Unionville girls hold off Haverford, 44-36

Dominant first half almost spoiled by second half lull

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

Unionville High School’s Bella Gallo races the ball upcourt, Thursday, in the opening game the Unionville Holiday Tournament, against Haverford. Although the Indians dominated the first half, they had to hang on for a tough-fought 44-38 win. Ken McGann photo.

EAST MARLBOROUGH — After one quarter, it appeared that it was going to be a laugher.

But as happens with young teams, Unionville could only totally dominate visiting Haverford for one half, before holding on for a hard-fought 44-38 win, Thursday in the opening game of the Unionville Holiday Tournament.

The Indians (5-3) face Central Bucks East Friday for the tournament championship.

Unionville was nothing short of ruthless in the first half, using the press and swarming defense to run out to a 16-3 lead at the end of the first quarter and a 32-9 lead at the half.

“That’s the best pressure we’ve had in quite some time,” Zambino said. “We were getting transition points, our outside shooting was excellent….everything was clicking.”

Unionville’s Katie Cloud fights for the ball with Haverford’s Jess Lyons during Thursday’s game. Ken McGann photo.

With a such a big lead, coach Tony Zambino opted to ease off on the press.

“Obviously, we don’t want to slam anybody, it was getting a bit out of hand,” Zambino said, of his squad’s domination of the Fords in the first half. “So we pulled of the press. And we stopped playing. I think we came out flat in the third quarter, figuring the game was over.”

With Zambino playing such a young lineup in 2012-13, it’s probably not a shock to see the kind of mistake more experienced players would know to avoid. Aside from three seniors, starters Katie Cloud, Bella Gallo and key reserve Chrissy Eckman, the core of this team is made up of talented sophomores and freshmen, including sophomore starters Micayla Flores and Taylor Thames and freshman Samantha Pancoast. Emily Mason, Casey Schueuer and Lexi Shanahan — all sophomores — get key reserve minutes as well.

And it was the younger players — Pancoast and Flores in particular — who led the first-half rally. Flores, who looks to be an emerging star, scored a game-high 11, while Pancost added eight points and Thames and Mason chipped in six each.

“This is something we have to figure out how to handle,” Zambino said of his young team. “We could keep the press on and blow the other team out by 40, but that’s not right for the other coach or the other team. We have to figure out how to balance that mentally, make that switch in their heads, so that when we stop pressing, we keep playing hard.”

Unionville’s Taylor Thames battles through Haverford defenders to get to the basket, Thursday. Ken McGann photo.

Friday’s contest against Central Bucks East, a talented and tall team built around 6-2 senior center Courtney Webster, is likely to be a much tougher match up for the Indians — and they won’t be able to have a similar lull if they expect to win.

“We’re not changing anything we’re doing, we’re going to go out and we’re going to press them and see if they can handle it,” Zambino said.

As has been the story of the young season, Zambino said, it depends which version of his team shows up to play.

“We’ve been a bit like the stock market,” he said. “One game, we’re really up high and then after another game, we have a couple of lows. We had a couple of lows last week, after we had four highs in a row — we won four straight — and then we kind of fell apart. But now we’re back.”

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