West Chester East, making its first appearance in the PIAA state girls basketball tournament in 18 years, had a tough matchup Saturday, traveling more than two hours to play District 3 champion Gettysburg (27-3).
Following the Vikings’ 56-39 loss in their PIAA Class 5A tournament opener at Cumberland Valley High School, East head coach Erin Listrani reflected on what her youthful squad has achieved this season.
“We met all of our goals this season – we wanted to get to the Ches-Mont Final Four, make districts and make states,” said Listrani. “Coming into this game, we knew Gettysburg was a great team, but I’m thankful and blessed that my kids always play hard, and our players didn’t back down today. I’m really proud of them.”
The West Chester East squad has no seniors on its roster, so the Vikings (18-10) hold plenty of hope for the future.
“Now.we want to take that next step and win those (additional playoff) games next year,” said Listrani. “After today’s game, the Gettysburg coach said to me, ‘Your team looks like my team did last year. Your team will be back next year, and stronger.’”
Freshman Mikayla Kushner led the Vikings’ scoring Saturday with 13 points.
“I am super proud of Mikayla, the way she has developed offensively throughout the season,” said Listrani. “Early in the season she was a little hesitant and the coaches had to encourage her to be more offensively-minded for herself. For a freshman to play the way she did today, in her first game at states – she’s fearless.”
Three of the Vikings’ starters this season – junior Lauren Klieber (18 ppg), junior Megan Merten (10 ppg) and junior point guard MG Kerns (more than 100 assists) – were starters on the 2018-19 Vikings squad that posted a 15-10 record and earned a District 1 tournament win for the first time in 16 years. Despite the Vikings losing standout Marissa McDonald to graduation last spring, the returning trio of starters wanted to improve on that record.
“They wanted to lead our team back to Districts, and I couldn’t be prouder of them,” said Listrani.
Listrani also praised the Vikings’ fifth starter, junior Olivia McDonald, and twin juniors Alex and Kate Douglass, who the Listrani said “have been great sparks off the bench for us.”
All four of the Vikings’ freshmen saw playing time Saturday – Kushner, Ava Gattoni, Kayla Legenstein and Molly Smeins, whose fourth-quarter steal and subsequent basket against Gettysburg finished the scoring for West Chester East.
Gettysburg featured a potent outside shooting duo of Cheyenne Proctor and Camryn Felix, who combined for 30 points (including three treys apiece) Saturday. Coming into tournament opener, Proctor had connected on 53 treys, Felix 48.
“They also had two big girls who were good screen setters,” said Listrani.
Gettysburg jumped out to a 16-6 first-quarter lead and went into the locker room at halftime with a 30-16 advantage. In the second half, they outscored East by only three points (26-23).
Throughout the season, the Vikings displayed a never-say-die attitude. For example, in the Ches-Mont League semifinals, they battled American Division champion Great Valley down to the wire before losing 58-53.
After that game, Listrani said, “The statement we made today, playing with heart and playing together, speaks volumes. I couldn’t be prouder of them. They play as more of a team than any team I’ve coached.”
Following Saturday’s contest, Listrani said, “All of our players this year were hard-working and unselfish. The first thing they wanted to know [after our loss to Gettysburg] is the next date for open gyms. They want to take care of unfinished business next season.”
Gettysburg 56, West Chester East 39
West Chester East 6 10 13 10 – 39
Gettysburg 16 14 15 11 – 56
West Chester East (39): A. Douglass 1 0-0 3, Gattoni 0 0-0 0, K. Douglass 1 0-1 2, Legenstein 0 0-0 0, Kerns 2 0-0 5, Smeins 1 0-0 2, Kushner 6 0-3 13, Klieber 0 2-2 2, McDonald 2 0-0 5, Merten 3 1-2 7, Totals 16 3-8 39.
Gettysburg (56): Felix 4 2-2 13, Oaster 1 0-2 2, Natter 1 1-1 3, M. Proctor 0 0-0 0, Scavitto 0 0-0 0, Fortnum 0 0-0 0, Shepherd 0 0-0 0, Bair 4 0-1 9, C. Proctor 7 0-0 17, Richardson 4 0-0 8, Abate 2 0-1 4, Totals 23 3-7 56.
3-point field goals: WCE – A. Douglass, Kerns, Kushner, McDonald. GET – Felix 3, Bair, C. Proctor 3.