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McDonald leads West Chester East rally; Vikings down Henderson

West Goshen >> In the final few minutes of the nip-and-tuck contest against tall, talented West Chester Henderson Tuesday night, West Chester East’s Marissa McDonald trusted her instincts on the free throw line.
And it paid off in a 46-42 win against the visiting Warriors – a long-awaited victory for the host Vikings.
“In the four years that I’ve been here, we’ve never beaten Henderson,” said McDonald. “We would play them really strong one game, then the next game they’d come back, saying, ‘We’re not letting you beat us this time [laughs]. We got behind early today, but we decided that we’re coming back, and we’re winning.”
The victory improved West Chester East’s record to 11-5 (5-3 Ches-Mont National). Coming into Thursday’s game, Henderson (12-3, 6-2) was rated third in the District 1 5A power rankings.
The Vikings trailed Henderson 42-36 with four minutes left. But McDonald then found the mark on six straight free throws, and when her sixth shot flew through the net, the hosts held a 46-42 lead.
“Recently I was missing a lot of free throws because I was thinking about it too much,” said McDonald. “Today, when I went to the line I made sure I wasn’t thinking about it too much. I’d take a deep breath, slow everything down and shoot the way I know how to shoot, and the ball kept going in. That’s important in a game like today, where your adrenaline is really flowing. I’d make sure the ball was sitting in my hand, and then let it go.”
McDonald scored 10 points in the final frame, finishing with 21 points. It’s been an eventful week for McDonald – a few days ago, the New Jersey Institute of Technology commit became a McDonald’s All-American nominee, and her 21 points Tuesday gives her 997 career points. She should reach the 1,000 point milestone when the Vikings travel to Coatesville Thursday.
“Marissa is a great player, and does so many things for us every night,” said West Chester East head coach Erin Listrani. “She can play any position, and she works her butt off on both ends of the floor. She makes her teammates better every single day, starting in practice.
“Our decision making down the stretch today was really good. I put the ball into Marissa’s hands, and I trust her 100 percent. She made some really good decisions down the stretch as when to take the shot and when to dish it to a teammate, and when to have patience and wait for a scoring opportunity.”
Defensively, the Vikings held Henderson scoreless for the final four minutes, despite the sizable presence of senior captain Grace Ferguson (14 points) and sophomore Molly Manion (16 points).
“Coming into this game, we knew Ferguson is a great player,” said Listrani. “We tried to limit her touches, and tried to bring help defense, tried to pack it inside. Ferguson got her points, but we stuck to our plan, and in the second half, we started to come up with the ball.”
After allowing 29 points in the first half, West Chester East gave up only 13 in the second half.
“Defensively, we did a much better job in the second half,” said Listrani. “Molly Manion gave us a lot of trouble, we just tried to stay in front of her, and we brought some defensive help on her. It was a team effort on defense that got it done in the stretch. The game went so fast, but when I look back, all of our players, Megan Merten, Lauren Klieber, Mary Grace Kerns, Olivia McDonald, all helping, all on help defense, having each others’ backs.”
Henderson started the game like a house on fire, getting out to a 17-6 lead by the end of the first quarter. Early in the second quarter, the Warriors’ lead increased to 20-8, with Manion and Ferguson combining for 16 points.
By halftime, West Chester East had narrowed the Warriors’ lead to 29-22. McDonald, Klieber and Merten combined for all 22 of the Vikings’ points. Klieber scored seven points in the second quarter, and Merten finished with 15 points for the game.
“Lauren’s one of the hardest workers we have, she’s really put in lot of time in the off-season and it’s showing,” said Listrani last week. “And Megan gets better every single day, she does anything we ask her to do. And the good news is that she’s such a hard worker and is going to keep getting better.”
The Vikings went on a 12-2 run to start the third quarter, with Merten scoring six of the points, and McDonald capped the run with a three pointer from the left side to give the hosts their first lead of the night, 34-31.
Henderson came right back to take a 35-34 lead by the end of the third quarter. At that point, Manion, who scored 33 points in a 56-48 win three days earlier, had scored 16 points.
“Molly’s a super athletic kid who has super body control and understands the offensive side for sure,” said Henderson head coach Greta Neff.
Despite being charged with three fouls, Ferguson then took charge inside, blocking several East shots and scoring underneath, and senior captain Michaella Meredith hit her third trey of the night, and the Warriors held a 42-36 lead with 4 1/2 minutes left.
A couple of McDonald free throws cut the lead to 42-38, then following a fine defensive play by Klieber that caused a Henderson turnover, Merten scored underneath on a pinpoint pass from McDonald to make the score 42-40.
McDonald drove inside to tie the score at 42-42, then following a travelling call against the Warriors, McDonald got the ball and was fouled, making two more free throws to give East a 44-42 lead with 48.5 seconds left.
Henderson brough the ball downcourt, and following a mad scramble for the ball under the East basket, the Vikings got the ball and McDonald was fouled, once again making two free throws with 15.6 seconds left to make the score 46-42.
“We’ve become a very young team in the last couple of weeks, so it’s just a matter of riding the ebbs and flows of the game,” said Neff. “We’ve got to get back to the drawing board tomorrow and pick up the pieces, and we’ve got a tough opponent [Downingtown East] Thursday. We’ve got to work on every possession. When you take a break here, and a break there, other teams are going to take advantage of that.”

West Chester East 46, West Chester Henderson 42
West Chester Henderson 17 12 6 7 – 42
West Chester East 6 16 12 12 – 46
West Chester Henderson (42): DePrisco 0 0-0 0, Nanni 0 0-0 0, Meredith 3 0-2 9, Manion 7 1-2 16, Ferguson 5 4-6 14, Shea 1 1-4 3, Totals 16 6-14 42.
West Chester East (46): Richardson 0 0-0 0, Kerns 1 1-1 3, Klieber 2 3-4 7, M. McDonald 6 8-9 21, O. McDonald 0 0-0 0, Merten 6 3-4 15, Totals 15 15-18 46.
Three-point field goals: WCH – Meredith 3, Manion, WCE – M. McDonald,

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