Royersford >> It wasn’t pretty but it sure was effective.
In a bruising defensive battle, Villa Maria Academy defeated Twin Valley, 42-25, in the second round of the PIAA 5A state tournament Wednesday evening at Spring-Ford High School.
The Hurricanes’ aggressive man-to-man defense caused 25 Twin Valley turnovers, and Villa Maria blocked 11 shots – seven by 6-foot-1 junior Paige Lauder, four by 6-foot junior Maddy Ryan.
“Before the game, we talked about defense being the key to beating Twin Valley, getting steals and giving energy to our offense,” said Lauder, who also grabbed nine defensive rebounds.
Coming into Wednesday’s game, the big gun for District 3 third-place finisher Twin Valley (21-7) was Berks Conference Player of the Year Peyton McDaniel, a junior 6-foot guard who has scored at least 30 points six times this season and was referred to by her coach, Mark Morrow, as a “generational” player.
McDaniel was a pedestrian 7-for-27 from the field Wednesday night.
“[McDaniel] is definitely someone we talked a lot about in practice,” said Lauder. “We wanted to jump handoffs to her, to deny her the ball.”
The rest of the Twin Valley squad shot 4-for-23 from the field.
Villa Maria head coach Kathy McCartney said, “I thought our defense was phenomenal tonight. Abby Walheim did a phenomenal job on Peyton McDaniel. We gave Abby a little help defensively on McDaniel, but it was almost all Abby’s defense [that stopped McDaniel].
With the victory, Villa Maria advances to the PIAA 5A quarterfinals – the Elite 8. The Hurricanes will face District 11 champion Southern Lehigh (25-3) Saturday at a time and place to be determined.
Wednesday’s contest was a defensive battle on both sides, featuring missed shots and turnovers by both teams. No one scored for the first three minutes until Walheim hit a three with 4:49 left in the first period to give the District 1 champions a 3-0 lead.
The score was tied 3-3 for nearly four minutes; then with 40 seconds left in the first quarter, Ryan broke inside for a layup to give the Hurricanes a 5-3 lead. In the waning seconds of the first quarter, a Villa Maria takeaway was followed by a foul on Walheim, and she coolly sunk both free throws to put the Hurricanes ahead 7-3.
Villa Maria finished its 11-0 run in the second quarter with a Julia Samar trey at the top of the key, then an intercepted pass by Walheim, who quickly drove in and scored.
At halftime, the two squads were a combined 7-for-45 from the field and committed 26 turnovers. The Hurricanes held an 18-8 lead, but were 4-for-20 from the field.
“It definitely wasn’t our best offensive game, and that’s something we talked about at halftime, making sure we had a better shot selection, to not just chuck up the first open shot,” said Lauder. “I think we’re so used to running fast and scoring in transition, give credit to Twin Valley – we really haven’t had a team slow us down lately, and it kind of took us off our game plan.”
McCartney said, “We were a little sluggish on offense today, we were a little rattled, I don’t know why. We got a little impatient on offense, we want things to happen quickly and sometimes they don’t.”
Villa Maria kept the defensive pressure on in the third quarter, and held a 27-14 lead by the end of the period.
In the fourth quarter, both teams’ offenses picked up, but Villa Maria maintained and actually increased its lead.
Walheim finished with 15 points, Lauder chipped in with 13 (including 9-for-10 from the free throw line) and Ryan tallied eight.
McCartney said, “I thought we rebounded the ball pretty well tonight (Villa Maria outrebounded Twin Valley 28-23). I told the kids that, in the state tournament, you win and move on. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It was a gut check for us, we didn’t bring our ‘A’ game tonight, but we still won by 17 points. And we’re moving on, into the Elite 8, so I’m happy.”
Lauder said, “It wasn’t the prettiest of games, but we dug down and found a way to win, which is something I’m really proud of. When the buzzer sounded, I felt a lot of relief – and I’m really excited, we’ve been playing really well lately, and I think we have a good road ahead of us.”
Villa Maria 42, Twin Valley 25
Twin Valley 3 5 6 11 – 25
Villa Maria 7 11 9 15 – 42
Twin Valley (25): Foster 2 0-1 4, Jamison 0 0-0 0, Lennon 1 0-2 2, McDaniel 7 0-0 16, Morrow 0 0-0 0, Phillips 0 0-0 0, Prigmore 1 0-0 3, Yost 0 0-0 0, Totals 11 0-3 25.
Villa Maria Academy (42): Chieffalo 0 0-0 0, Ford 1 0-0 2, Lauder 2 9-10 13, Ryan 3 2-4 8, Samar 1 1-2 4, Walheim 4 6-10 15, Warley 0 0-1 0, Totals 11 18-27 42.
Three point field goals: Twin Valley – McDaniel 2, Prigmore; Villa Maria Academy – Samar, Walheim.