WILLISTOWN -- Villa Maria's Katie Mooney could feel the roar of the home crowd when she checked into the game Friday night.
For Mooney, who already has two district championships on her resume, she was just trying to let the game come to her.
"We just had to not think about it,' Mooney said. "You just have to go out, play the game and be confident in the shots you take.'
That strategy worked well at the end of the first half.
Mooney scored the final six points of the half for her only points of the night the No. 3 Hurricanes started its quest for a four-peat in District 1 Class AAA with a 54-35 win over No. 6 Marple Newtown in their quarterfinal matchup.
Villa Maria (14-9) led from the opening tip in this one. Backed with a strong home-court and district playoff experience, head coach Kathy McCartney was quite pleased with how her team performed in its playoff opener.
"I thought we played really well tonight,' McCartney said. "Our defense was really good and created a lot of opportunities for us on offense. We know we have to show up in these games. If you don't, you're done.'
McCartney's players got the message as the Hurricanes jumped out to a 22-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. Danielle Knopp had eight of her team-high 10 points in the quarter while Molly Namiotka had six.
The Fightin' Tigers cut the deficit to 25-11, but Mooney made sure it wasn't sliced further. After sinking two free throws, she hit a pair of jumpers to give the Hurricanes a 31-13 lead at the half.
"Katie and the rest of the bench just did a really solid job for us,' McCartney said. "With the early foul trouble we had, they did a fabulous job.'
Despite the 18-point deficit at halftime, Marple Newtown (11-12) was not going to make it a laugher. Rylee Power scored eight consecutive points as the Fightin' Tigers went on a 12-2 run to cut their deficit to 36-25 halfway through the third quarter.
"When the girls got it down to nine, if we could get the next basket or two, we could put some pressure on them heading into the fourth quarter,' said Marple Newtown head coach Mike Colgan. "That was our hope. We wanted to get (the deficit) inside 10 in the third and see what happened. We seemed to run out of gas at that point.'
As the Fightin' Tigers were breaking down, Villa Maria capitalized with 10 unanswered to end the third quarter with a 45-26 lead.
"We knew we couldn't let up,' Mooney said. "This was our game and we weren't giving it to anyone, especially on our home floor. We want to play more games.'
The run capped at 12-0, before Carley Hamilton ended it on a lay-up with five minutes to play.
"Once they made their run, that took away ours at the beginning of the quarter,' Colgan said. "We wanted to take away the middle and did that during our run, but that's where they were hurting us once it opened up. If we forced them to make the long pass, we could recover, but there were a lot of short passes that led to quick buckets during the run.'
"We came out in the third quarter too quick and it was just a matter of settling down,' McCartney said. "We were better at shot selection once we calmed down and settled in with our defense.'
Molly Namiotka finished with eight points for the Hurricanes and Devon Tirney added seven.
Power led the Fightin' Tigers with 14 and Hamilton had 13.
As Villa Maria celebrated another district playoff victory, Mooney and McCartney know there is more to accomplish over the next week for the three-time defending district champions.
That starts Tuesday night, where the Hurricanes travel to face second-seeded Pope John Paul II at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School in the semifinals.
"They're a good team and we're going to have to work really hard at practice this weekend,' Mooney said. "We just got to do our jobs.'
"They're good,' McCartney said. "We got our work cut out for us.'
Villa Maria 54, Marple Newtown 35
MARPLE NEWTOWN: Power 4 6-12 14, Hamilton 4 5-6 13, Smythe 2 0-0 4, Devine 1 0-0 2, McAndrews 1 0-1 2, Collins 0 0-0 0, M. Lynch 0 0-0 0, J. Lynch 0 0-0 0, Tello-Green 0 0-0 0, Paolino 0 0-0 0, Haughton 0 0-0 0, Cooney 0 0-0 0.
VILLA MARIA: Knopp 4 0-2 10, Namiotka 4 0-0 8, Tirney 1 5-5 7, Mooney 2 2-2 6, Ma. Picinich 3 0-0 6, Fetterolf 1 3-4 5, Carlin 1 2-4 5, O'Rourke 2 0-0 4, Brown 1 0-0 2, Davis 0 1-2 1, O'Malley 0 0-2 0, Tague 0 0-2 0.
Marple Newtown 7 6 13 9—35
Villa Maria 22 9 14 9—54
3-point goals: Knopp 2, Carlin.