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Great Valley’s defense shuts down Radnor in District 1 5A semifinal

Lower Merion >> It’s been a fun ride in the District 1 5A girls’ basketball tournament for Great Valley, and thanks to its 47-37 win against Radnor Tuesday evening, the No. 3 seed Patriots (23-4) will face top seed Springfield in the District 1 5A championship final Saturday at 1 p.m. at Temple University.
When the final buzzer sounded Tuesday, and the sizable Great Valley student section mobbed the happy players on the court at Harriton High School, the Patriots could finally think about their next destination – the Liacouras Center.
“My first thought was, ‘We’re heading to Temple,’” said junior guard Emily DuPont, who scored 15 first-half points. “This is the first time I think that the Great Valley girls team has made it to Temple. We are so excited to be going there, and when the student section came on the court at the end of the game tonight, that made us even happier. It was really cool.”
Great Valley’s lone senior, Tessa Liberatoscioli, who led all scorers with 17 points, said, “My first thought was that we’re going to Temple, and that we can win this.”

The Patriots have featured a strong defense in all three of their district playoff games, beating Pope John Paul II 56-32 Feb. 18, then defeating No. 6 seed West Chester East 51-31 Feb. 21.
Tuesday evening, Great Valley limited No. 10 seed Radnor to just three points in the second quarter, and headed into the locker room at halftime with a commanding 30-13 lead.
“Radnor is a strong, physical team,” said Great Valley head coach Alex Venarchik. “To hold them to three points in a quarter is a tremendous effort on the defensive end by our girls. And that allowed us to get those run-out baskets, those transition buckets.”
Great Valley never trailed, and built a small lead in the first quarter that increased to 15-10 with 18.2 seconds left on junior Leah Valyo’s three-point play. Radnor brought the ball upcourt following Valyo’s score, but the tough Great Valley defense did not allow the Raiders to get a shot off in the closing seconds.
Radnor junior guard Brienne Williams hit a trey early in the second quarter to cut Great Valley’s lead to 15-13, but the Patriots shut down Radnor for the remainder of the quarter, going on a 15-0 run that featured numerous transition baskets following Raider missed shots and turnovers.
The Patriots held a 19-13 lead with three minutes to go before halftime, then following a missed Radnor shot from the outside, DuPont broke free for a layup to make it 21-13. Following another Radnor miss, DuPont drove in for a layup 38 seconds later.
After a few turnovers on both sides in this hard-fought battle, Liberatscioli was fouled for a one-and-one with 54.9 seconds left. She made both ends to give Great Valley a 25-13 lead, then following a Raider missed shot from underneath, the Great Valley senior grabbed a rebound, got fouled again, and made both shots to give the Patriots a 27-13 with 34.2 seconds left.
In the second quarter, Liberatoscioli went 6-for-6 from the free throw line.
“Tessa is our anchor,” said Venarchik. “Tonight, more than ever, she didn’t force anything. It was Radnor concentrating on Tess, and Emily getting out and getting some buckets [in the first half], and other girls stepping in and filling that void.”
In the first half, DuPont kept cutting to the inside and getting open, and scoring one layup after another. Just before the halftime buzzer, DuPont drove in for a layup and was fouled. Her free throw gave Great Valley a 30-13 halftime lead.
“Emily [DuPont] was like a Swiss Army knife tonight,” said Venarchik. “We had her playing every position, she really showed her versatility.”
In the first half, Great Valley held senior forward Ellie Mueller, Radnor’s all-time leading scorer, and Williams to just nine combined points.
“We switched up our defenses a little bit in the second quarter, wanted to restrict their good looks inside,” said Venarchik. “We wanted to keep Mueller and Williams out of the paint. I also thought Ashley [Sullivan] and Laura [Lum] did a fantastic job up front with the 2-3 zone.”
DuPont said, “In the second quarter, we decided to do a box-and-one on No. 11 [Williams], take her out of the game.”
In the third quarter, Radnor’s offense began to warm up a little, with Mueller getting inside for a trio of layups. While Radnor missed on quite a few outside shots in the first half Tuesday, the Raiders got a couple of timely treys from Williams and senior Julia Rigolizzo in the fourth quarter. The first one, by Rigolizzo, cut Great Valley’s lead to 41-31 with 2:42 left.
Thirty seconds later, Liberatoscioli swished a couple of free throws, then after a Radnor miss from the outside, broke inside for a layup to give Great Valley a 45-32 lead.
Williams’ trey cut Great Valley’s lead to 45-37, but there was only 1:07 to go, and that ended the Radnor scoring for the night.
The Patriots have been lauded for their rebounding at times this season, and against Radnor Tuesday, Liberatoscioli grabbed eight boards, with Sullivan getting five, junior Emma DeRobertis four and DuPont three.
“Our rebounding was good in the second quarter and the fourth quarter,” noted Venarchik.

Great Valley 47, Radnor 37
Radnor 10 3 11 13 – 37
Great Valley 15 15 7 10 – 47
Radnor (37): Williams 4 0-0 10, Tague 0 0-0 0, Colleran 0 0-0 0, Hopson 0 0-2 0, Rinehart 1 0-0 2, Rigolizzo 2 1-2 6, Mueller 5 3-4 13, Mooney 0 0-0 0, Higgins 0 0-0 0, Davis 1 0-0 2, Austen 2 0-0 4, Totals 15 4-8 37.
Great Valley (47): Liberatoscioli 4 9-10 17, DeRobertis 1 0-0 2, Sullivan 2 2-4 6, DuPont 7 1-1 15, Sioutis 0 1-2 1, Valyo 2 1-1 6, Lum 0 0-1 0, Curley 0 0-1 0, Pyc 0 0-0 0, Totals 16 14-20 47.
3-point field goals: Radnor – Williams 2, Rigolizzo, Great Valley – Valyo.

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