Pope John Paul II breaks through; Timko, Methacton shoot down Phoenixville

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By DAVE KURTZ

ROYERSFORD – ‘Nothing Like the First Time’ is much more than a country ballad popularized by Lady Antebellum.

It’s also the sentiment felt by the Pope John Paul II girls after their 42-34 victory over Owen J. Roberts in the quarterfinals of the PAC playoffs Thursday night at Spring-Ford – the first league playoff triumph in program history for the Golden Panthers.

“We all believed we could do it,” said PJP senior point guard Elise Sylvester, who triggered an efficient effort at the offensive end with a team-high 13 points. “This is amazing. We rallied around each other and believed in each other. This isn’t just one person, we figured it all out together.”

Methacton, which easily dispatched of Phoenixville 67-41 in the first quarterfinal, is still trying to figure out how to secure a league title despite four appearances in the PAC championship game in the last seven years.

The Warriors continued that quest behind a sizzling start and balanced scoring attack led by sharpshooting freshman guard Nicole Timko’s game-high 23 points.

Up next for Methacton in the PAC semifinals Saturday night (7:30 pm) is Frontier Division champion Pottsgrove (17-5, first-round bye).  PJP (14-8), which avenged a 48-42 loss to the Wildcats during the regular season, will have little time to celebrate its monumental achievement, drawing top-seeded and Liberty Division champion Spring-Ford (19-2) in the other semifinal at 6 pm.

In their quartefinal success, the Golden Panthers never trailed, building leads of 11-2 after one quarter and 21-10 at the break while holding OJR to 17 percent (3-18) shooting during the first half, 24 percent (11-45) for the game.

“We just had an awful first half,” said OJR coach Jeremy Mellon, whose club was making its first appearance ever in the league playoffs. “We were completely out of sync, and it was very disappointing that we were unable to execute. They did a good job clogging the lane and defending against Olivia (LeClaire), but that has to be our worst offensive performance in my 11 and a half years here.”

Lauren Ciuba did a stellar job holding LeClaire to just four points – nearly 11 below her average of 14.6. The senior standout had torched the Golden Panthers for 23 points in the earlier meeting.

“Lauren really stepped up,” said PJP head coach T.J. Lonergan. “She said there was no way LeClaire was getting 23 on her this time and she was very determined to make that happen.”

Picking up the slack for the Cats was senior Diana Rantz, who led all scorers with 17 points, all in the second half. Rantz hit nothing but net on four shots from beyond the arc in the third quarter to draw OJR within 32-27, but that magic vanished quickly in the fourth period.

The Cats went 0-for-5 and committed four turnovers during a dry spell that lasted for 5:39 to start the fourth. Rantz ended the drought by scoring off a steal and later hit her final trey with 1:19 left to cut the gap to 38-32, but PJP closed things out by knocking down 4 of 6 free throws in the final 1:06.

“This is a great win for PJP and all the other teams in the Frontier Division,” Longeran said. “It’s a testament to our kids, who come in and work hard every single day.”

Methacton barely broke a sweat in the opener, scoring 12 unanswered points off the opening tip and building that advantage to 33-12 by the break to remove any drama.

In extending their winning streak to seven, the Warriors (19-4) maintained that 20-plus point cushion in the second half.

Timko (23 points, 9-14 FG, 5-9 3-point FG), Sydney Tornetta (15 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals), Abby Penjuke (13 points, 3-5 3-point FG, 5 rebounds, 3 assists) and Caroline Pellicano (8 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks) were the linchpins for Methacton, which shot 51 percent (26-51) from the floor and 42 percent (8-19) from beyond the arc.

For the Phantoms (12-11), whose season will continue in the District 1-5A playoffs next week, Aubrie Breisblatt had 12 points and five rebounds, Ameerah Green totaled 10 points and five boards and Hannah Sands chipped in with 8 points, 7 boards and two assists.

But Phoenixville never got much going at the offensive end, doomed by 28 percent (17-61) shooting from the floor and 19 turnovers.

(3) Methacton 67, (6) Phoenixville 41
Phoenixville (41) – Breisblatt 4 2-4 12, M. Brown 1 0-0 2, S. Brown 0 0-0 0, A. Green 5 0-0 10, N. Green 3 0-0 6, Johns 1 0-0 3, Sands 3 2-2 8, Williams 0 0-0 0, Totals 17 4-6 41.
Methacton (67) – Bockrath 1 0-0 2, Hargrove 3 0-0 6, Hazlett 0 0-0 0, Lucchesi 0 0-0 0, Markley 0 0-0 0, Pellicano 4 0-0 8, Penjuke 5 0-0 13, Timko 9 0-0 23, Tornetta 4 7-9 15.
Phoenixvile     4   8 15 14 - 41
Methacton     13 20 16 18 - 67
FG: Phoenixville 17-61 (28%), Methacton 26-51 (51%). 3-pt FG: Phoenixville 3-15 (20%), Breisblatt 2, Johns, Methacton 8-19 (42%) Timko 5, Penjuke 3. Rebounds: Phoenixville 31 (N. Green 10),  Methacton 33 (Pellicano 8). Assists: Phoenixville 5 (Breisblatt 2, Sands 2). Methacton 10 (Tornetta 5). Blocks: Phoenixville 1 (Sands), Methacton 7 (Pellicano 3) Steals: Phoenixville 4 (A. Green), Methacton 8 (Penjuke 2, Timko 2, Tornetta 2). Team Turnovers: Phoenixville 19, Methacton 17.
 
(4) Pope John Paul II 42, (5) Owen J. Roberts 34
PJP (42) – Bustynowicz 3 1-3 8, L. Ciuba 1 3-4 5, Crossan 4 0-2 9, Kennedy 1 5-7 7, Sylvester 3 5-5 13, Viney 0 0-0 0. Totals 12 14-21 42.
OJR (34) – Avello-Largo 0 0-0 0, Clay 0 0-0 0, Greenawald 2 1-1 5, Koury 2 1-2 6, LeClaire 1 2-4 4, Rantz 6 0-0 17, White 0 2-2 2, Totals 11 6-9 34.
PJP           11 10  11 10 – 42
OJR            4   6  17   7 - 34
FG: PJP  12-28 (43%), OJR 11-45 (24%). 3-pt FG: PJP 4-7 (57%) Sylvester 2-2, Crossan 1-1, Bustynowicz 1-2, L. Ciuba 0-2. OJR 6-12 (50%) Rantz 5-7, Koury 1-1, LeClaire 0-1, Clay 0-3. Rebounds: PJP 25, 5 offensive (Bustynowicz 8) OJR 25, 11 offensive (LeClaire 9). Assists: PJP 2 (Bustynowicz, Kennedy) OJR 8 (LeClaire 3). Blocks: PJP 2, (Bustynowicz, L. Ciuba) OJR 4 (Koury 20. Steals: PJP 4 (L. Ciuba, Crossan, Kennedy, Sylvester), OJR 4 (Koury 2). Team Turnovers: PJP 12, OJR 10.