Avon Grove falls to Pope John Paul II by five points
● By Steven Hoffman
How evenly matched were the girls’ basketball teams from Avon Grove and Pope John Paul II when they met on Dec. 27?
The two teams were tied no fewer than seven times in the 32 minutes of action. For most of the game, the two teams were separated by a single basket. Momentum tilted this way or that, but it never really swung—the largest lead that either team could muster at any time was six points.
The game was so tight that the Pope John Paul II Panthers seemed to be on the verge of victory when sophomore guard Elise Sylvester knocked down a three-pointer, giving her team a 36-30 lead with six minutes to play. But Avon Grove worked and battled and hustled down the stretch—a basket by Allyson Wallauer cut into the lead. A tremendous defensive effort forced John Paul II to turn the ball over on their side of the court. Avon Grove's freshman forward Caroline Malone connected on a short jumper and drew a foul. When she hit the free throw, Avon Grove was down by just a point. A few minutes later, a bank shot by Chandler Sally once again pulled Avon Grove to within a point.
But John Paul II forward Lauren Ciuba and Sylvester hit crucial free throws in the closing minute of the game. Avon Grove needed one big shot to push the game to their favor but, despite their best efforts, just couldn’t get one to fall. Panthers’ guard Rachel Yerger stepped to the free throw line with less than ten seconds to play and calmly hit both to seal the 42-37 victory.
Monica Rapchinski paced all scorers, contributing 14 of the Panthers’ points. Yerger and Shannon Mullen, both seniors, added nine points apiece. Sylvester contributed seven points, including the big three-pointer in the fourth quarter.
Avon Grove had a very balanced scoring attack with nine different players contributing offensively. Wallauer and Amanda Smida, a sophomore, led the way with seven points apiece. Sally netted six points. Katie Lengel chipped in four points. Ashlyn VanSciver, Kaelin Sally, and Malone each scored three points. Katie Griffin scored two points, as did Chloee Kleespies. Kleespies also had a strong game rebounding on both the offensive and defensive side.
The game was the first in the two-day Unionville High School Holiday Basketball Tournament. In the other game on the first day, Unionville defeated Pottsgrove, 48-31. On day two of the tournament, Unionville defeated Pope John Paul II, 37-34 to win the tournament.