Cedar Crest’s girls basketball team overcame many obstacles this season.

But the Falcons never faced anything as formidable as their first-round opponent in the PIAA playoffs.

Using its size advantage, grinding defensive style and some timely second-half scoring, North Penn wore Cedar Crest down and eventually pulled away for a 53-34 victory Friday night in the Class 6A playoffs, bringing the Falcons’ season to an end.

Senior Irisa Ye poured in 21 points and Jess Huber added 15 for the Knights, but it was the effort at the other end of the court that stood out the most.

Cedar Crest’s 34 points were a season low, and the Falcons managed just 14 points after halftime.

North Penn was simply too big and strong for the Falcons to hang with, according to coach Jim Donmoyer.

“We haven’t played against that kind of size all year,” he said. “And not only were they big, but they were strong and physical. That’s the best team we’ve played, bar none.”

Cedar Crest (27-2) was the unlucky recipient of a matchup with an under-seeded team. North Penn (24-4) was the No. 1 seed in the District One tournament, but was upset by Abington in the quarterfinals and wound up finishing fifth.

“They must be pretty good in District One,” Donmoyer quipped after the game.

That was certainly the case Friday night. After battling through a cold shooting stretch to take a 22-20 lead at halftime, the Knights overwhelmed Cedar Crest after the break once their shooting touch returned.

"We didn't shoot well at all in the first half," North Penn coach Maggie DeMarteleire said. "But we came out strong in the second. We told them at halftime to just go out and shoot with confidence."

Ye was the catalyst. She knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and added a layup on a fast break to spark a 10-2 run to open the second half, prompting Donmoyer to call a time out.

Ariel Jones scored on a drive to the basket and added a pair of free throws to pull her Cedar Crest back to within eight with 2:33 left, but the Knights answered with a 9-2 run to close out the quarter, sparked by two fast break buckets off turnovers and an NBA-range 3-pointer from Sam Carangi.

That surge made it 43-28 at the end of the quarter, and effectively ended the game, although North Penn’s lead swelled to as high as 21 midway through the fourth quarter.

“We were right with them in the first half,” Donmoyer said, “but we threw the ball away a lot in the second half. We gave up a lot of breakaways. If you only score 14 points in the second half, you’d better be playing some hellacious defense, and we weren’t doing that, either.”

The Knights’ defensive game plan was simple, according DeMarteleire. They focused their attention on slowing down Jones and tried to limit the chances for Cedar Crest’s outside snipers.

“She’s a very good player,” DeMarteleire said of Jones, who came into the night averaging 18.7 points per game. “She’s very crafty at getting to the basket. We made a couple of mistakes with our defensive assignments, and each time we did she got the ball out to one of their 3-point shooters (Rachel Witherite, who scored all nine of her points in the first half)."

Jones managed to score 15 points, but had to work hard to get them. She spent much of the game being tracked by North Penn’s Carangi, a Villanova recruit and the team’s top defender.

But Carangi had plenty of help.

“We tried to run some screens to get Ariel some space, but they kept switching,” Donmoyer said. “If you know they’re trying to do something, you have to go someplace else with the ball. And we didn’t have anyone else getting open.”

Still, when asked to reflect on the season, Donmoyer said there was no reason for anyone in the Falcon locker room to hang their heads.

“We went 27-2,” he said. “We won the Section 1 title. We won a league championship, went to the district semifinals and made it to states for the third year. We beat McCaskey three times. We beat Central York. We beat Northern Lebanon and Lebanon Catholic. There’s no doubt we can play with any team.

“I said when we won the league championship that anything else was just cherries on top. The kids had a great season. They did everything I asked of them and more. I couldn’t be prouder.”

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