|Staff photo by Brad Spahr/Downingtown West's Kayla Feairheller, center, is congratulated after scoring her 1,000th point in Thursday's victory over Avon Grove.|
By BRAD SPAHR
DOWNINGTOWN -- It was most definitely a pretty cool night for the Downingtown West High School girls basketball team on Thursday. Not only did the Whippets clinch the Ches-Mont League National Division title, they also saw standout senior forward Kayla Feairheller score her 1,000th career point.
Feairheller poured in a game-high 25 points and became just the second Downingtown West athlete to reach the personal milestone as the Whippets rolled past last-place Avon Grove, 74-28, in front of their home crowd to win their second straight National Division crown.
Downingtown West (11-1 National, 15-7 overall) recovered from its only league loss of the season to rival Downingtown East on Tuesday, the Whippets’ first Ches-Mont setback since the 2010-11 campaign, as they sprinted out to a 44-10 halftime lead against the Red Devils (0-12) and cruised home from there.
The Whippets will face American Division runner-up Great Valley in the first round of the Ches-Mont League Final Four Tournament on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Coatesville High School. The other semifinal game will pit American Division champ West Chester Rustin against National runner-up Downingtown East at 3:30 p.m. at Coatesville.
"Winning the division is definitely a big deal to us," said Feairheller. "We knew all season we were going to have a target on our backs after winning it last year, and we got every team’s best game.
"We ended up finding a way to pull it off for a second year in a row. Now we’re excited about the tournament this weekend. We have the experience from winning the Ches-Mont title last year, and we know we are going to have to work really hard in practice to get ready to defend it."
Feairheller, who transferred to Downingtown West as a junior after spending two years playing for West Chester Henderson, came into the contest needing 22 points to reach 1,000 for her career. In front of a supportive Senior Night crowd hoping to see her accomplish the feat on her home court, she wasted little time letting everyone know that this would be the night.
Feairheller scored 23 points in the opening half. She surpassed the milestone with 10.6 seconds left in the second quarter when she drained a 3-pointer from the corner. In the process she joined 2012 graduate Brittany Sicinski, who now plays for West Chester, as the second Downingtown West athlete to score 1,000 points in the 10-year history of the school.
"I knew I was close but I didn’t know that 3-pointer was all I needed when I shot it," said Feairheller, who will play for King’s College next year. "It was an amazing feeling when everyone started congratulating me. Coming into this season that was my biggest personal goal. I knew I had to take on more of a leadership role this season, and I’ve had a lot of help from my teammates. This is a huge honor getting 1,000, especially since I join Sicinski, who I’ve always looked up to."
Maddie Dew also had another big game for the Whippets, as the sophomore guard finished with 15 points. Senior forward Lindsay Galczynski turned in a strong performance as well with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Freshman guard Melana Pasternoster added eight points, and freshman Heather Camden finished with six.
Downingtown West led 22-5 after the first quarter, on the strength of 13 points from Feairheller in the period and seven from Dew.
It was a short night’s work for most of the Whippets’ starters due to the big lead. Feairheller left the game with 6:06 left in the third quarter, for instance, and never returned.
Downingtown West knocked down 31 field goals and turned in another superb defensive effort, which saw them force 18 turnovers.
Avon Grove, which won the Ches-Mont title two years ago, has experienced a tough season record-wise with a young roster and hopes to only get better in the future. Emily Lange led the Red Devils with 13 points, and Sarita March added eight.
After winning the National Division last year, the Whippets went on to beat West Chester Rustin and Downingtown East in the Final Four Tournament to capture the Ches-Mont title for the first time in school history. They are hoping history repeats itself.
"Going back-to-back in the division is hard to do," said Downingtown West coach Dave Johnson. "Defending it was one of our goals, so this is big for us, and it’s big for Downingtown.
"It’s an accomplishment that we’re really proud of, but we’re not satisfied. We want some more, and whoever we play in the tournament, they are going to have to earn it against us because we certainly aren’t going to give it to anybody. We’re excited to see what happens from here on out."
Feairheller has been sensational this season for Downingtown West, averaging over 17 points a game. Johnson said she has more than exceeded expectations this winter with her play on the court.
"She had to step up for us this season and kind of move into that No. 1 spot for us," said Johnson. "She’s had a mark on her back all year. She has been fantastic, and she’s carried us on her back at times.
"For her to get her 1,000th point is quite an accomplishment. We’re all really proud of her."
Downingtown West 74, Avon Grove 28
AVON GROVE: Cook 1 0-0 2, Eder 2 0-0 4, March 3 0-0 8, Patone 0 0-0 0, Lange 5 1-2 13, Whiteside 0 1-2 1. Totals: 11 2-4 28.
DOWNINGTOWN WEST: Dew 5 4-5 15, Camden 3 0-2 6, E. Kuhlman 1 0-0 2, Galczynski 4 2-2 10, Feairheller 11 1-1 25, Caruso 2 0-0 4, Paternoster 3 1-2 8, Supplee 2 0-0 4. Totals: 31 8-12 74.
Avon Grove 5 5 14 4 -- 28
Downingtown West 22 22 13 17 -- 74
3-point goals: March 2, Lange 2, Dew, Feairheller 2, Paternoster.