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EAGLEVILLE - Welcome back, Kristen Fuery!
That’s undoubtedly what fans of Upper Dublin girls’ basketball had to be thinking as they watched the junior guard – sidelined for a major part of last year with a broken ankle – go on one of her patented tears in the third quarter of Friday night’s season opener against North Penn in the Methacton Tournament.
Fuery buried three consecutive treys in a span of 90 seconds, sparking an 11-0 Flying Cardinal run that turned a one-point lead into a 12-point advantage. Upper Dublin went on to earn a 50-41 win over the Maidens, and there was no mistaking the difference in this game.
“That pretty much broke the game wide open,” North Penn coach Maggie deMarteleire said of the Cardinals’ third-quarter tear. “There were times when our defense looked awesome, and then we’d fall asleep on the weak side, and they’d get a backdoor cut, and there’s no help underneath the basket.
“But I think the bottom line is if you really look at it – Fuery just shoots better than anybody on our team.”
The junior sniper led the Flying Cardinals with 22 points – 15 in the pivotal second half.
“When I find that spot where I just mentally know I can do it – I hit a couple, and I kind of go off in my own world for a while,” Fuery said. “When that breaks down, I look for my teammates.
“I started finding Danielle (Derr) on backdoor cuts, and everyone else did a really great job filling in. That’s why we won.”
The Cardinals won because they had three players in double figures. Senior Danielle Derr was a force under the basket with 18 points, eight rebounds and a blocked shot. Perhaps more importantly, the Bloomsburg-bound senior was given the task of defending Maiden standout Shakia Robinson in the second half.
Robinson scored a game-high 24 points and pulled down 14 boards, but she had just five points in a third quarter that saw the Cardinals go on a 20-12 run.
“We came out in the second half, and we decided to do a box-and-one,” Derr said. “My main goal was just to frustrate her because the more I got in her head, the more the rest of her team would have to take over and make up for that loss.
“They tried to look for her, but when she wasn’t there, they kind of folded under the pressure. I liked how when I took her out of her game, the other girls on my team took their girls out of the game too. It was a joint effort.”
Point production from Fuery and Derr is not unexpected, but Nikki Harchut’s 16-point effort was a bit of a surprise. Most of her points came on drives and backdoor cuts.
“I had to make her believe that she could slice and dice in there,” Upper Dublin coach Vince Catanzaro said. “That’s how we were passing in practice yesterday.
“Once we got over the turnovers, we started moving the ball, and it all started clicking.”
The Cardinals actually trailed 8-2 early but rallied to take a 16-10 lead at the end of one quarter. They took a 25-24 lead into halftime, but it was the Maidens who opened the third quarter with a 6-0 run that included buckets by Janelle Stawasz, Taylour Alston (nine points) and Robinson.
A tough shot by Derr over her defender was followed by a Becca Courter basket, and when Kristen Kane found Derr for an easy basket on a backdoor cut, the Cardinals went on top 31-30.
The Maidens took a 33-32 lead at the 4:20 mark of the third quarter after Robinson completed a three-point play, but they could do little more than watch as Harchut drove through the paint for a bucket to put the Flying Cardinals on top by one.
Still, there was hardly cause for concern because it had been a game of runs for both teams.
There was, however, reason to worry when Fuery buried a trey that gave the Cardinals a 37-33 lead.
“I feel like in the beginning of the game we were a little jittery,” Derr said. “We knew what we wanted to do from practices, but it was actually applying it to a game that we were a little nervous about.
“Once we started to bring it – in the third quarter, we turned it up and took it like it was just another practice.”
Seconds later, Fuery deflected a Maiden pass away and then – at the other end - hit nothing but net on another trey to put the Cardinals on top 40-33.
“That’s when the game changed,” Catanzaro said. “Her biggest thing is once she makes one, she can get on fire, and it doesn’t matter where she’s standing – she’ll hit four in a row.”
Kane found Harchut with a pass for an easy bucket and a 42-33 lead, and after a Maiden turnover, Fuery – with a defender in her face – hit nothing but net on a trey from NBA range to put the Cardinals on top 45-33.
“Momentum is everything, especially when you have a team as inexperienced as ours,” Fuery said. “We only played six or seven players today, and that’s not much depth right now, but this shows what our team can do. We’re trying to lead by example, so the other players can see what we’re doing, and when they get in the games, they’ll try and find their niche and see what they can do.”
The Maidens never quit, trimming the Flying Cardinals’ lead to 51-43 after Ayanna LeBlanc (nine points) buried a pair from the foul line. They would get no closer the rest of the way.
“We have been working on shooting,” deMarteleire said. “The last two weeks of the offseason we didn’t do anything but shoot, and it was disappointing how poorly we shot.
“I can’t fault the effort. We were down by 12, but we still kept battling. This is not the end of the world. They have some very nice players on their team.”
UPPER DUBLIN 60, NORTH PENN 51
Upper Dublin (60) – Kane 0 1-2 1, Courter 1 1-2 3, Fuery 7 4-8 22; Harchut 8 0-3 16, Derr 8 2-4 18, Waters 0 0-0 0, Ellert 0 0-0 0, Hallowell 0 0-0 0. Totals 24 4-8 60.
North Penn (51) – Robinson 10 4-5 24, LeBlanc 3 2-2 9, Sh.Knauer 0 0-0 0, Alston 4 1-2 9, Ward 1 0-0 3, McDermott 0 0-0 0, Stawasz 2 0-0 4, St.Knauer 1 0-0 2, Donehower 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 7-9 51.
Upper Dublin 16 9 20 15-60
North Penn 10 14 12 15-51
Three-point goals: Fuery 4, LeBlanc, Ward.