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Great Val­ley de­fense sparkles; Con­estoga wins tour­ney opener

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Bruce Adams [email protected]­tu­ry­media.com @mline­s­ports on Twit­ter

EAST WHITELAND >> Great Val­ley’s de­fense sparkled in its sea­son opener, a 43-17 win in the night­cap of the Great Val­ley Girls Tip Off Tour­na­ment Fri­day evening.

From the be­gin­ning of the se­cond quar­ter to the mid­dle of the fourth pe­riod – a span of 20 min­utes – the host Pa­tri­ots held Avon Grove to three points. Part of the rea­son was Great Val­ley’s de­fen­sive re­bound­ing.

“Our girls boxed out great tonight,” said Great Val­ley head coach Alex Ve­nar­chik. “They were in po­si­tion around the bas­ket, they got girls on their backs, and they at­tacked the glass.”

Great Val­ley se­nior for­ward Mia DeRober­tis grabbed a dozen re­bounds, and ju­nior for­ward Tessa Lib­er­atosci­oli got 10 re­bounds boards.

“Our girls knew we’ve been stress­ing de­fense in pre-sea­son, be­cause some nights you’re not go­ing to be able to shoot the ball well, but de­fense will keep you in the game,” said Ve­nar­chik.

In the first quar­ter, Avon Grove played some tough de­fense of its own and stayed even with the host Pa­tri­ots. The score was tied 6-6 at the end of the first quar­ter.

Great Val­ley held Avon Grove score­less in the se­cond quar­ter, get­ting out to a 14-6 half­time lead. In the third quar­ter, the Pa­tri­ots’ of­fense heated up, and by the mid­dle of the fourth quar­ter the hosts had a 37-9 lead – a 33-4 run by Great Val­ley from the be­gin­ning of the se­cond quar­ter.

Ve­nar­chik said, “When we weren’t scor­ing early, the de­fense kept us in the game, and then we were able to get out and tran­si­tion a lit­tle bit, get a cou­ple of buck­ets; then you start get­ting con­fi­dence, and the girls started to re­lax.”

Great Val­ley had four play­ers who shared the scor­ing load - Lib­er­atosci­oli (12 points), se­nior guard Amanda Heins (11), se­nior guard Katie Pe­duto (nine) and sopho­more guard Leah Va­lyo (eight).

“They [the Pa­tri­ots] all played well tonight,” said Ve­nar­chik. “I don’t know if our op­po­nents can key on one par­tic­u­lar girl and say, ‘We’ve got to shut her down.’ Be­cause if you shut down one girl, four other girls are more than ca­pa­ble of step­ping up. That’s what we’re look­ing to get, that con­sis­tency through­out the sea­son.”

One of the Pa­tri­ots, se­nior guard An­nalise Porecca, like Lib­er­atosci­oli a re­turn­ing starter, was side­lined Fri­day with a strained Achilles ten­don. Ve­nar­chik hopes to have her back by the Christ­mas hol­i­days.

Satur­day, the Pa­tri­ots will face Down­ing­town West in the fi­nal day of the Great Val­ley Girls Tip Off Tour­na­ment.

“That should be a good game – Down­ing­town West is well­coached, dis­ci­plined and a big team; so we’ve got to box out again,” said Ve­nar­chik.

Avon Grove first-year head coach Bart O’Con­nor saw prom­ise in his young squad in its sea­son opener.

“I thought we played well tonight, we just didn’t shoot well,” said O’Con­nor. “We played good de­fense, made a few dumb fouls here and there, but we’re a young team, still learn­ing. Give Great Val­ley credit – they shot well tonight.”

Con­estoga de­feats D-West in tour­na­ment opener

In the Great Val­ley Girls Tip Off Tour­na­ment opener Fri­day, Con­estoga Avon Grove’s Kaelin Sal­ley (22) de­fends against Great Val­ley’s Tessa Lib­er­atosci­oli (2) in the se­cond quar­ter Fri­day evening. pre­vailed against Down­ing­town West, 42-35, in its sea­son opener un­der Pi­o­neer firstyear head coach AJ Thomp­son.

The Pi­o­neers, who lost three starters to grad­u­a­tion last spring, in­clud­ing Cen­tral League Player of the Year, Katie May­ock, got off to a quick first-quar­ter lead and slowly built their ad­van­tage to 12 points (31-19) near the end of the third pe­riod.

Down­ing­town West got some sharp­shoot­ing from the out­side in the fourth pe­riod to cut Con­estoga’s lead to three points, but Pi­o­neer ju­nior guard Emily Lortz (15 points) and fresh­man guard Katie Faith (10 points) each made both ends of a 1-and-1 in the fi­nal minute to ice the vic­tory.

“We have a lot of young play­ers, so it’s nice to have a calm­ing in­flu­ence like Emily, who has some ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Thomp­son. “The times that we needed her, she stepped up. She was big tonight.”

Lortz, who has com­mit­ted to Univer­sity of Florida for lacrosse, said, “It was fun to get back out there – I knew this sea­son would be a lot dif­fer­ent than last win­ter, be­ing the only re­turn­ing starter. I thought the key for us tonight was when we fo­cused on the next pass, the next shot, rather than on the game as a whole.”

When Down­ing­town West cut the Pi­o­neers’ lead to 33-27 mid­way through the fourth quar­ter, Lortz caused a turnover and drove nearly the en­tire length of the court for a bas­ket.

Then af­ter Down­ing­town West ju­nior guard Ju­lia Mar­rone nailed a three-pointer to cut Con­estoga’s lead to 35-32, Lortz made a be­hind the back drib­ble and drove to the bas­ket for a five–point lead.

Con­estoga lead 38-32 with 43.5 sec­onds left when Faith went to the free throw line to make both ends of a 1-and-1.

Down­ing­town West wouldn’t quit, as se­nior guard Grace Wen­ner con­verted a trey to cut the Pi­o­neers’ lead to 40-35.

With 10.3 sec­onds left, Lortz stepped to the char­ity stripe and made both ends of her 1-and-1 to fi­nally ice the win.

“For the most part, I was pleased with our de­fense,” said Thomp­son. “We like to play a lit­tle bit of a 3-2, and some man-toman, and for the most part, we were in the right spots. We’ve got to clean up a cou­ple of things – it’s a new sea­son with a new coach and new play­ers, it takes some time. I told the girls be­fore­hand that we’re go­ing to make some mis­takes; it’s just a mat­ter of not mak­ing the same mis­takes next game.”

Thomp­son noted that the Pi­o­neers be­came less se­lec­tive in their shoot­ing af­ter build­ing a 31-19 lead.

“Af­ter we built that 12 point lead we kind of got out of our game of­fen­sively, where we just started tak­ing shots that aren’t nec­es­sar­ily shots we want to take, we took quick shots, long re­bounds,” said Thomp­son. “We want to con­trol the pace, run our of­fense, be as pa­tient as pos­si­ble, take the best shot, not just a good shot. I think we set­tled in the third quar­ter for some open long shots which aren’t nec­es­sar­ily our strong suit, so we kind of wanted to make sure we moved the bas­ket­ball more and have the op­por­tu­nity to move the de­fense, make them work a lit­tle bit more, that’s more of our game plan for this sea­son.”

Thomp­son also praised Con­estoga ju­nior for­ward Anne Nikolic, who scored seven points.

“I thought Anne Nikolic played a great game for us over­all, she played well of­fen­sively and de­fen­sively and helped us out in spots,” said Thomp­son.

Down­ing­town West scor­ing was led by Mar­rone (nine points), while a trio of Whip­pets each scored six points.

“We didn’t come out at the be­gin­ning with enough in­ten­sity,” said Down­ing­town West head coach Dave John­son. “To our credit, our girls did bat­tle back in the fourth quar­ter. We did some good things de­fen­sively, we were fly­ing around a bit on our press. We’re an in­ex­pe­ri­enced team – we have some teach­ing to do.”

PETE BANNAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Great Val­ley’s Ash­ley Sul­li­van (5) and Avon Grove’s Kaelin Sal­ley (22) chase down a ball in the first quar­ter at Great Val­ley Fri­day evening.

PETE BANNAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Great Val­ley’s Katie Pe­duto steals a ball against Avon Grove in the se­cond quar­ter Fri­day evening.

PETE BANNAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

PETE BANNAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Avon Grove’s Bria Nartey (3) puts up a shot against Great Val­ley in the first quar­ter Fri­day evening.

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