CUMRU TWP. >> Upper Dublin girls basketball coach Morgan Funsten did not see many good options trying to defend Cedar Cliff in Tuesday night’s PIAA-6A second-round matchup.
“You don’t love giving people wide open threes but with the size that they had, the size mismatches that they had down low, you kind of had to,” he said. “Otherwise you got 6-foot-2 girls shooting uncontested layups or shooting over someone who’s 5-5.”
With a lineup that includes a pair of 6-foot-2 forwards – senior Alexis Buie and junior Kathryn Sansom – along with 5-foot-10 sophomore guard Olivia Jones, so far this season no team had delivered a loss to the District 3 champ Colts.
The Cardinals gave it their best shot at Governor Mifflin Intermediate School, staying close in the first half before Cedar Cliff opened the third quarter with six straight points to go up 10. Upper Dublin, meanwhile, struggled to crack the Colts defense after the break as Cedar Cliff stayed undefeated, advancing to the quarterfinals with a 39-26 win.
“They’re all pretty much bigger than us,” UD junior Amy Ngo said. “But we knew we could fight, we could keep up with them. We just had to play and I thought we came to play, it just didn’t end up our way.”
Buie scored a game-high 11 points while Jones added 10 points for the Colts (28-0), who have not lost since falling to eventual state champ Plymouth Whitemarsh in last year’s semifinals. Cedar Cliff gets a chance to return to 6A final four Friday against District 7 runner-up Upper Saint Clair, who topped Pennsbury 42-31.
“I thought defensively they’re such a difficult matchup and credit to their role player stepped up and made shots,” Funsten said. “Obviously if you want to beat them, you got to pick your poison and you want those role players to make shots and who was it, three, (Ella) Frey made some shots. The guys we wanted to beat us beat us.”
Nora Brady made three 3-pointers in the first half to finish for a team-best nine points for Upper Dublin (18-11), which looked to reach the PIAA quarters for the first time since 2019. Megan Ngo collected all seven of her points in the first quarter.
“I think what was really great, really cool about our team this year is how much growth we had,” Funsten said. “We were the 19th seed out of the district and then here we are in the final 16 of the state. The girls have done a great job of learning their lesson throughout the year and learning from our mistakes and getting experience.
“And for your younger players you hope that a lot in a game like this motivates them in the offseason, just makes ‘em hungry when we come back next year.”
Since 6A became PIAA’s largest class in 2016-217, Upper Dublin was the second-lowest seed in a District 1 tournament at No. 19 to reach states – the only team lower was Garnet Valley qualifying this year at 20.
Upsetting Council Rock South then Plymouth Whitemarsh earned the Cardinals a seventh PIAA berth in the last eight seasons. After finishing sixth in districts, last Friday’s win over Liberty in the first round was UD’s first state victory since 2020.
“It was just amazing as a 19 seed,” Amy Ngo said. “Obviously we want to keep going but everything we accomplished this year was just amazing from the start, we just improved so much as a team.”
Amy Ngo did not play in the Cardinals’ PIAA game in 2022, her sophomore campaign ending due to a knee injury suffered in a district second-round game against Pennsbury. After two offseason surgeries, she returned in January – her fifth game back dropping a career-high 31 points in a win over Wissahickon. Tuesday night, she finished with five points, all in the third quarter.
“This is definitely amazing,” Amy Ngo said. “Every time before the game, I’m like, ‘This is what you worked for, you worked hard to get in moments like this.’ And personally, I didn’t know when I was coming back so to be back in January was amazing. I really wasn’t expecting to be back now, I was thinking worse like April but it’s just amazing that I had this opportunity.”
Up 20-16 at halftime, Cedar Cliff started the third with baskets from Sansom and Buie then a long two from Frey to extend the lead to 26-16.
Amy Ngo drained a 3-pointer but Buie responded with a trey to put the Colts back up 10. Amy Ngo scored in transition but another long Frey two made it 31-21.
A Collen Besachio jumper had UD down eight before Jones converted on a drive to give the District 3 champs a 33-23 advantage going to the fourth.
“We’re used to those situations where we come back, like against PW we were down like 11-3,” Amy Ngo said. “We’ve been in situations like that so we know what to do. But it’s definitely tough against a team like that who’s very good. It’s hard to come back.”
Alaina Sanders made the first of two free throws at 7:24 in the final quarter then after Cedar Cliff missed a pair at the line Sanders scored off a Besachio assist to get the Cardinals within 33-26. But those were Upper Dublin’s final points of the night.
The Colts, who were content on working the clock, got baskets from Jones and Sansom to push their lead back into double digits.
“In the first half I thought we made some tough shots to kind of keep it close there,” Funsten said. “They obviously have a ton of size and athleticism. In the second half I thought we got much more comfortable shots, they just didn’t fall.”
Upper Dublin’s only lead came at 2-0 after a Megan Ngo bucket. Cedar Cliff scored the next six, going up 6-2 on a Taylor Ferraro trey.
Brady’s 3-pointer made it 6-5 before Sydney Weyant’s triple had the Colts again up four. Megan Ngo’s 3-point play had UD within 9-8 but Buie scored inside and was fouled at 1:33 then hit a jumper, giving Cedar Cliff a 13-8 edge. A Megan Ngo basket made it 13-10 after the opening eight minutes.
A Sansom shot inside dropped in while Jones’ 3-point play off an offensive rebound had the Colts up 18-10 with 2:13 left in the half. After Brady buried a 3-pointer, a Jones basket put Cedar Cliff ahead 20-13.
“In the first half their physicality really got to us and they were in our space at all times,” Funsten said. “And a lot of credit to them defensively, they don’t give up a lot of points and you can see why, because they’re well prepared with their length and athleticism it’s a tough matchup, a tough job to put the ball in the basket.”
In the final minute, a UD pass was deflected then bounced off the back of a Cedar Cliff player before Sanders collected the loose ball and got it Brady for her third 3-pointer of the half that cut the Cardinals’ deficit to four at the break.
PIAA-6A Second Round
(3-1) Cedar Cliff 39, (1-6) Upper Dublin 26
Upper Dublin 10 6 7 3 – 26
Cedar Cliff 13 7 13 6 – 39
Upper Dublin: Nora Brady 3 0-0 9; Megan Ngo 3 1-1 7; Amy Ngo 2 0-0 5; Alaina Sanders 1 1-2 3; Colleen Besachio 1 0-0 2; Totals 10 2-3 26.
Cedar Cliff: Alexis Buie 5 0-5 11; Olivia Jones 4 2-3 10; Kathryn Sansom 3 0-1 6; Taylor Ferraro 2 0-0 5; Ella Frey 2 0-0 4; Sydney Weyant 1 0-1 3; Totals 17 2-10 39.
3-pointers: UD-Brady 3, A. Ngo; CC-Buie, Ferraro, Weyant.