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Hoops for Hope Classic: Slow start sends Garnet Valley to first loss

Villa Maria's Paige Lauder, right, played a key role in handing Garnet Valley its first loss of the season.

PHILADELPHIA — Garnet Valley’s unbeaten run came to an end Saturday.

The Jaguars, the No. 1-ranked team in the Daily Times Super 7, dropped a 58-46 decision to Villa Maria at the 13th annual Hoops for Hope Classic at University of the Sciences for their first loss of the season.

“They’re fast, they have good size and they could shoot the ball,” Garnet Valley coach Joe Woods said of the Hurricanes. “A lot of times, our offense is an inside game, but Villa could match up with us and they got clean blocks on our bigs. You’ve got to give Villa Maria and their coaching staff a lot of credit, they were ready for us and they jumped us early.”

Villa Maria (14-3) led 14-0 three minutes into the game. Buoyed by 6-1 junior forward Paige Lauder and 6-0 senior forward Abby Walheim, the Hurricanes blocked several shots in the first quarter. Their’ energetic defense triggered the Jaguars (17-1) into 17 turnovers, 12 in the first half.

“I’m thrilled with our defense today,” Villa Maria head coach Kathy McCartney said. “Our kids are starting to buy into the fact that our defense is the jumping off point for our offense. It gets us going in transition, it takes the other team out of their rhythm. Their bigs were setting ball screens and we were jumping out and hedging really well on those ball screens so they couldn’t get what they wanted off it.”

Lauder scored eight first-half points and grabbed eight rebounds.

“We knew we had to get out fast,” she said. “Garnet Valley is a really good team, so we had to bring momentum on defense, we knew that playing good defense would create good offense.”

Garnet Valley, trailing 14-0 with 5:00 left in the first quarter, tried climbing back in the game. as a Emily McAteer, who recently became the school’s all-time leading scorer, and Brianne Borcky combined for 10 points to cut the Hurricanes’ lead to 14-10.

But the Jaguars couldn’t get closer.

“The key today was talking and staying active on defense, and running in transition after making a good defensive stop,” Walheim said. “Garnet Valley has a lot of good shooters.”

In the third quarter, Villa Maria junior guard Myla Warley found her scoring touch, connecting on four field goals, the last one a trey from the right side to make it 41-26.

“Myla is our X-factor,” McCartney said. “She’s playing with a little more confidence, and she went to the basket really well today.”

McAteer scored 10 of her 19 points in the third quarter to keep the Jaguars within striking distance. Early in the fourth quarter, when Borcky hit from mid-range, the Hurricanes’ lead was cut to 44-36.

“I give my team credit for coming back after having all those turnovers in the first quarter,” Wood said. “We battled and basically played them even the rest of the way.”

In the next few minutes, Villa’s defense tightened and Walheim scored three consecutive baskets underneath to give the Hurricanes a 52-36 lead. Walheim, who earlier this month became the fifth Villa Maria player to score 1,000 career points, tallied a game-high 27 points and collected nine rebounds for the Hurricanes.

“I like this gym, and it was cool to play here today against a difficult team like Garnet Valley,” Walheim said.

Woods saw Saturday’s contest as a growth opportunity for his Jaguars, who are in control of their destiny in the Central League. If the Jags win their remaining conference games, they will earn the No. 1 seed and a bye to the league championship round.

“At this point of the season, when we’re looking to Central League playoffs, district playoffs and state playoffs, hopefully, playing a team of this caliber is only going to help us,” Wood said. “We’ll look over the film of today’s game and see how we can correct our mistakes and get better. If there’s such a thing as a good loss, this was a good loss.”

In another game at the Hoops for Hope Classic:

Haverford 44, Friends’ Central 33 >> Erin Doherty (six) and Lindsey Lane (five) combined for 11 of the Fords’ 13 points in the third quarter. Haverford led by seven points going into the final period.

Doherty was selected game MVP as she finished with a team-high 16 points. Lane followed with 12 points and Annalena O’Reilly tossed in seven.

Archbishop Ryan 52, Episcopal Academy 37 >> Allie Sillo scored 11 points and earned game MVP honors for the Churchwomen (6-14). Riley Cassidy added nine points.

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