TOWAMENCIN >> Twenty wins in its first 22 games earned the North Penn girls basketball team the top seed in the District 1-AAAA tournament. And through two rounds the Maidens have done little to show they didn’t deserve being No. 1.
North Penn opened districts by routing No. 32 Penncrest by 45 last Saturday and Wednesday night in the second round clinch its fifth-straight PIAA playoff appearance in style against visiting Penn Wood. The Maidens blitzed the No. 17 Patriots in the second quarter to hold a 18-point edge at halftime, was up by as much as 38 in the second half before finishing with a 64-36 victory.
“We want everyone to know that we deserve that seed, but we’re not going to get ahead of ourselves, we’re not going to get cocky,” senior Mikaela Giuliani said. “That’s not who we are, that’s not how we play. We just take it one game at a time.”
North Penn has been preparing all season to play some of its best basketball when it really counts. The Maidens had 11 games against teams this year that were playing in Wednesday’s second round and won 10, including two victories over Saturday’s quarterfinal opponent Central Bucks South.
“The kids have worked hard, we played a pretty tough schedule,” North Penn coach Maggie deMarteleire said. “Just in our league alone, I think we have a tough schedule. But outside of that we played Gwynedd Mercy and Upper Dublin and a couple teams down in D.C., Garnet Valley, we played a tough non-league schedule, so I think that’s prepared them for this.”
Penn Wood — which beat Cheltenham by 41 in the first round — kept things tight early, using a 7-0 run to pull even 10-10 before Bri Hewlett’s basket inside gave the Maidens a 12-10 lead after a quarter. The next eight minutes, however, showcased North Penn in high gear, outscoring the Patriots 22-6.
“We talked about a balance between 3s and driving to the basket, I thought that we got that,” deMarteleire said. “I thought that attacking the basket kind of opened things up for us.
North Penn’s defense kept Penn Wood from creating easy opportunities while junior Sam Carangi, who scored eight of the Maidens’ first 10 points, continued her hot shooting into the second quarter. After scoring on a drive, she knocked down a 3 to put the Maidens up double digits for the first time at 25-14. The junior Villanova commit then answered two Dahnye Redd free throws by drilling her four triple of the half.
“I think my teammates definitely found me, they were just leaving wide open gaps and they really did help finding the open person,” Carangi said. “And I wasn’t making anything during warmups, so it was kind of nice making them during the game.”
Giuliani added consecutive baskets before Irisa Ye capped off the Maidens’ 14-2 finishing flurry with a slick transition layup for a 34-16 lead at the break.
“Well, Sam was hitting all of her shots at the beginning and we knew that wasn’t going to stay that way the entire game. Shooters can’t shoot 100 percent. So, we relied on our defense,” Giuliani said. “I think we played really good, sound man-to-man and with all our help in the lane it was really hard for them to get to the basket, which is what they’re best at. So, I think that was really good. And we stayed out of foul trouble, for the most part. And then on offense, we were moving the ball around really well.”
GIRLS #BASKETBALL: @NPKnightsGBB's Irisa Ye with some nice moves in transition for a layup late 2Q vs. Penn Wood. pic.twitter.com/jgtosW8Xyn
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) February 18, 2016
North Penn ended any thoughts of a Penn Wood rally — and cemented its 20th straight victory — early in the third. Mia Melchior opened scoring in the second half with a three, with consecutive baskets from Giuliani had the Maidens up 41-16.
“We talked about at halftime coming out strong because they would make a run at us. And Mia hitting that three and that we made a couple other shots quickly, so that helped us well,” deMarteleire said. “Cause they’re very dangerous and explosive, we know that, and we didn’t want to give them any sense of momentum.”
Giuliani collected 10 points in the quarter and ended with a game-high 22 points as NP ended the third up 49-24, push its lead to 38 in the fourth before Penn Wood scored the final 10 points.
“They’re a very good team and we expected it to be a very good game, but our defense, we just got going. So, it was good,” Carangi said.
The impressive win extends North Penn’s streak of district quarterfinals to five, guaranteeing them a spot in states for the fifth straight seasons and the sixth time in the past seven years. To get to the semifinals — which the Maidens last reached when it claimed the district crown in 2014 — NP will need a third win over Suburban One League Continental Conference rival.
“We play the same teams a lot of the time, but I’m good friends with (CB South’s) Jordan Vitelli, she’s one of my best friends,” Giuliani said. “And I’m good friends with a lot of people on South and I’m excited to play them, but we’ll take it one game at a time.”