TOWAMENCIN >> There was no hesitation from Jordan Zimmerman when she caught the ball behind the arc as time wound down in the third quarter.
The Souderton senior had only made one shot in the game to that point but instead of worrying about past misses, she was focused on making this next one. Her shot was on the mark, tying a game the Indians had trailed almost from the start and a few minutes later, Zimmerman made the assist on the go-ahead layup.
Strong defense and a resilient mentality across the board helped Souderton rally and top North Penn 49-41 on the road Tuesday, spoiling the Knights’ season opener.
“After our game at (Central Bucks) South one of the highlights and things we talked about is that we keep playing,” Zimmerman said. “Whatever happened before is a memory and we just kept going.”
North Penn, which had to wait an additional week to start its season, looked eager to let loose that pent-up excitement, taking a 10-6 lead after the first quarter. With senior Alli Lindsay the only returning starter and one of few players with significant varsity minutes for the Knights, coach Jen Carangi expected some rust and some first-game errors.
Aside from some turnovers in the first half, the Knights managed to stay ahead into the half, building a 20-10 lead on a traditional three-point play by Abby Plaugher before enduring a Souderton run for a 21-16 edge at the break. For part of the second half, the Knights kept it going but they wouldn’t be able to finish the game on that pace.
“I was pleased with the first half,” Carangi said. “At the same time, we’re so young and some of the mistakes we make are tough to overcome. The second half, we just struggled to so anything and you know Souderton is going to adjust at halftime but we made too many mistakes ourselves.”
Imani Plaza, who led the Knights (0-1, 0-1 SOL Colonial) with 13 points, staked the hosts to a 33-26 lead with 1:57 left in the third quarter but Big Red was about to make its move. Despite a rough offensive game all around, the Indians (2-1, 2-1) leaned on their defense and never fell too far behind.
Sophomore Casey Harter played terrific individual defense, holding Lindsay to just three points and behind her, the rest of the team worked well together. Souderton co-captain Olivia Schneider felt the Knights were playing with more desire in the first half and ramping up the energy was a focus at the break.
“They’re a good team and came out with a lot of energy, so it took us until the second half to meet that energy,” Schneider, a senior, said. “If we can keep that energy we had in the second half going into future games, we’ll give ourselves a chance.
“We tried to keep it positive. Even if things weren’t going well, we didn’t anyone to get down on themselves.”
Schneider, who had 11 points, started the game-changing run with a pass in to Mikayla McGillian for a layup and that make seemed to spark the Indians. Harter sank two at the line to pull within three, then after getting a defensive stop, Souderton pushed the ball down the floor.
The initial play broke down, but the ball eventually found its way back to Zimmerman wide open on the left wing. Only 1-of-11 from the field at that point, the senior co-captain still shot the ball confidently and sank the trey with 1.8 seconds left in the third to knot the score.
“I didn’t even realize it was tied,” Zimmerman said. “We were just trying to keep going and keep working harder than the other team. In the first half, they worked harder than we did, so our key was to turn that around and when we got the momentum, we needed to keep it.”
Neither team would score for three minutes in the fourth quarter, but Zimmerman came through, making a bounce pass through the lane to senior Hayley Fenchel for the go-ahead hoop with 5:05 on the clock. Schneider converted two at the line before Zimmerman found Harter slicing through the paint for a layup, capping a 15-0 run with 2:02 to play and giving Souderton a 41-33 lead.
“Our girls hung in, we made some adjustments and they executed those adjustments in the second half,” Indians coach Lynn Carroll said. “Olivia, Jordan and Casey either found ways to score or found ways to get their teammates shots. Jordan’s sequence where she hit a three to tie up and to then drop the ball to Hayley to go up two, it was huge.”
North Penn simply couldn’t buy a shot after that. The Knights’ next made basket came with 30 seconds left when Lindsay finally shook free long enough to can a trey, giving her team a lifeline down 47-38, but it wasn’t enough.
Carangi said the benefit of Tuesday was getting the team’s young varsity players like freshmen Caleigh Sperling and Liv Stone game experience and being able to learn from the contest. There’s no substitute for competition and waiting an extra week wasn’t doing North Penn any favors.
“You don’t know what it’s going to look like going in, in practice you have an idea but you don’t know until you get out there,” Carangi said. “I feel like our upside is huge so it’s just a matter of working it out. Having to start and stop and start and stop, we’ve had to really focus on ourselves and not worry about anyone else.”
Harter capped another strong game by going 8-of-10 at the foul line down the stretch to seal the win, giving her a game-high 18 points to bookend her defensive efforts. Zimmerman finished with six, but the Lebanon Valley College recruit also chipped in six rebounds, three assists and four steals.
“We ended up having fun at the end of the game,” Zimmerman said. “I think that was a key thing that got us going.”
SOUDERTON 49, NORTH PENN 41
SOUDERTON 6 10 17 14 – 49
NORTH PENN 10 11 12 8 – 41
S: Casey Harter 4 10-12 18, Jordan Zimmerman 2 0-1 6, Erin Bohmueller 2 0-2 4, Olivia Schneider 4 3-4 11, Teya McConnaha 1 0-2 2, Hayley Fenchel 2 0-0 4, Mikayla McGillian 2 0-0 4. Totals: 17 13-21 49.
NP: Abby Plaugher 4 1-1 10, Alli Lindsay 1 0-0 3, Imani Plaza 4 5-6 13, Liv Stone 2 0-0 5, Caleigh Sperling 3 4-4 10. Totals: 14 10-11 41.
3-pointers: S – Zimmerman 2, NP – Plaugher, Lindsay, Stone.