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Possenti, Garnet Valley defense key comeback

Garnet Valley's Ava Possenti, right in this shot from the Central League championship game against Marple Newtown last week, led a lockdown defensive effort from the Jaguars Wednesday night in a victory over Methacton. (Pete Bannan - MediaNews Group).

WORCESTER TWP. — When the game was over, No. 3 Methacton had no idea what hit it.

In Wednesday’s District 1 Class 6A second-round game, Warriors were coasting in the second quarter. Leading by as many as 13 points, they were reaching that point when good teams (20-win teams) begin to pull away and never look back.

That never happened. No. 14 Garnet Valley, a young squad which has learned to embrace an underdog mentality, left the Warriors wondering what happened.

Thanks to a defensive onslaught in the second half, and buoyed by senior guard and pick-pocket queen Ava Possenti, Garnet Valley clinched a berth in the state tournament with a 41-36 come-from-behind victory. The Jaguars play at 11th-seeded Spring-Ford in the quarterfinal round Saturday. The Rams upset No. 6 Rustin, 48-46.

After making five three-pointers in the first half, three from Tori Bockrath and two from Nicole Timko, the Warriors were 0 for 6 from long distance the rest of the way. GV’s superb man defense threw Methacton for a loop and the host squad had no answer.

“That was exciting,” said Possenti, who put on a defensive clinic with nine steals to go with 11 points and four assists. “We came out in a diamond 2-3 (zone) knowing that they could shoot, so in practice we worked on cheating out a little bit. They started hitting 3s so we dropped to a man and I think our defense was great. I think that scared them off a little bit with their shooting and we shut down No. 24 (Timko). She’s a great player…but we just shut them down.”

The Jaguars didn’t let poor foul shooting (14-for-27) or Methacton’s bevy of snipers keep them down for good. After falling behind 24-11 in the second period the Jags scored the final six points of the first half and used a 16-0 run after the break to take a 27-24 lead with two minutes left in the third quarter. Methacton went nearly 10 minutes without scoring a point.

Garnet (20-7) held the Warriors to two points in the third quarter and closed the game on a 30-12 run.

Methacton turned the ball over 21 times.

“Ava did a great job on (Timko) when we moved to man and Katelyn (Dugery) did a great job blocking out and getting rebounds,” coach Joe Woods said. “We emphasized that midway through the season in terms of our fundamentals …and ripping rebounds. We’ve come a long way.”

Consecutive baskets from Dugery and Emily Olsen gave the Jags a 27-24 lead. Methacton ended its scoring drought with less than two minutes left in the third and tallied the first five points of the fourth to grab a 31-30 lead.  It was short lived.

After Carly DiSabatino hit a free throw to tie it at 31, freshman Haylie Adamski made a jumper to give GV a 33-31 advantage. DiSabatino made two more freebies to extend the lead to 37-32. Smith netted four straight points to pull Methacton within a point, 37-36, but GV’s lockdown defense had the final say. Olsen came up with a steal and Possenti swished two foul shots to give Garnet Valley a 40-36 lead with less than 20 seconds to play.

Olsen, a sophomore forward, produced six points, five rebounds, two blocks and a steal. Not bad for a kid who had to leave the game twice due to injury. The first time was for a nose bleed and the second was to get checked out for a head injury after getting whacked across the cranium.

“I told the trainer as soon as she came over that I’m not staying out of this game,” Olsen said. “I was like, ‘You’ve got to put me back in the game.’ I wasn’t ready to sit out and just watch them battle back.”

Dugery was huge inside the paint. The senior forward/center finished with a workmanlike nine points and 14 rebounds. Adamski provided nine points and two steals.

Timko scored a game-high 13 points and Smith ended with 11 for the Warriors, who must fight their way through the playback tournament to clinch a spot in states.

The Garnet Valley boys team has a tough act to follow. The 24th-seeded Jags will take on No. 1 Methacton Friday night in the district quarters.

The guys also provided motivation for the ladies. In a 53-50 win at Spring-Ford Tuesday, GV stormed back from an 18-point halftime deficit.

“Our guys really set us up tonight,” Possenti said. “They helped us stay in it because they were down 18 points at half, so seven was nothing for us. They showed us that it was possible.”

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