By Clay Sauertieg
For MediaNews Group
The Gwynedd Mercy girls basketball team hasn’t faced a ton of adversity this season.
The Monarchs entered Sunday’s PIAA Class 4A second round contest with Bermudian Springs at a perfect 25-0 with all but four of those victories coming by double digits.
So when the scoreboard read 31-26 in favor of the Eagles at the half, it would’ve been reasonable if District 1 champs began to let panic set in. That didn’t happen, however, as Gwynedd Mercy instead seized control with a 13-4 third quarter on the way to a 58-49 victory.
“We haven’t experienced much all year as far as foul trouble,” Monarchs coach Tom Lonergan said of the early struggles. “So when the two Colemans (Bianca and Sofia) both got into foul trouble, that really put us in a position where we were actually fortunate to only be down what we were.”
Credit, too, must go to the Eagles (24-7). Typically led by a trio of seniors who have all eclipsed 1,000 points for their career, it was a freshman in point guard Victoria Bross who stepped to the forefront for Bermudian early on.
Bross scored five points in the first half while keeping opposing point Hannah Griffin scoreless as the Eagles pulled out a 14-11 lead on the Monarchs (26-0) after one.
“She’s come a long way,” Berm coach Toss Askins said of Bross after the game. “I get on her a little bit. The best thing about this group is that senior has taken her under their wing and she’s really grown as a player.”
In the second quarter, with standout seniors Bianca and Sofia Coleman on the bench with two fouls each, Griffin began to get her offense going. The junior scored seven points in the frame to help steady Gwynedd Mercy.
Meanwhile, Bross continued her strong showing with five more in the quarter, while senior Bailey Oehmig had five points of her own, including a last-second steal and lay in to put the Eagles ahead 31-26 at the break.
“Being down five, knowing that I didn’t have the Colemans for most of that first half, was actually encouraging for me, thinking that ‘okay, if we can just get back to playing what we can on defense, we should be fine,” Lonergan said of the deficit.
Out of the break, Lonergan’s prediction appeared spot on. Sofia Coleman hit a pair of trifectas to put the Monarchs ahead 32-31 a little more than two minutes into the half and the Eagles didn’t get on the board until a Hannah Chenault layup made the score 35-33 in favor of Gwynedd Mercy with 1:57 left in the third quarter.
“We thought they’d come out in the third and bring energy,” Askins said of Monarchs’ run. “They took away some of the stuff we had done. They’re a really good defensive team. We thought we did well on our defensive side, but we weren’t able to attack the way we wanted to offensively. I think they pushed us a little bit out of our gameplan.”
Gwynedd Mercy held the Eagles to just four points in the entirety of the third and took a 39-35 lead into the final frame.
Bermudian continued to struggle offensively as the lid remained on the bucket early in the fourth. The Monarchs stretched the lead out to 44-35 with six minutes left on the clock before an Oehmig triple gave the Eagles a bit of life.
After a Gwynedd Mercy timeout, the Monarchs began to use the lead and lack of a shot clock in high school basketball to their advantage, pulling the ball out and stretching the Bermudian defense, leading to a number of easy looks for center Dylan Burke, who scored eight of her points in the final quarter. A pair of freebies for Burke pushed the lead out to 10 at 49-39 with 3:30 left to play before a Chenault 3-pointer cut it back to seven,
That’s as close as the Eagles got, however, as the Monarchs shot 6-of-6 from the foul line down the stretch to close it out and advance to Wednesday’s quarterfinals against defending state champ Archbishop Wood.
“We certainly can’t give up 31 points in the first half like we did tonight,” Lonergan said of the looming matchup. “So we’re going to have to get back to what we do extremely well on defense.”
Gwynedd Mercy 57, Bermudian Springs 49
Bermudian Springs 14 17 4 14 – 49
Gwynedd Mercy 11 15 13 18 – 58
Bermudian Springs (49): Lillian LaBure 0 1-2 1, Lily Peters 4 3-3 11, Bailey Oehmig 4 2-2 13, Victoria Bross 5 0-0 12, Hannah Chenault 5 0-0 12. Non-scorers: Metzger, A. Peters. Totals 18 6-7 49.
Gwynedd Mercy (57): Maddie Newell 3 0-0 9, Megan McDonnel 1 0-0 2, Hannah Griffin 5 4-6 16, Bianca Coleman 5 0-0 13, Sofia Coleman 4 0-0 10, Dylan Burke 3 2-2 8. Totals: 21 6-8 57.
3-pointers: BS-7 (Oehmig 3, Bross 2, Chenault 2); GM-9 (Newell 3, B. Coleman 3, S. Coleman 2, Griffin 1).