LOWER GWYNEDD — As Gwynedd Mercy celebrated a 51-34 victory over Upper Perkiomen in the District 1-AAA opener, coaches Tom Lonergan of Gwynedd Mercy and Pete Sovia of Upper Perkiomen — one in victory, one in defeat — had one topic on their mind.
"Both ends of the floor we were a little bit sluggish,' Lonergan said. "Offensively we had our moments that we were aggressive with the basketball and that's when we were able to create some stuff.'
Gwynedd Mercy stood flatfooted as Upper Perkiomen's Jess Spano erupted for 12 first-half points and Aubrey Gibbs torched the team for six points in a 45-second span in the third; however, the Monarchs consistency outlasted the Tribe throughout much of the contest.
Gwynedd Mercy will travel to take on No. 2 seed Pope John Paul II on Friday in the second round of the District 1-AAA playoffs. The Monarchs dropped their only encounter with the Golden Panthers, 53-48, on Dec. 21. Lauren Dao (14), Gabby Troisi (12) and Jenna Widdicombe (10) all scored in double-figures in the victory.
"We definitely have to bring our '˜A' game on Friday,' Lonergan said.
For Upper Perkiomen, its loss marks the farewell for seniors Holly Crossin, Morgan Aldinger and Anna Duemler. Crossin, whose effectiveness was limited throughout because of foul trouble, finished with four points along with Aldinger.
"They are just terrific leaders, terrific kids,' Sovia said. "The staff will miss them, the rest of the kids will miss these senior leaders. They are great kids and are going to be big successes in life later; I know it.'
"We would of liked to win obliviously,' Aldinger said. "We played our hardest to get here. We had to win some difficult games at the end to get in but we did it. It sucks right now but I'm proud of my team.'
"We've come a long way — everyone's overall game,' Crossin said. "I don't regret anything.'
Spano and the Tribe jumped out of the gate in the first quarter. Led by the forward's six-point eruption in the first quarter, the Tribe clung to a 6-5 lead midway through the frame. However, its lack of rotation on the defensive side of the ball gave the Monarchs ample time to shoot as they raced out to a 12-8 lead after one.
The second quarter spelled the same for the Monarchs as they dominated the offensive glass to the tune of seven offensive rebounds. Gwynedd's Christa Giordano (nine points) and Emily Sullivan (six points) paced the Monarch's to runs of 6-0 and 8-2 to build a 11-point lead entering the break.
"Gwynedd is a good team, there is no doubt about it,' Sovia said. "We put a pretty good press on them. We just couldn't force a lot of turnovers. We couldn't take them out of their rhythm. They were very patient on offense and got good shots.
"They had too many second and third shots. It really hurt us. I thought our initial defense was good but its been a little bit of an Achilles heel all year that we don't limit other teams to one and done and we paid for it a little bit tonight.'
The Tribe's dominating effort on defense — led by Gibbs — was overshadowed by an anemic offensive output. The Tribe could only muster six points — all generated by Gibbs — and failed to make a dent in the Monarch's lead. The Sullivan-led Monarchs then stifled the Tribe again in the fourth as seven different players registered points en route to the 17-point victory.
"You could see the pressure started off slow but then it suffocated them,' Lonergan said. "If we play like that for 32 minutes then we can compete with anyone we play.'