LOWER MERION >> Garnet Valley has walked around with a target on its back for a long time. The team to beat in the Central League had won four consecutive league titles and had lost only one game to a conference foe since the beginning of the 2015-16 campaign. Springfield was tired of seeing Garnet Valley win and wanted to do something about it. The Cougars believed it was their time.
It’s not a coincidence that a Ky McNichol-led Springfield team was the last to defeat Garnet Valley. You have to go back to Dec. 22, 2015, when McNichol was in her second year coaching the Cougars. In her rookie season she won six games. The next season, within its first month, McNichol was the coach responsible for ending Garnet Valley’s then-38-game winning streak in the Central League. Could the Cougars do it again Tuesday night at Harriton, with the Central League title at stake? You bet.
Springfield showed an intestinal fortitude that was unmatched. They were hungry … and you know what Eagles lineman Jason Kelce said about hungry dogs. They run faster. Led by textbook defense, sensational clutch shooting by freshman Alexa Abbonizio and a will not to quit, Springfield defeated Garnet Valley, 51-46, to win its first league title since 2010. Springfield also avenged a 39-21 setback to GV in the regular season.
“Going for five years in a row is just an insane amount to win. The fact that we even contended with them is amazing,” sophomore guard Alyssa Long said. “It was our game tonight. We didn’t care who they were, we wanted to win and it was going to happen to us.”
Springfield believed that if it played its usual brand of in-your-face defense, created turnovers and scored in transition, it would be successful. Notwithstanding a sluggish first quarter, Springfield’s blueprint worked to perfection. For starters, the Cougars (18-6) knew it had to rattle the cage ofarguably the best scorer in Delaware County, junior forward Emily McAteer. Jordan D’Ambrosio was tasked with stalking McAteer and limiting her opportunities.
“We knew we had to guard Emily, she’s a very respected player. We had to stop Emily in order to win the basketball game,” McNichol said. “Not let her post up, but not even let her catch the basketball — bottom line. Jordan followed our game plan, and what she had in her mind was that she was not going to let Emily score tonight. We knew the other kids could hurt us, but we were OK with letting them.”
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