SPRINGFIELD >> Prior to coaching Springfield’s Central League home game Tuesday night, Ky McNichol stopped by Academy of Notre Dame in Radnor to visit her mother, Mary Beth, who was being honored for 25 years coaching Irish basketball.
“I gave her a quick hug and — this is how great my mom is — she said, ‘Thanks for coming, now go beat Garnet Valley,’” McNichol said.
She didn’t let her mom down.
The Cougars, who won just six games a season ago, did something that no team in the Central League had accomplished since February 2013. They defeated Garnet Valley, 50-37.
As sweet as it was for Ky McNichol, a second-year varsity head coach who earned her stripes with the AAU Comets, she would be the first to tell you it’s about her players, who erased an eight-point halftime deficit with stingy defense and clutch shooting down the stretch.
“It’s what I always tell them: Believe in you, believe in us,” she said.
Including playoff games, Garnet Valley had won 38 consecutive games against Central League opponents.
That streak ended Tuesday night.
“It’s what the coaches said to us at halftime, that they believe in us so much,” said junior Maggie O’Connell, who
played a strong all-around game with eight points, six rebounds, two assists and one steal. “We have wanted to beat Garnet Valley for so long. They’ve been an undefeated team since 2013, and it’s a big accomplishment. I think everyone really played their hardest and the 1-3-1 defense really helped us out.”
A 5-0 burst to begin the third quarter put the Cougars (4-2, 4-1) in motion.
“We started to gain a lot of confidence,” O’Connell said.
Freshman Jordan D’Ambrosio tied the score, 26-26. On Springfield’s next possession, after freshman Emily McAteer (12 points, nine rebounds, two steals, two blocks) put the Jags (6-0, 4-1) back on top, Amanda Hopkins drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key to push the Cougars ahead. Moments later, O’Connell hit her second triple of the night to extend the advantage to four points. Springfield was in full control.
“We kept believing in ourselves,” O’Connell said.
One of the biggest differences in the second half for the Cougars was their foul shooting. Jordan D’Ambrosio (14 points) and fellow freshman Belle Mastropietro (nine points) were particularly effective after the Cougars had missed 10 of their first 17 freebies in the opening 16 minutes of regulation.
While D’Ambrosio was 7-for-8 from the foul line in the fourth quarter, Mastropietro overcame an 0-for-5 performance in the first half by making five of her seven attempts in the final two quarters. The freshmen were instrumental in helping the Cougars pull off the upset and signal to the rest of the Central League that they mean business.
“We’ve been playing together since the third or fourth grade,” D’Ambrosio said, noting her relationship with Mastropietro. D’Ambrosio’s big sister, senior Madison, added nine points, five rebounds and three assists Tuesday night. “We started at Springfield travel and played CYO at St. Francis.”
Jordan said she wasn’t nervous with the ball in her hands. She accounted for eight of her team’s 14 points in the final period.
“I just block everything out when I’m up there,” she said.
Mastropietro’s play early in the third quarter spurred the Cougars’ comeback. The game-changing sequence had Mastropietro making 1-of-2 from the foul line, stealing a pass and scoring a layup, and corralling a tough rebound on GV’s next possession.
“It’s our freshmen, but it’s also our upperclassmen. All seven that played in this game tonight, played their heart out,” McNichol said. “They come to the gym and work hard, every single day. It shows.”
Springfield outscored Garnet Valley, 34-13, in the final two periods.
Garnet Valley was without senior forward Sam Tomasetti. Sharp-shooting senior guard Maddie Ireland was limited to five points.
“Springfield was absolutely the better team tonight,” Jags coach Joe Woods said. “They came out and played very well. All credit goes to them. They made key shots and did a nice job shutting Maddie down. … It’s tough to lose, but our streak was going to end sooner than later. It’s better sooner than later.”
In other Central League games:
Penncrest 31, Haverford 24 >> Katharine Mullaney and Katie Russo combined for 10 points in the fourth quarters as the host Lions (6-2, 3-2) outscored the Fords, 15-2, in the fourth quarter. Mullaney led all the players with 12 points.
Briana Blair netted a team-high seven points for Haverford.
Strath Haven 49, Upper Darby 32 >> Katie Fisher carried the Panthers to victory with 26 points and was 9-of-10 from the free-throw line. Taylor McElaney scored 10 points for UD.
Conestoga 49, Radnor 41 >> Kristin Hamill (17 points, nine rebounds) and Allison Lanzone (12 points, six rebounds) powered the Raiders (4-3, 3-2) in defeat.
Harriton 45, Ridley 35 >> Hannah Crowley poured in 11 points for the Green Raiders (3-4, 2-3).
Lower Merion 39, Marple Newtown 28 >> Shannon McCarthy chipped in four points, three assists and three steals for the Tigers (1-7, 0-5)