The words “Elite Eight” carry great meaning to scholastic basketball teams. They indicate you rank among the best eight teams in the state. Two local teams, Neshaminy and Council Rock North, reached that lofty perch when they made it to the quarterfinals of the PIAA state playoffs.
Neshaminy, who won the Suburban One League National Division Championship with a perfect 12-0 mark, had to battle more than worthy opponents to reach the elite eight mark. They also had to fight Mother Nature who picked the least opportune time to stricken the squad with numerous illnesses. They managed to endure all obstacles.
Neshaminy started its quest for Keystone Gold by taking on Cedar Cliff, the number four place team in district three. Unfortunately for Redskin faithful, Neshaminy entered the game without the services of versatile forward Alexis McCoy who had succumbed to a stomach bug the night before. Matters were compounded when their stellar point guard, Kristin Curley came down with a similar upset halfway through the game.
Neshaminy was equal to the challenge as they erupted with a 20 point barrage in the second quarter to take a 31-15 lead into halftime. Brooke Mullin, the Bucknell bound senior, led the offensive charge scoring seven points in the first quarter alone. She would end up with a game high 18 points as Neshaminy held off a determined Colts squad.
The 48-38 victory set up a shot at District One champion Hazelton, a team Neshaminy beat 41-28 in last year’s state opener. History would repeat itself as a fully manned Neshaminy squad took charge from the opening tap. Not willing to allow Hazelton’s pressing defense to blanket them, Neshaminy marched up and down the court. Brooke Mullin again dominated the inside game scoring 15 points down low. When she was covered she would kick the ball out to Allison Harvey who was deadly from beyond the arc. Harvey nailed five three pointers to equal Mullin for scoring honors with 15 points apiece.
The convincing 70-40 win sent Neshaminy to the Elite Eight where they would take on the district 12 champ, Cardinal O’Hara. Once again, Dame Fortune disrupted Neshaminy’s game plan. Olivia Scotti, who provided much needed bench strength, was sidelined with the flu. To make matters worse, their star Brooke Mullin was also under the weather but equally determined not to allow this to be her last high school basketball game.
O’Hara appeared primed for a big defensive game as they took a 14-13 led with just over two minutes left in the second quarter. Neshaminy was not about to fold. Alexis McCoy provided the spark, stealing the ball under Neshminy’s basket and then converting a three-point play to give Neshaminy a 16-14 led. Mullin then dove on the floor, captured the loose ball, and fed Kristin Curley who drove the length of the court for a layup. Two Mullin free throws put Neshminy ahead 20-14 at half.
Neshaminy would take over in the second half outscoring the Lion’s 27-21. Key to the attack was going 10 for 11 at the foul line. Emily Tantala showed the most poise nailing 5 of her 6 free throws as Neshaminy held on to win 47-35 and earn a trip to the state semi-finals.
Neshaminy’s crosstown rival, Council Rock North, showed they were also a high-caliber squad. After dismantling Downingtown East in their final district game, the Indians went on to totally dominate their District Two runner-up foe, Central High School. Eleven players contributed to North’s scoring onslaught as they routed their opponent 84-15.
As they have all season, the Indian’s four senior stars led the charge. Dana Bandurick scored a game high 20 points. She was closely followed by Olvia Boyle with 10 points and Sydney Blum with 12. Camryn Polinsky, in addition to running the Rock offense, contributed 8 points to the scoring onslaught.
In their next encounter, the Indians proved equally well-prepped as they took on District Three runner-up Dallastown, a team featuring two six footers. The Indians, sparked by Sydney Blum’s nine points, took an 18-15 led into halftime. After Dallastown knotted the score at 18 all in the third quarter, North utilized their three point shooting efficiency with Blum, Boyle and Bandurick all hitting from beyond the arc.
Council Rock never relinquished that lead as they went on to down Dallastown by a 40-29 score. Icing the victory, Bandurick went a perfect 4 for 4 from the foul line. She ended up equaling Blum for game scoring honors with 13 points apiece.
The Indians next opponent, Garnett Valley, was clearly a state favorite having won the District One tournament while earning a 26-1 overall record. The Jaguars controlled the first half taking a 28-25 lead into the halftime locker. The Indians, led by their battling senior foursome, however, refused to surrender.
Coming out with a purpose, North controlled the third quarter. Boyle and Blum started the fireworks hitting back-to-back three pointers that put the Indians on top 31-28. Another three pointer by Blum and an Abby Jones’ layup gave the Indians a 37-30 lead.
The two teams continued to battle back and forth. Bandurick buried the front end of a one-and-one giving North a 44-36 advantage two minutes into the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for the Council Rock fans, the Indians would score just one point the rest of the game.
Finally succumbing by a close 47-45 margin meant the end of the careers for Council Rock’s four senior stars. North coach Lou Palkovics expressed it best, saying, “That’s the tough part to take. Not having another week with these kids is harder than losing the game.”
For Council Rock it is a season to remember. They made the “Elite Eight”. For Neshaminy there is the promise of even more glorious days ahead. For both teams there is the satisfaction of being among the best in Pennsylvania!