Sean McBryan (@SeanMcBryan)
LEESPORT — She faced a crowd that was heavily favoring the opponent with her team’s top two scorers in foul trouble and an undefeated record on the line.
It was a PIAA Class 4A second-round game between Gwynedd Mercy Academy and Bermudian Springs Sunday afternoon at Schuylkill Valley High School, and Hannah Griffin was game.
“We try not to think about it that much, considering now it’s one-and-done,” Griffin said on keeping the zero in the loss column. “If you lose now, you’re done. If you come into a game with expectations, you’re just going to keep thinking about that and it can really set you back mentally.”
Hannah Griffin (above) led GMA with 15 points in their second-round win Sunday. (Photo: Sean McBryan/CoBL)
Another mental aspect of Sunday’s game was the crowd, which was rooting majorly for the Eagles.
“When you have basically a whole gym that’s not really rooting for you, it’s kind of tough,” Griffin said. “We’ve been in similar situations with our rivals but it’s still tough to come an hour and a half away and try to beat a really good team.”
Griffin scored 15 points, and also had six steals and five rebounds, while acting as a stabilizing presence in a chaotic environment to lead the District 1 champion Monarchs to a 57-49 victory over the District 3 No. 4 Eagles.
GMA’s leading scorer Sofia Coleman had to sit with foul trouble just three minutes into the game; her twin sister and second-leading scorer, Bianca, was in the same position just a few moments later.
It was up to Griffin, aided by two 3s from Maddie Newell, to hold things down until the Colemans were able to rejoin her on the court with under 5:00 left in the first half, keeping the Bermudian Springs lead hovering around five. The Eagles (24-7) led 14-11 at the end of the first quarter and 31-26 at the break, though the bucket Bermudian Springs got just ahead of the halftime buzzer looked noticeably late.
“When they went out, something just clicked in my head,” Griffin said. “I was thinking, ‘Are you kidding me? This is the worst-case scenario.’ I just thought, ‘Okay, we’re staying in this game.’ We were down by five going into halftime; I was just trying to make sure they didn’t get too far ahead.
“I knew that when everyone was back we were going to be able to hit that gas and go.”
Halftime: Bermudian Springs 31, GMA 26. Victoria Bross hits a floater and then Bailey Oehmig gets a steal and layup that was counted…without some controversy. Clearly still in Oehmig’s hand here with the clock at zero. Looked closer live. @hooplove215 pic.twitter.com/6JuTLiLAnE— Sean McBryan (@SeanMcBryan) March 13, 2022
It was full speed ahead in the second half, notably the third. Sofia Coleman drilled two 3-pointers to begin the quarter and GMA (26-0) took its first lead at 32-31 since being up 6-5.
The Monarchs hunkered down on the defensive end and held the Eagles to only four points. Bermudian Springs scored its first basket of the quarter with about 2:00 left and GMA took a 39-35 advantage to the fourth.
“It wasn’t our best defensive game, especially in the first half,” Griffin said. “At halftime, it was our coach [Tom Lonergan]’s focus to step up our defense.”
Griffin began the third quarter with a steal, scored at the rim in spite of a foul, and hit extra foul shot to give GMA a 42-35 lead. It was now the Monarch’s turn to keep the lead. The closest the Eagles would get the rest of the way was at 46-41.
In the first half, Bermudian Springs’ senior Lilly Peters scored 11 and freshman Victoria Bross had 10; Peters didn’t score and Bross only had two points in the second half. Leading scorer and Penn State-Harrisburg commit Bailey Oehmig had 13 and Hannah Chenault contributed 12 for the Eagles.
Griffin’s steady play resulted in seven of her game-high 15 points being scored in the first half to keep the Monarchs afloat, while the Colemans (Bianca finished with 13 points, three 3s and Sofia 10 points, two 3s) helped turn the game in GMA’s favor in the second half.
Now, GMA gets set to face District 12 champ Archbishop Wood, who defeated District 2 runner-up Scranton Prep 44-21, in the quarterfinals. It’ll be a rematch of last season’s quarterfinals, which Wood won 60-38 on its way to the 4A crown.
The mental fortitude of the Monarchs was on full display Sunday as they didn’t allow a raucous crowd and foul trouble to two of their top players to affect them in staying undefeated. It’s a product of not thinking too much into expectations.
Although I did get Griffin to admit if she ever thought about that 22-point loss to Wood in last year’s quarterfinals.
“All year,” she said. “Now we get ready for Wood.”
Gwynedd Mercy: 11 | 15 | 13 | 18 || 57
Bermudian Springs: 14 | 17 | 4 | 14 || 49
Gwynedd Mercy: Hannah Griffin 15, Bianca Coleman 13, Sofia Coleman 10, Maddie Newell 9, Dylan Burke 8, Megan McDonnell 2.
Bermudian Springs: Bailey Oehmig 13, Victoria Bross 12, Hannah Chenault 12, Lilly Peters 11, Lillian Labure 1.