Sean McBryan (@SeanMcBryan)
Central Bucks West stepped into a hostile environment against a district finalist from last season which was playing in its own holiday tournament championship game on its home court.
The Bucks didn’t look like they had only one senior on their roster, taking every punch Lancaster Catholic had and countering with uppercuts of their own.
Emily Spratt (above, in September) and CB West won the Lancaster Catholic tournament title. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Emily Spratt, the lone 12th-grader, led the way with 17 points to push the Bucks over the Crusaders 55-44 to win the Lancaster Catholic Holiday Tournament at Berger Gym in Lancaster.
Spratt, a Jefferson commit, didn’t lose her composure after being held scoreless in the first quarter and after she hit six 3s and scored 26 points the previous night.
One would expect that from a four-year starter off to play at the next level, but she received help in a big way with crucial three-point plays from sophomores Gabi Senior and Alexis Castro.
“This is a tough environment we’re coming into,” Spratt said. “We’re the away team. It’s a big crowd for them. It was awesome for an underclassman like Gabi Senior to step up and be able to do that. It’s really exciting to see for the second half of our season.”
Senior gave the Bucks (8-1) their first lead of the game at 34-31 when she converted an and-one with 4:12 left in the third quarter. That ended up sparking the run the Bucks needed to come away with the win.
“Last year with COVID we were able to get some girls some exposure to varsity,” Central Bucks West head coach Zach Sibel said. “But it’s so hard, you kind of have to live it. (Senior’s) been making big plays and it hasn’t always shown on the stat sheet. She’s done a great job of being active.”
Lancaster Catholic, the District 3 Class 4A runners-up from last season, played relentless full-court defense throughout the game that flustered the Bucks at the onstart. The Crusaders jumped out to 11-3, 17-8 and 20-11 leads until West went on a 16-8 run in the final five minutes of the first half.
“Lancaster Catholic is a team that throws a ton of punches and they don’t go away,” Sibel said. “In 2019, they took it to us in the beginning and we were able to claw back. I’m really impressed with the way we handled ourselves tonight. Down early, shots were not falling, but we kept playing our basketball.”
The Crusaders (5-2) held a one-point lead at halftime, backed by 14 first-half points from sophomore Mary Bolesky, after a frenetic second quarter saw the teams score a combined 36 points.
The Bucks clamped down on the defensive side of the ball in the third quarter, allowing only seven points. Five players scored for the Bucks in the third quarter and they took a 42-35 lead into the fourth.
Then Spratt converted a three-point play for the first points in the final quarter and Castro converted her own and-one to make it 48-35 with 4:17 left, giving West the cushion it needed to close out the game.
Junior Tai Henkels played a pivotal role in keeping the Bucks in it by stretching the floor and keeping the driving lanes open, hitting a 3 in each of the first three quarters and finishing with 13 points.
“We played some close games so our girls are battle-tested,” Sibel said. “I want to play a tough schedule. There are few places that are tougher to play than this place. We knew that coming in. This is a game we circle. When we signed up for this tournament, we had our eyes on this prize.”
After dropping a 43-33 loss to rival Central Bucks East two days before Christmas, CB West and Spratt feel like this is a positive note to take forward in the season.
“It’s always hard after a tough loss in a rivalry game,” Spratt said. “I think this was good for our momentum going forward and it was a good game for everyone on our team across the board.”
In the consolation game, Ephrata defeated Lancaster Mennonite 65-25. Jasmine Griffin scored 25 points and Brynn Adams had 16 to lead the Lady Mounts (3-5); Rebecca Lane had 14 points for the Blazers (1-5).
In the first round on Tuesday, Central Bucks West defeated Lancaster Mennonite 74-21 and Lancaster Catholic defeated Ephrata 49-30.
Central Bucks West 8 | 19 | 15 | 13 || 55
Lancaster Catholic 11 | 17 | 7 | 9 || 44
Central Bucks West: E. Spratt 17, T. Henkels 13, G. Senior 10, A. Castro 5, K. Finnan 4, A. Longo 3, N. Perry 3
Lancaster Catholic: M. Bolesky 19, R. Kraft 10, J. Johnson 5, L. Lehman 5, C. Anderson 3, M. DeJesus 2