. We did that a lot better.”

Alexis Aaron led the Cougars with six points.

McNichol has her fingers crossed she and the Cougars will find some bright spots when they take a long look at the video of the games Valerio has been sidelined.

“We were just not here tonight,” McNichol said. “We were very out of sorts tonight and we’ve just got to regroup and get ready for the next one.”

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