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District 1 5A Girls' Quarterfinal Roundup (Tues., Feb. 21)

02/21/2023, 11:45pm EST
By Konner Metz

Konner Metz (@konner_metz)

Tom Lonergan usually gives his team a lengthy, detailed rundown after each and every game. His girls are so used to it that they’ve begun to time his postgame speeches.

“Win or lose, it’s usually pretty long or winded,” the Gwynedd Mercy head coach said. “It’s like a running joke. They rotate players on who puts the stopwatch on me.”

Tom Lonergan (above) gave his shortest-ever victory speech on Tuesday night. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

But there’s always a first for everything, and Tuesday night was that first for Lonergan’s speech habits after Gwynedd Mercy sealed a 48-34 victory against Upper Moreland in the District 1 5A quarterfinals. And the rush out of the locker room was for good reason.

With Tuesday’s triumph, the Monarchs will face their biggest test yet: a semi-final clash against No. 1 West Chester Rustin this Friday. Lonergan’s son and assistant on the staff, TJ Lonergan, accompanied his father on the dash to watch their next opponent.

“Tonight was the shortest speech ever,” Lonegan said. “I told the girls, I said ‘great game, me and coach TJ (are) running out because we’re trying to catch the team we’re playing next.’

“I don’t think I’ll ever break that record.”

The Monarchs made that hasty postgame possible by clamping down on the Golden Bears’ offense, holding them to just five first-quarter points and 16 overall in the first half.

GMA jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter, with buckets from four different players, including five from Bailey Balkir (8 total pts). Threes from Emilia Coleman (game-high 15 pts) and Morgan Newell (3 pts) in the team’s 16-point second-quarter output maintained the double-digit gap at halftime, up 29-16.

Upper Moreland’s Holly Gohl (10 pts) hit two consecutive triples in the third to cut the deficit to six, but GMA answered with four points of their own. However, the most important bucket came in the fourth.

Mikel Lancit (team-high 11 pts) drilled a corner three for the Bears to bring the score to 36-29 midway through the fourth. The energy was shifting a bit in favor of the visitors, but Coleman immediately countered with a three of her own, gapping the GMA lead to 10 and effectively closing out the contest.

“It was looking like they were going to try to make another run,” Lonergan said. “That was like a dagger.”

It was EmmyFaith Wood’s second game back from an ankle injury for Upper Moreland, along with the second game back for Lilly Hansen and the first game back for Allie Larocco from injuries. The Monarchs, meanwhile, had six of their main seven – Cara Lapp was out with a concussion. But the rotation of six did a superb job of limiting open shots.

“When you go up against a team that can shoot the ball as well as they’re capable of shooting, you can try to limit them as much on opportunities towards the basket, which is what I thought we were able to do,” Lonergan said.

“I was very impressed with the team and their patience. Coach [Matt] Carroll, he knows what we run. I always tell the girls it doesn’t matter if the other team knows what you run, you have to adjust to how they’re covering you. I thought we did a really, really nice job of doing it in the early going.”

Upper Moreland will head to the play-back bracket, in a must-win situation to be one of the six qualifiers for states from their district. They will face West Chester East this Friday with a spot in states on the line.

“One of our goal is still attainable: to qualify for states,” Carroll said. “I told the girls after today, this game is the biggest game of my coaching career. As a head coach for Upper Moreland, I’ve never been to states. We’ve had a few chances that we have lost the last couple years.

“Put whatever energy you have left and you have nine months to save your energy. Because if we don’t put all our energy into it, and we lose, it’s over. So we have no other choice but to put all our energy into Friday, because if we don’t win Friday our season’s over.”

By Quarter
GMA: 13 | 16 | 5 | 14 || 48
UM:     5  | 11 | 8 | 10 || 34

GMA: Emilia Coleman 15, Bailey Balkir 8, Dylan Burke 8, Hannah Griffin 7, Morgan Newell 5, Megan McDonnell 5

UM: Mikel Lancit 11, Holly Gohl 10, EmmyFaith Wood 8, Alyssa Wiley 3, Lilly Hansen 2


No. 1 West Chester Rustin 68, No. 9 West Chester East 34

Laine McGurk (above, in Dec.) had 37 points in Rustin's quarterfinal win. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Laine McGurk was seemingly unstoppable in No. 1 Rustin’s blowout of No. 9 East. The senior and Drexel commit poured in 37 points and did it from all spots on the floor.

“She was utilizing her outside shot, she was pushing the ball in transition,” coach Lauren Stackhouse said. “She did it a lot of different ways tonight.”

It didn’t come without adversity, however, as in the second quarter, McGurk was assessed a technical – upset with a no-call on a play she thought a whistle would blow on.

After sitting some on the bench, the Rustin star came right back in and replicated her performance up to that point (18 second-half points to go along with 19 first-half points).

“I think she reacted in a way that she definitely regrets,” Stackhouse said. “I know that she was disappointed in herself initially. She came off and said she knew she shouldn’t have done that. I really think from that point on, that just gave her more fuel to go out and keep performing at a high level. That was definitely out of character for her.”

Lola Flynn added eight points for the Golden Knights, and spearheaded a defense that permitted just four East points in the final frame. 

“Lola definitely sets the tone for us defensively,” Stackhouse said. “She’s so long and athletic, and just brings so much energy to the position. She is just a lock-in defender. With her athleticism and speed, she’s at the top of our defense every single time. She just does a great job getting pressure.”

Offensively, Rustin shot 22-of-40 from the field and 5-of-8 from deep, with four threes from McGurk and one from Riley Stackhouse. East was paced by senior captain Kayla Miller, who had 11. They’ll try to pull an upset in the play-back over GMA with a spot in states on the line.

By Quarter
Rustin: 17 | 16 | 24 | 11 ||  68
East:     6  | 13 | 11 |  4  ||  34
Rustin: Laine McGurk 37, Lola Flynn 8, Riley Stackhouse 7, Ava Panetta 7, Elizabeth McGurk 5, Sara Betchyk 2, Maura Evangelista 2

East: Kayla Miller 11


No. 2 Bishop Shanahan 56, No. 7 Mount St. Joseph’s 49

The Eagles are back in the semi-finals again after fending off MSJ. Senior guard Alyssa Brown had a game-high 26 points and five three-pointers to pace Shanahan, along with knocking down five FTs and three buckets inside the arc, proving to be a threat from all over.

Shanahan led in double-digits for much of the game, controlling the lead, but MSJ made a late run with some pressing defense.

“They run a real hard, tracking, press half court and his kids were up really hard in it,” Shanahan coach Jim Powers said. “They really get after you. And we dribbled into some situations and turned some balls over. That made it close.”

Perhaps the most important storyline behind Brown was junior forward Sami Blumenthal, who got high praise from her coach thanks to her rebounding effort Tuesday night.
“She had a monster game on the boards,” Powers said. “Anything that came off in the second half, her hands were on it. She was just grabbing rebounds left and right. We’re undersized no matter who we play. But tonight, Sami didn’t give an inch and if it came off, her hands were on it or around it.”

Blumenthal and fellow junior forward Abbey Wolfe make up a frontcourt that is admittedly undersized, according to Powers. But they worked hard, and limited MSJ’s second-chance opportunities Tuesday night. An athletic Villa Maria Academy squad will mean Shanahan has no easy task in Friday’s semi-final.


No. 3 Villa Maria 57, No. 11 Phoenixville 31

The defending champs took care of business in the quarterfinals, dominating the lowest-seeded team in the quarterfinals on both ends of the floor. 

Marah McHugh’s eight-point second quarter helped build a comfy 29-12 lead at the halftime break for the Hurricanes, who got solid contributions from a handful of players. McHugh led the way with 13, with Ella Iacone adding 12 points and Alice Nash scoring 9 off the bench.

“Defensively, we turned Phoenixville over a fair amount,” head coach Kathy McCartney said. “And we converted pretty nicely in transition I thought. To Phoenixville’s credit, they’re young, they haven’t been in districts in a while. I thought they battled, they battled really hard.

“We doubled on their ball screens and their dribble handoffs, and that caused a little bit of disruption of their flow.”

Phoenixville’s Mali Warren had eight of her 11 points in the third quarter, giving the Phantoms a jolt offensively. Phantom coach Tracey Steeling said senior Jaime Michaud was a standout defensively, but VMA was relentless with 28 second-half points that were too tough to keep pace with.

It sets up a rematch of an early-season, December matchup where Villa Maria took down Shanahan 56-48. The teams have grown since, and McCartney knows it’ll be a tough matchup against the second-seeded Eagles. 5-8 junior Carly Catania will be big on the boards, especially after a quarterfinal in which she went “beast mode” on the glass, as her coach put it.

“They’ve played with these kids, they play club ball with them, they’ve played middle school with them,” McCartney said of Shanahan’s group. “It’s a nice rivalry. We know what we’re up against. Both Shanahan and Villa are different, better, and a little more mature than we were in December. So it should be a heck of a battle.”

By Quarter
Villa Maria:     12 | 17 | 13 | 15 ||  57
Phoenixville:    6  |  6  | 11 |  8  ||  31

Villa Maria: Marah McHugh 13, Ella Iacone 12, Alice Nash 9, Clare Cronley 6, Elaina Guerzon 6, Ava Irvine 4, Carly Catania 3, Abby Ferry 2

Phoenixville: Mali Warren 11, Caroline Flick 7, Riley Ford-Bey 4, Kayden Baratta 3, Ava Gnias 2, Nevaeh Latimore-Beasley 2, Lucy Mauerman 2

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