The Reporter (Lansdale, PA)
Abington stops PW’s return to states
Ghosts stop Colonials from defending district, PIAA titles
Cire Worley was in a mood to get things done Saturday night.
Generally, when the Abington senior is that focused, good things tend to follow and even moreso when the rest of her teammates share that same focus. Still fuming over their District 1-6A second round playoff loss to No. 11 Pennsbury on Wednesday, Worley and the No. 6 Ghosts had to win to keep their season alive on the road at No. 3 Plymouth Whitemarsh in a gym where they’d lost two agonizing games already this season.
Worley and Abington’s collective focus won the night, the Ghosts downing the Colonials 4638 to secure their spot in states and send the defending PIAA champions home for the winter.
“I think once we heard we still had life, that really made us come out hard because we knew what it was like to lose a game like that,” Worley said. “They know it too, I know they felt like they shouldn’t have lost their last game too.
“I think for us, we didn’t have a lot of time to prepare and we thought we’d be playing somebody else, but it’s extra sweet because we lost the last time we were here and it shows.”
Abington is also better the less Worley has to do. Saturday, the
UMass-Lowell recruit scored a game-high 16 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out two assists while also spending a lot of time guarding PW’s Erin Daley or Abby Sharpe, but she also had plenty of help.
Maya Johnson had one of her best outings of the season, the Abington sophomore point guard scoring 15 points that included a pair of devastating threes. Jordyn Reynolds scored eight while Piper McGinley only had two points but six boards and was also solid on the defensive end.
The last time Abington came to PW, in the SOL Tournament semifinals, the Ghosts didn’t shoot all
that well and they didn’t do a lot of other things well either that led to a Colonials win in overtime. It was the memory of those missed box-outs or blown defensive plays that irked Worley most, the all-time leader in points for Abington girls’ basketball driving it into her teammates that couldn’t happen again.
“I was locked in from the beginning, something I really take pride on is my thing before the game and I think that last game, I wasn’t as locked in as I was today,” Worley said. “I made sure today because I wasn’t going to lose here again.”
Worley came out ready, scoring eight points in the first quarter while Reynolds contributed a three and Johnson a floater in the lane for a 13-4 edge over the hosts. Abril Bowser and Johnson hit back-to-back threes in the second to push the lead out to 19-4, digging an even deeper hole for PW to have to dig out of.
What ended as a frustrating night for the Colonials didn’t start all that well either. PW coach Dan Dougherty pointed to the slow start as the team’s downfall.
“We had a game plan, we know how Abington plays, it’s our fourth time playing them and I thought we came out flat,” Dougherty said. “We did not get back on defense to start that first quarter and Abington makes you pay. We talked about how to handle the pressure and trying to get to a set play, we were able to run two sets there to start and neither of them worked out.”
PW thrice cut the lead to six points in the third quarter, Abington answering each time. Johnson was responsible for two of them, the sophomore knocking down a three for a 24-13 lead when a defensive lapse left her wide open then later in the quarter somehow contorting a shot up and in around contests from Sharpe and Daley under the rim.
“(Johnson) was special tonight,” Dougherty said. “She was able to get to the basket at will, hit a dagger three there. We were a step slow defensively too.”
Johnson echoed Worley in saying the secret to the success on Saturday was involving more pieces more often. The guard felt like the Ghosts passed the ball better, trusted each other more and didn’t try to each utilize their own talents individually but as a collective group.
“Before the game, we had a meeting and we all realized we had to come in as a team and not as individuals,” Johnson said. “We weren’t going to run through one person and get it, we had to do it as a team like we did the first game we played them and won.”
Worley noted that while PW has been a team that thrived in the second half all year, Abington had struggled in the third quarter to maintain any positives it had built up in the first half. While she didn’t score in the frame, her teammates did and thanks to a late three by Reynolds, the Ghosts maintained the same nine-point edge they’d had at half going to the final quarter.
Dougherty was assessed two technical fouls in the fourth quarter, the second coming with 2:26 to play and PW trailing by six having just gotten possession of the ball off an Abington miss. Both times, Worley stepped up to the line and knocked down the two technical foul free throws, with Abington also getting two additional foul shots on the ensuing possession.
“Making those free throws secured the game,” Worley said. “Once we’re up double digits in the fourth quarter, it’s hard for somebody to come back on us.”
Sharpe and Daley, the two holdover starters from last year’s state title team, had carried PW to plenty of wins this season. Saturday, they were hounded on every move, defenders swarming them and forcing the senior duo into either a tough shot or one they didn’t really want to be taking throughout the game.
Daley finished her career with 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists while Sharpe posted 10 points, six boards and two assists in her last PW game. Fellow seniors Angelina Balcer had two and Azzy Crumpton six to conclude their careers, the coaches message after the game emphasizing the word “sting” in light of their aggregate accomplishments the last four years which included an SOL Liberty and Tournament title this year, plus 22 wins for a team that was mostly overhauling from a year ago.
“This stings right now, the two losses this week, it stings but we used that word on purpose because it will wear off,” Dougherty said. “They’ll be able to look back, we were really able to accomplish a lot of things this season I didn’t think were there. For us to win the league for a fourth straight year, the SOL Tournament for a second straight year, the seniors got 100 wins in their careers, a lot of special accomplishments that are hard to see right now.”
Abington’s state playoff spot is secure, even if the Ghosts made it a little harder on themselves by having to come out of the playback bracket. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as they’ll be a pretty formidable matchup for anyone that happens to draw their number once the PIAA routes are set next week.
“We’re coming for it all,” Johnson said.