Central Bucks West captured its first District One girls basketball crown in five years last Saturday at the Liacouras Center, and the Bucks had different players step up in all four of their District One playoff games.
Against Neshaminy in the opening round, seniors Maddie Burke (16 points) and Olivia Irons (14) came through, along with sophomore Emily Spratt (11). All three players scored in double figures in a 52-41 triumph over the Skins, a team that finished among the top four in the state last season.
In the quarterfinal, senior Jess Broskey led CB West to a win with 22 points scored over North Penn.
Irons paced the Bucks again in a semifinal win over Spring-Ford, pouring a team-high 15 points into the basket including a critical 3-pointer she banked in off the glass that cut the Rams’ lead to three points heading into the final frame.
“We know we have players who can score,” said CB West head coach Zach Sibel. “Anytime you have that, the potential for the team to win is unlimited.”
In the championship win over Pennsbury, junior Paige Gilbert stepped up with 10 points and some lockdown defense she displayed facing Falcons’ sharpshooter Ava Sciolla. Gilbert’s defense helped keep Pennsbury to a single point in the second quarter when the Bucks were mounting a 21-10 halftime lead.
“In different games, we’ve had different girls stepping up,” added Sibel. “I think that’s what makes this team really special.
“They come together and they know they can win because they have that confidence in each other.”
With the win, West will open states facing District Three rival Hempfield 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 6 at Council Rock South.
In the semifinal, the Bucks had to battle back from a third-quarter deficit that grew as high as seven points after a 9-0 scoring run by Spring-Ford.
With two and a half minutes left in the fourth period, Broskey hit Irons with a pass on the left side of the arch. Irons canned a 3-pointer for the lead then hit 1-of-2 from the line for a 4-point margin.
Twice in the last two minutes, the Rams drew within a point, though West stayed on top, thanks to 6-of-6 foul-shooting by Spratt. The sophomore also blocked a potential game-tying shot by junior Lucy Olsen, a 1,000-point scorer for Spring-Ford who led her team with 14 points in the semifinal.
Spratt is usually lined up against the opponent’s best player so it was no surprise she came up with a big play facing Olsen, who’s been named a top 50 prospect by ESPN for 2021.
“She’s a sophomore by class rank but that’s probably it,” said Sibel. “She plays like a senior.
“She’s got that leadership, that poise and that type of maturity.
“She’s a gamer.”
While Burke hit for another 16 points in the quarterfinal win over North Penn, the senior headed to Penn State was held to single digits in the semifinal and the final.
And that’s to be expected, says Sibel.
“Teams key on her; they know how talented she is,” said Sibel. “They know what she is capable of doing. I’d argue she’s the best player in the state so yeah, teams are going to game plan against her.”
Still, Burke made some key contributions in the last two games of the tournament, coming up with a key steal in the final two minutes of the semifinal and connecting on a pair of 3-pointers to stake the Bucks to an 11-3 lead over the Falcons in the opening minutes of the final. Burke also chipped in with nine rebounds in the championship.
For the seniors – Burke, Broskey, Irons and Maddie McGarry, who witnessed West’s last District One championship from the stands at Temple – the group finally had a District One trophy to call their own.
This was the second time this season West came out on top against Pennsbury. The Bucks also toppled the Falcons in the Suburban One League semifinal.
For Sibel, who was guided by Pennsbury head coach Frank Sciolla during his high school years on the hardwood, he had himself a District One crown his first year at CB West.
“It’s really great; definitely an indescribable feeling,” said Sibel. “Mostly, I’m really happy for these girls. They really deserve it.
“I think this is a really special group that the CB community is going to be talking about for a long, long time.”
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