Upper Dublin celebrates Senior Night with win over rival Wissahickon

UPPER DUBLIN >> Senior Night is always a special evening when teams honor their 12th graders for everything they’ve given the program over the previous four years.

It was especially special for the Upper Dublin girls basketball team. The Cardinals four seniors – Jess Polin, Dayna Balasa, Sarah Eskew and Rachel Bilger – are the last remaining players from the 2018 PIAA-6A state championship team.

Balasa sat out Senior Night with an injury, but the other three upperclassmen led the Cardinals to a 59-42 Suburban One League Liberty Division win over rival Wissahickon Friday night at Upper Dublin High School.

“I could go on all night about what these girls meant to the program, to each other, to me,” head coach Morgan Funsten said. “Senior Night gives you a chance to reflect on the accomplishments that these girls have had. The coolest thing is – out of all the accomplishments – is the type of teammates they’ve been the whole time and how selfless they’ve been. They never really cared about individual stuff. It’s why the program has become what it’s become – because these four girls epitomize it. I feel extremely lucky to have coached the four of them.”

Polin, who hit the state championship-winning free throws as a freshman in 2018, scored a game-high 18 points on Senior Night. The East Stroudsburg commit hit four three-pointers, grabbed six rebounds and dished out four assists. She was the last senior called off the floor in the final minutes to receive a standing ovation.

Eskew scored 10 points in the win. Eskew, who is headed to Rider University next year for cross country, hit a pair of three-pointers and grabbed four rebounds.

Bilger finished with six points. The Cedar Crest College commit is seeing her first significant playing time this year after playing a reserve role behind Class of 2020 forwards Jackie Vargas, Kara Grebe and Anajae Smith for three years.

“Jackie, Kara and Naj were amazing,” Bilger said. “They were very hard to play against. They were all very well-rounded. They taught me discipline. They taught me how to be creative with my shots because there are girls bigger than me. I’m not very tall myself and shooting over Jackie is hard, very hard. They taught me discipline. They taught me how to play defense around a big girl, especially, and that’s how I’ve adapted to my role here senior year.”

“It’s difficult to crack the lineup when you have Vargas and Anajae Smith and Grebe ahead of you as a post,” Funsten said. “That’s what’s so great about this senior class – Rach has been such a team-first girl. She’s the mom on the team. Her nickname is ‘Momma Rach.’ She’s mature beyond her years. She’s understood where she stands in the program in the past. She’s kept a positive attitude and she’s getting her chance this year to start. She’s very important to us.”

Bilger, who got her nickname from an assistant coach freshman year for taking care of her teammates with things like extra band aids and water bottles, sees her role as playing simple. Like Funsten said of the entire class, Bilger isn’t worried about her personal numbers, just winning. She focuses on the smaller parts of the game like setting screens and rolling and being an outlet when teammates get into trouble.

Bilger grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists in the win over Wissahickon.

“I like to think that I make good passes,” she said. “When I don’t my teammates definitely correct me and they always help me and tell me how I can get them that good pass. It wouldn’t be a good pass or an assist if it wasn’t for that hard cut that they did.”

Balasa is committed to University of the Sciences.

Upper Dublin (4-0, 2-0 SOL Liberty) freshman Amy Ngo also had a big night with 16 points, 10 of which came in the second quarter.

Julia Verrier led Wissahickon (1-4, 0-2 SOL Liberty) with 17 points and Kylie Friedman added 13.

Wissahickon 6 7 14 15 – 42

Upper Dublin 14 15 17 13 – 59
W: Hyatt 1 0-0 3, Schools 0 0-0 0, Dubin 1 0-0 2, Friedman 5 2-3 13, Verrier 7 0-0 17, Ebert 0 0-0 0, Kunzier 0 0-0 0, McGeary 3 1-1 7. Total 17 3-4 42.
UD: Sanders 0 0-0 0, Brenner 1 1-2 3, Bilger 3 0-2 6, Polin 7 0-0 18, Klammer 2 0-1 4, Ngo 7 0-0 16, Foster 1 0-1 2, Eskew 4 0-0 10, Elliot 0 0-0 0, Gamburg 0 0-0 0. Total 25 1-6 59.
Three-point goals: W: Hyatt, Friedman, Verrier 3. UD: Polin 4, Ngo 2, Eskew 2.

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