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Marisa, Peters Twp. too much for Garnet Valley in PIAA title tilt

Emily McAteer, right, gets a hug from Garnet Valley coach Joe Woods after he looped a silver medal around her neck Friday night. Morgan Falcone, left, looks on. The Jaguars went down to Peters Twp. in the PIAA Class 6A championship game in Hershey. (MARK PALCZEWSKI - FOR MEDIANEWS GROUP)

HERSHEY — Brianne Borcky barely had the strength to speak the words.

“I don’t really have a voice,” she said.

The Garnet Valley senior fought through the pain to crack a smile and verbalize her feelings Friday night. The Jaguars’ record-setting season ended without a PIAA Class 6A championship.

“It stinks that it was this game, but I’m happy that we got this far,” said Borcky, who poured in a team-high 21 points in the 62-49 defeat to Peters Township. “I obviously would’ve wanted to win this, but I’m so happy we got this far. It was the best season we’ve had. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t win this last game.”

The District 1 champion Jaguars (30-2) set a program record for wins. They are the first team from Delaware County since Archbishop Carroll in 2009 to win that many games in a single season. Win No. 31 was not in the cards.

From the opening tip, the Jags had to battle. They trailed 11-2 out of the gate as unbeaten Peters Township (30-0) had its way running the floor and pressuring the Jags with a press defense.

“Usually, if we win the first quarter, we win the game,” Borcky said. “We were expecting (the press), but when you’re in the moment, it’s kind of hard because you just want to get the ball up court in time and you don’t want to over-dribble. I think we were trying to go back and forth between that, but we finally broke it and we got our offense working.”

Garnet Valley’s Jill Nagy, left, tries to drive around slick Peters Twp. 6-1 freshman Journey Thompson during the Jaguars loss Friday night in the PIAA Class 6A girls basketball championship game. (MARK PALCZEWSKI – FOR MEDIANEWS GROUP)

Alas, by the time the Jags began to resemble their normal selves, they were in too deep.

“This one loss isn’t going to define us,” said Emily McAteer, who scored 15 points in her swan song. The Jags’ all-time leading scorer will graduate as one of Delco’s most accomplished scorers.

“Any team can go in and not play the game they normally play, and we didn’t play the best today,” she said.

Penn State-bound guard Makenna Marisa was nearly unstoppable. With a quick first step, sweet shot and dazzling ball-handling ability, Marisa scored often and provided excellent looks for her teammates.

Morgan Falcone of Garnet Valley, center, gets fouled driving to the hoops against Peters Township’s Isabella Mills, left, and Jordan Bisignani Friday night in the PIAA Class 6A girls title game.(MARK PALCZEWSKI – FOR MEDIANEWS GROUP)

GV tried to mix up its defensive assignments to combat Marisa’s dominance. Senior forward Madi McKee, who is probably the Jags’ top all-around athlete, had her hands full. Jaguars coach Joe Woods called on his bench players early in the first half. Abbey Anderson, Kendall DiCamillo and Liesl Dentinger gave the Jags valuable minutes as they tried to weather the storm and keep within striking distance.

But that 11-2 hole was too much to overcome. Needing a hot start, the Jags fell behind and never caught up.

“From that point on, we’re playing catch-up,” McAteer said. “It’s hard to do, especially in the first quarter when they come out with all the momentum and you’re just trying to fight back even harder.”

Woods lauded Marisa for being the type of player who makes her teammates better, a trait Borcky and McAteer possessed their entire high school careers. The Indians, who shot 66.7 percent (8-for-12) in the first quarter, also matched up physically with Garnet Valley bigs Borcky, McAteer and McKee.

“She might be the best basketball player I’ve seen all year,” Woods said of Marisa. “She’s got all the tools, but the thing about her is that she makes the players on the team even better because she’s so selfless. She can score, she dishes, she handles … she’s just an excellent basketball player.

“We had three or four (game) films on her and we knew she was the real deal. She’s all-world and figured we had to stop her. We started with Madi on her, figuring she could stay with her, but she has so many moves and she hits the pull-ups. She has a quick first move to the basket. We started in man, moved to a zone to slow them down a little bit. Their coach did a great job of making adjustments. But that kid (Marisa), she didn’t have to score for them because they have other players who hurt us.”

Brianne Borcky (42) of Garnet Valley drives to the hoop against Peters Township in PIAA Class 6A girls championship game action at the Giant Center in Hershey, PA on Friday, March 22, 2019. (Mark Palczewski/For Digital First Media)

Freshman center Journey Thompson negated Garnet’s biggest strength, its height. Thompson scored 16 points on 7-for-9 shooting. Shooting guard Isabella Mills popped two 3-pointers and tallied 15 points. In the end, it was Marisa who stole the show, scoring 29 points to go with seven rebounds, seven assists and four steals.

Garnet Valley cut its deficit to six points in the second quarter on a Borcky layup, but the Indians never yielded control and held a 29-21 advantage at the break. They had an answer every time the Jags started to get it together on the offensive end.

In the third quarter, Peters Township pulled away with an 18-9 run. The lead swelled to double digits again, but four straight points from Borcky got the Jags within nine at the midway point of the third. Marisa came back by drilling a jumper and then a 3-pointer off a Garnet Valley turnover. The Jags trailed by 17 points at the end of the third.

“We gave them too many easy baskets, plus their 3-point shooting was really good,” Woods said. “We started to get tired, just from a team speed perspective. I’ve been leaning on my seniors all year, we’ve been in some really tough games, like Spring-Ford and some other teams where we’ve been able to make comebacks. But all the credit goes to them, they’re an excellent team and they deserved it.”

While the Jags didn’t accomplish their ultimate goal Friday, this one result is not enough to put a damper on an incredible season.

“I think some people don’t have that in their head yet, but I know I’m happy for us and, just looking back, we made more history than any (Garnet Valley) team has before,” McAteer said. “Playing for Coach Woods was great. He’s always looking out for who you are, making sure you’re always OK, and making sure you’re having a fun time. I am very thankful to have played for him.”

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