Team effort leads Avon Grove over Downingtown West
● By Steven Hoffman
Hustle, hard work on defense, good passing, and above all else a solid team effort led the Avon Grove girls' basketball team to a 49-44 victory over Downingtown West on Jan. 24.
Avon Grove had to work hard to overcome the visiting team's 8-2 run to start the contest, and the win wasn't in hand until guard Caroline Malone scored a basket in the closing seconds of the game, so it took 32 minutes of solid effort to earn the victory.
Downingtown West's early charge was led by guard Jenna Young, who made a lightning-quick move to the basket for one score, and by center Shayla Johnson, who was a dominant force on the inside throughout the game. Johnson collected five points in the first quarter alone.
It took Avon Grove's offense a few minutes of action to get going, but when they did they scored in bunches. A three-pointer by Jamie Perkins and a long jump shot from the corner by Amanda Smida quickly pulled Avon Grove to within one point. The team's hustle was evident at every turn. Perkins' hard work on defense forced Downingtown West into a turnover on one trip up the court. At another point, center Kylie Norris scrambled to the floor to wrest a loose ball away from two Downingtown West players. Avon Grove again pulled to within one point of Downingtown West when guard Kaelin Salley knocked down a bank shot from beyond the arc to make it a 13-12 game at the end of the first quarter.
As the second quarter unfolded, Avon Grove's strong defensive play started to pay dividends. The team took the lead on a jumper by Perkins. Norris pulled down an offensive rebound and was fouled. She hit both free throws, making it 16-13. A three-pointer by Malone and another basket by Salley helped Avon Grove push its lead to 21-15.
For Downingtown West, Johnson scored two baskets—the only second quarter points that the team could manage against Avon Grove's hustling defense until the closing seconds of the stanza, when Young hit a three-pointer. Avon Grove's lead was 24-20 at the half.
Avon Grove demonstrated good passing during several different possessions in the third quarter, and the reward was good looks at the basket and a growing lead. Malone hit a nice shot from the corner after one such possession, and Perkins knocked down a three-pointer a few minutes later to increase Avon Grove's lead to nine points. Smida also contributed a three-pointer in the third.
Downingtown West refused to go away, battling back with a three-pointer by Julia Marone and a long basket by Jessie Wills.
Perkins finished the third quarter with a flourish, hitting a jumper from the corner and then stealing the ball under the basket. Her lay-up after the steal made it 39-32, and that was the score at the end of the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Downingtown West slowly chipped away at Avon Grove's lead as Wills scored a basket and Ali Reardon contributed two baskets. Johnson, who led Downingtown West with 13 points on the night, hit a turnaround jumper that briefly pulled her team to within a single basket at 44-42 as the game moved to its final minutes.
Avon Grove's hustle and good defense played a big part in stopping the opponents' surge and preserving the lead. On one play, Becca LeStourgeon, Smida, and Perkins all combined to prevent Downingtown West from moving the ball up the court for a shot. A moment later, Perkins came up with a critical steal. Salley, who had left the game for a few minutes because of an injury, came back on the floor just in time to make a beautiful pass to set up a basket by Norris. Avon Grove led 46-42.
With 53.9 seconds left, Marone drew a foul and went to the free throw line for Downingtown West. She hit both free throws, again pulling her team to within one basket.
Avon Grove responded by pushing the ball up the court to Salley, who also drew a foul. She hit one of two, increasing the lead to 47-44.
Neither team could get a good shot off as the defenses really tightened in the closing minute. Downingtown West had the ball with about 12.9 seconds to play when they were forced to call a timeout when Salley's good defense simply wouldn't let them set up a good shot. When play resumed, Downingtown West's shot wouldn't fall and Avon Grove quickly pushed the ball up court. Salley passed the ball to Malone, who quickly scored the basket that finally sealed the 49-44 victory.
In addition to the 18 points by Perkins, Avon Grove was led by Malone, who scored 10 points, Smida, who added 8 points, Salley, who scored 7 points, and Norris, who chipped in with 6 points and some very good play inside.
It was the second big win for Avon Grove in a week. The team also pulled out a 56-50 win over Unionville on Jan. 17.