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McGeary, Wissahickon roll past Upper Merion for 2-0 start

Wissahickon's Kaitlyn McGeary scored a game-high 18 points in the Trojans' win over Upper Merion on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021. (Mike Cabrey/MediaNews Group)

LOWER GWYNEDD >> Kaitlyn McGeary is putting in the effort to expand her game outwards but the Wissahickon girls basketball junior’s best – and most enjoyable – work still comes on the interior.

“I just love being inside the post,” the junior said. “And when I’m sizing up other defenders, doesn’t really bother me cause when I’m in the heat of the game I just do my thing.”

McGeary’s thing Monday night in a nonleague matchup with visiting Upper Merion was scoring early and often, collecting 10 points as the Trojans jumped out to a 17-1 lead and cruised from there for a 55-19 victory over the Vikings.

“From two years ago to last year she really did her homework when the lights were off,” said Wissahickon coach Rodney Cline of McGeary. “Outside of here, working hard training, nutrition, just working out and then she came in and she was a different player last year and that was a big, big eye-opener for the rest of the girls so then you had two or three other girls that would decide to do the same thing.

“So we come back where Julia Verrier and Leah Dubin and they came back we’re in fall league and one of the referees says ‘Is that a new player?’ I’m like ‘No it’s just her game got better.’ So it was girls really got hungry to become a better player and McGeary was the key to the ignition to that in the offseason.”

Wissahickon’s Kylie Friedman (4) drives into the lane against Upper Merion during their game on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021. (Mike Cabrey/MediaNews Group)

McGeary, an All-SOL Liberty Division honorable mention last season as a sophomore, was one of three Trojans in double figures, finishing with a game-high 18 points as Wissahickon improved to 2-0 heading into their division opener 7 p.m. Tuesday at Hatboro-Horsham.

“I don’t think we’ve ever started 2-0 before so I think this is great especially with big games coming up,” McGeary said. “Hatboro-Horsham tomorrow, Abington (Friday) we want to really make a statement in the league this year than past years so I think starting like this really gives us the push that we need.”

Kylie Friedman scored 11 of her 13 points in the second quarter, Verrier added another 11 points while the Trojans’ defense held its opponent under 20 points for the second straight game after opening the year with a 54-16 win over Frankford last Friday.

“We just want to get better each game,” Cline said. “We want to get better with our execution, we want to get better with our decision making. We want to get better with understanding what we can exploit, our mismatches. Like I always say we want to polish the apple, want to keep shining it up, polish our shoes, we want to shine it little by little let them get brighter and brighter and we just want to keep continuing to get better each game.”

Devon Maiden had nine points to pace Upper Merion, which fell to 0-3 under first-year coach Jen McCarthy. The Vikings host Downingtown West noon Saturday before starting PAC Frontier Division play at Pottstown on Tuesday, Dec. 21.

“There’s glimmers of exactly what we want to do,” McCarthy said. “We just have been able, like on Saturday, that we played two really great quarters but unfortunately a basketball game has four quarters. Again it comes back to we are a young team and getting down early is hard for a young team, that mentality of just kind of starting from the beginning.”

McCarthy, who teaches at Upper Merion High School, was an assistant at Division II Jefferson University from 2011-2021 but said the time was right to become a head coach. She has taken over a Vikings program that since going 14-14 and reaching the PIAA-5A tournament in 2017-2018 has not won more than six games, finishing 0-15 last season.

“There comes a point when you’re done being an assistant and you kind of just want your own program,” McCarthy said. “You want to do what you saw the head coach, (Jefferson) coach (Paul) Shirley did for the lives of those women and you just kind of want to make an impact like he did.”

Wissahickon missed the District 1-6A postseason the past two seasons with the Trojans’ last non-losing year coming in 2017-2018 when they went 11-11. McGeary, however, feels this current side has what it takes to put together a successful campaign.

“I think this is our year to really do something,” McGeary said. “Our seniors are strong, our juniors, everyone we have is strong and we really want to do something this year.”

Back-to-back McGeary baskets made it 6-0 before a UM free throw but Wissahickon proceeded to score the next 11. After a Dubin 3-pointer put the hosts up 11-1, McGeary recorded the next six points – the last two coming in the lane off a Friedman assist for a 17-1 advantage.

“One of the main things that we’re trying to work on this year is teamwork and working together,” McGeary said. “Last year was kind of shaky but this year we’re all working together, passing the ball when it’s supposed to be passed and everyone’s just working together which makes it so much better and come out with a win.”

Upper Merion’s Olivia Smith (21) and Mia Nicole (13) look to grab a rebound during the Vikings’ game against Wissahickon on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021. (Mike Cabrey/MediaNews Group)

An Olivia Smith jumper and Maiden three had the Vikings within 17-6 but a Friedman basket had Wissahickon up 13 at the end of the first quarter.

Friedman – an All-SOL Liberty first team selection in girls soccer the past two years – scored 11 of the Trojans’ 16 points in the second quarter, including the first two baskets before a two from McGeary made it 23-6.

“She’s just a natural athlete,” said Cline of Friedman. “Her sport’s soccer and she just comes in and she just makes plays because she’s a player, she’s a gamer. You know, you can’t teach that, either you have it or you don’t.

Another four-point burst from Friedman put Wissahickon up 33-12 while Verrier followed with a basket for the Trojans’ biggest first-half lead at 35-12. Upper Merion scored the next four to make it 35-16 at halftime but the Trojans outscored the Vikings 16-1 in the third.

Wissahickon 55, Upper Merion 19
Upper Merion 6 10 1 2 – 19
Wissahickon 19 16 16 4 – 55
Upper Merion: Devon Maiden 3 2-2 9; Addie Eaton 1 4-8 6; Melissa McCabe 0 2-4 2; Olivia Smith 1 0-0 2; Mia Nicolai 0 0-2 0; Chloe Kokenbeger 0 0-1 0; Totals 5 8-17 19.
Wissahickon: Kailtyn McGeary 9 0-0 18; Kylie Friedman 5 2-2 13; Julia Verrier 5 1-1 11; Leah Dubin 2 1-1 6; Chloe Acuna 2 1-2 5; Ashley Klein 1 0-0 2; Totals 24 5-6 55.
Three-pointers: UM-Maiden; W-Dubin, Friedman.

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