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Gwynedd Mercy uses fourth-quarter run to top Pope John Paul II in District 1-AAA final

UPPER DUBLIN — It took five years for Pope John Paul II to reach the District 1-AAA final.

Unfortunately, PJP’s agonizing wait to sit atop District 1-AAA must wait another year.

Carly Heineman sparked Gwynedd Mercy off the bench while Erica DeCandido also scored in double-figures as the Lady Monarchs overcame a third-quarter deficit to edge PJP in the District 1-AAA title game, 47-42, Saturday afternoon at Upper Dublin high school.

Heineman finished the game with a team-high 12 points, while shooting 6-for-6 from the foul line. The freshman, spelling an injured Maura Conroy in the second half, erupted for eight of the Lady Monarchs’ nine points in the third.

DeCandido then took over in the fourth, pacing her team on a 9-0 run to take a five-point lead that it wouldn’t relinquish.

“It’s great, especially for our seniors to make history,’ Heineman said. “For me to come in as a freshman was nice. I was just in my head thinking that I’m apart of this team and if he’s (head coach Tom Lonergan) putting you out here then you’re here to make the shots and you’re out here for a reason.’

The district championship is the first for Lonergan, who won his 600th game earlier this season. It’s also the first district championship for Gwynedd Mercy since 1993. Lonergan, who’s in his second season at GM, won 270 games at Bishop McDevitt between 1984-1999 before compiling 311 victories at Central Bucks East from 1999-2013.

Meanwhile, Pope John Paul II failed to capture its first District 1-AAA championship and will face District 3’s Berks Catholic in the first round of the PIAA-AAA tournament Saturday, March 7.

“They’ll bounce back, they really will,’ Pope John Paul II head coach Chris Santori said. “The good thing for us is that it’s only a week (between games) so we don’t have a two-week period where you have to wait and wait and wait. We’ll be out competing again. I know we will, that’s the character of this team.’

Susan Bossler finished with a game-high 13 points while Gabby Troisi kept up her torrid scoring effort, finishing with 12, as the Golden Panthers went blow-for-blow with GM in the early going before holding a 32-28 advantage at the end of the third. However, a 3-for-6 effort from the free throw line and six fourth-quarter turnovers hindered PJP’s chances late.

“At the end there, the turnovers hurt us and our execution,’ Santori said. “That’s what it comes down to. They played their butts off. I don’t think it was anything physical that we didn’t do. Every girl that got in played their rear ends off. We just have to finish at the end and that’s just what we didn’t do.

“We had four layups that we missed in the second half; one’s that were gimmies. To win a championship you have to finish. They (GM) did that. They hit their shots at the end, they hit them when they counted and that’s what championship teams do.’

Bossler’s 3-point shooting highlighted a first-half that was limited in scoring. The senior’s two 3-pointers and Lauren Dao’s four second-quarter points helped PJP stake a 20-19 lead at the half before Dahlia Wilson sprung for four points at the beginning of the third to give PJP its largest lead at 24-19.

Heineman helped pace GM throughout the quarter with her aforementioned eight-point effort (scoring six unanswered) as PJP entered the fourth with a 32-28 lead.

That’s where it all fell apart.

Brigit Coleman’s 3-pointer and buckets from DeCandido and Heineman helped key a 9-0 run that put GM up 37-32 early in the fourth. It was a lead it wouldn’t relinquish courtesy of efficient foul shooting from Emily Sullivan (5-for-7) and DeCandidio (3-for-5).

Down 45-42 with under 10 seconds remaining, PJP had a chance to tie but a missed 3-pointer with 4.6 seconds remaining and a subsequent foul sent Sullivan to the line to ice the game and que the celebration.

Standing on the opposite end of the celebration is nothing new for PJP this season, which used a stinging loss to Perkiomen Valley in the PAC-10 semifinal as fuel to its district run.

“We’re just going to keep working hard,’ PJP’s Jenna Widdicombe said. “At this point, there isn’t anything else left to do.’

NOTES — Sullivan finished with nine points while Coleman finished with eight for Gwynedd Mercy … GM shot 19-for-24 from the line while PJP shot 11-for-18. … Widdicombe finished with six points and 12 rebounds in the loss while Wilson finished with five points and eight rebounds.

POPE JOHN PAUL II (42): Dao 1 2-2 4, Bossler 4 2-2 13, Troisi 4 2-6 12, Widdicombe 1 4-6 6, Wilson 2 1-2 5, Thomas 1 0-0 2, Yerger 0 0-0 0, Petery 0 0-0 0, Kohutka 0 0-0 0, Thompson 0 0-0 0, Totals 13 11-18 42.

GWYNEDD MERCY (47): Casey 1 0-0 2, Heineman 3 6-6 12, Cameron 1 0-0 2, Sullivan 2 5-7 9, DeCandido 4 3-5 11, Coleman 2 2-2 8, Senour 0 3-4 3 Totals 13 19-24 47.

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