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Chester County Press

Council Rock South edges Unionville, 43-40 in PIAA playoff hoops tilt

02/21/2024 12:53PM ● By Richard Gaw

There is not a sports team anywhere on the globe – professional, amateur or anywhere in between – that enjoys losing in front of a home crowd, and for the Unionville Girls varsity basketball team, coming into their opening round PIAA Class 6A District 1 playoff game on Feb. 16, they had hoped to kick off their playoff season run with a win at home.

While they came very close to achieving that first hurdle, a last-second three-point attempt to tie the score in the fourth quarter fell short and ended their 2023-24 season with a 43-40 loss to visiting Council Rock South.

For Head Coach Fred Ellzy’s Longhorn squad, coming into the game with a 15-8 overall record and a No. 15 seeding gave them a slight edge over the visiting Golden Hawks, who were seeded 18th and entered the contest with an 11-8 overall mark. Yet as the game began, the Longhorns reeled off consecutive turnovers on their first four possessions and were scoreless until Savannah Lang’s layup with 5:40 left in the quarter. After a Shannon Megill basket with 5 minutes remaining, Lang’s second layup of the quarter gave Unionville a 6-3 lead with 4:38 remaining. 

On the defensive end, the Longhorns held the patient, perimeter offense of Council Rock South to one-shot possessions that put the ball into the hands of playmaker Elle Johnson, who engineered Unionville’s transition game into a 12-5 lead at the end of the first quarter.

While a three-pointer by Council Rock South guard Sarah Freeman cut the Longhorn lead to 12-8 at the start of the second quarter, Johnson’s two buckets jumped the Longhorns to an 18-12 lead with 3:48 left in the first half. A three-pointer by the Golden Hawks’ Haley Thompson slimmed down the Unionville lead with 45 seconds left, but a basket by Milana Amoss sent the Longhorns into halftime with a comfortable 20-15 advantage.

Beginning the second half, the question remained whether Unionville would continue to counter the Golden Hawks’ ball-controlled offense with its fast-break pace. The answer came in the form of Council Rock South guard Liz Metrick’s second three-pointer with two minutes gone in the third quarter that chopped the Unionville lead to one point, 23-22 and led to the Golden Hawks outscoring their opponents 14-10 in the third quarter.

Suddenly, what had been a comfortable lead for Unionville was now a one-point deficit beginning the final quarter, with the season in the line. The last eight minutes of the game served as a back-and-forth tussle of matching baskets whose scoring did not begin until the 5:19 mark, when Council Rock South’s Kathryn O’Kane drove through the lane to give her team a 31-30 lead. It was promptly answered by a two-pointer by Lang and followed by a backdoor layup by the Golden Hawks’ Fiona Reckner that gave her team a one-point lead with 4:35 remaining. 

With 3:09 left, Lang’s bank shot was immediately countered by Metrick’s third three-pointer of the game that pushed Council Rock South’s lead to 38-35 with 3:09 remaining. After a Unionville in-bounds pass was intercepted, the Golden Hawks began to eat up the clock with perimeter passes which forced the Longhorns to foul, that sent Metrick to the line where she converted one of two free throws that jumped Council Rock South to a four-point advantage.

Following a time out with 29 seconds left, Amoss’ floater in the lane got Unionville to within two, but in the ensuing in-bounds, Council Rock broke Unionville’s press and forced another foul, sending O’Kane back to the line where she sank two free throws. After a three-point play by Johnson brought the score to 41-39 with 7 seconds left, O’Kane was fouled on the in-bounds pass and sank both free throws to give Council Rock a three-point advantage with 5 seconds remaining.

Unionville made a last-second effort to tie the score on a desperate heave by Megill but the shot did not get off before the buzzer.

With the win, Council Rock South will face No. 2 seed Conestoga on Feb. 21, led by high scorers Reckner and Metrick, who racked up 11 points each. Unionville was led by Lang, Amoss and Johnson with 10 points apiece.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].