NORTHAMPTON TOWNSHIP >> Deja Rawls sprung out of her stance, swiping the ball at midcourt with a little more than eight seconds on the clock.
The Abington senior raced toward the hoop, seconds ticking down and saw 2.6 left. Wasting no time, Rawls gathered and shot, beating the horn as the ball swished through for a double-digit halftime lead.
"We always say at halftime there's still 16 minutes left to play," Rawls said. "We go out with a whole lot of energy and play as a team."
Abington pulled away from Red Lion, 67-46, in the first round of the PIAA Class AAAA at Council Rock South on Friday night.
"They made some shots tonight," Abington coach Dan Marsh said. "Their game plan was to pack it in and force us to shoot jump shots. We have kids who can shoot. Some teams are going to try that, but we were patient and persevered, and our defense caused some turnovers and we got some offense out of that, too."
The Lions gave the Galloping Ghosts a run for nearly two quarters using their wealth of perimeter shooting before the Ghosts' late second-quarter spurt sparked them through the rest of the game.
Rawls was in attack mode from the outset, and led Abington with 21 points. With Red Lion packed in and committed to stopping the Ghosts' bigs, Rawls, Gabbie Nolan and Sammy Lochner tried to open things up.
Once they did, Ghosts center Lizzie O'Leary and forward Leah Simmons were too much for the Lions inside.
"We knew we had a size advantage coming in," Marsh said.
O'Leary (11) and Simmons (14) combined for 25 points, 17 rebounds and four assists. They were also nearly perfect from the floor.
O'Leary shot 4-of-4 while Simmons was 5-of-6 and neither missed a foul shot.
Red Lion got strong showings from Courtney Dimoff (14 points) and Amy Maciejewski (17 points) but once Abington solved the Lions defense, the game turned.
"I knew the middle was going to be open so I had to attack," Rawls said. "It meant a lot of quick passes and just attack, attack, attack."
Don Dimoff said the goal was to deny Abington's dribble penetration, but with Rawls, Nolan and Lochner attacking, Red Lion could only take so much. Plus, even if the Ghost guards missed, they had gotten the ball to the rim and right where their bigs were waiting.
"The closer the ball gets to the basket, the closer the posts are to the ball and the basket," Dimoff said. "It's hard to box them out, we tried, but there's a size advantage. We wanted them to play a little more east to west off the bounce, but they got in the paint way too easy."
Rawls' buzzer beater spurred Abington to a big third quarter. The Ghosts outscored the Lions 19-8 led by six from Simmons and five from Lochner.
"The third quarter seems to be our quarter, especially defensivley," Marsh said. "We try to come out and put teams away when it's close. That big steal by Deja was a momentum builder. They were making shots but we just had to put a little more pressure on them."
Abington advances to the second round to face Mechanicsburg, a 37-35 winner against Easton. Red Lion ends its season with a 17-9 record.
Red Lion (46)
James 0 4-8 4, Shepherd 1 0-0 3, Reba 3 1-1 7, Amy Maciejewski 6 2-4 17, Courtney Dimoff 5 2-3 14, J. Shingler 0 1-2 1 P. Shingler 0 0-0 0, K. Johnson 0 0-0 0, Wambaugh 0 0-0 0, Hunt 0 0-0 0, Hollingshead 0 0-0 0, Wolf 0 0-0 0, Matthews 0 0-0 0.
Totals — 15 10-18 46
Sammy Lochner 4 4-4 14, Lizzie O'Leary 4 3-3 11, Bermel 3 0-2 6, Deja Rawls 7 4-4 21, Leah Simmons 5 4-4 14, Deal 0 1-2 1, Nolan 0 0-0 0, James 0 0-0 0, Allen 0 0-0 0, Hughes 0 0-0 0, Brusha 0 0-0 0, Pirela 0 0-0 0.
Totals — 23 16-19 67
3-pointers — RL 6 (Shepherd, Maciejewksi 3, Dimoff 2). Ab 5 (Lochner 2, Rawls 3).