West Goshen >> After a lukewarm start in its District 1 5A girls basketball opener Wednesday, No. 3 seed West Chester East ramped up its defense and rebounding for a red-hot 15-0 run, leading to a 52-36 win against sixth seed Phoenixville.
Phoenixville (10-6), the Frontier Division champions of the Pioneer Athletic Conference during the regular season, had taken its first lead of the night Wednesday midway through the second quarter when senior standout guard Aubrie Breisblatt’s putback gave the Phantoms a 15-14 lead. At that point, Breisblatt had scored 10 of Phoenixville’s points.
“I wasn’t happy with our rebounding in the first quarter,” said West Chester East head coach Erin Listrani. “But I think that rebounding was one of the keys to our [15-0] run – as the rebounding got better, we played better.”
The senior trio of Lauren Klieber, Olivia McDonald and Megan Merten grabbed the bulk of the rebounds that spurred the Vikings to a 15-0 run for the next five minutes.
During the run, most of it in the second quarter, Klieber and senior point guard Mary Grace Kerns hit treys, while Phoenixille missed shots led to a bundle of Viking rebounds and a 22-15 West Chester East lead just before the half. Freshman Annabel Kerns’ putback just before the second quarter buzzer gave the hosts a 24-15 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, the Vikings’ defense kept the pressure on, and Phoenixville did not score until Breisblatt tallied from underneath to end East’s 15-0 run.
Once West Chester East finished its 15-0 run in the third quarter to take a 29-15 lead, the Vikings allowed Phoenixville to come no closer than a dozen points for the rest of the game.
“We came out faster [in the 15-0 run] defensively, and that translated into our offense,” said Klieber. “We wanted to apply defensive pressure from the start, but we didn’t do a great job of that in the beginning, but we picked it up in the middle of the second quarter, get up on their guards, get up on their shooters, and we took it from there.
“We looked for our shooters, we attacked the basket, and that opened up a lot on the outside, and we drew some fouls on them.”
Klieber finished the game with 20 points, and is fourth on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,160 career points, behind Brooke Queenan (Class of 2002 – 1,605 points); Nina Mazzarelli (Class of 2014, now a WC East assistant coach – 1,568 points); and Juliette Warren (Class of 2002 – 1,339 points). Klieber recently passed 2019 grad Marissa McDonald (now playing for University of Vernont), who is fifth on the list with 1,139 points.
Next winter, Klieber will be playing basketball for Neumann University, where she will be majoring in nursing.
Phoenixville head coach Brian Grashof said, “We were playing a zone defense tonight, trying to take the ball out of Klieber’s hands, but in the second quarter they made a couple of shots and got a few offensive rebounds, and we couldn’t answer on the other end. Give East credit, they played really hard, and in the last two minutes of the second quarter the game got away from us.
“We try to mix man and zone defenses, but coming into this game, West Chester East loves to run their man offense, so we tried not to give them that. And our zone defense worked – right up until those last two minutes of the second quarter (laughs).”
By halftime, Briesblatt scored 10 points, and she finished with a game-high 22 points. Next winter, she will be a teammate of Klieber’s, playing basketball (and in the spring, softball) for Neumann University.
“Aubrie Breisblatt played her tail off today,” said Breisblatt. “I couldn’t be prouder of our girls. We had a fantastic year, winning our division, but we ran into a hot team tonight. Our team played with a lot of toughness and tenacity this season – never giving up, taking charges, diving for loose balls, being aggressive.”
For West Chester East, Listrani also mentioned the contributions of sophomore Mikayla Kushner and senior point guard Mary Grace Kerns.
“Mikayla is our top on-ball defender, and she does a lot of things for us that don’t show up on the stat sheets,” said Listrani. “She sets the tone for us on defense. Our coaches always tell the players that the game starts on defense. When you bring energy and playing hard on defense, then good things will happen.
“And, Mary Grace is the engine that runs our offense, and she was key in that 15-0 run.”
The No. 3 seed Vikings (10-7) advance to the next round of Districts, where they will face No. 2 seed Harriton Saturday. Harriton defeated Radnor, 36-31, Wednesday in its district opener.
Listrani said, “This is a special group of players, and I have eight seniors [Klieber, McDonald, Merten, Mary Grace Kerns, Kate Douglass, Alex Douglass, Madison Colston, Lilly Nowak], so we want to make this season last as long as we can, because they’re a great group of kids to be with.”
West Chester East 52, Phoenixville 36
Phoenixville 7 8 7 14 – 36
West Chester East 10 14 15 13 – 52
Phoenixville (36): Michaud 1 3-4 5, McAleer 1 2-2 4, Green 1 2-4 4, Brown 0 1-2 1, Thaxton 0 0-0 0, Breisblatt 9 4-4 22, Flick 0 0-0 0, Totals 12 12-16 36.
West Chester East (52): A. Douglass 0 0-2 0, K. Douglass 0 0-0 0, A. Kerns 1 0-0 2, Miller 0 2-2 2, Colston 1 0-0 2, M.G. Kerns 1 3-4 6, Kushner 2 4-6 8, Klieber 7 3-4 20, McDonald 2 2-2 6, Nowak 0 0-0 0, Merten 3 0-2 6, Totals 17 14-22 52.
Three-point field goals: PH – None. WCE – M.G. Kerns, Klieber 3.