|Staff photo by Brad Spahr/Villa Maria's Lisa Mirarchi scored her 1,000th career point as Villa Maria advanced to the finals of the District 1 Class AAA playoffs on Tuesday night.|
By BRAD SPAHR
PLYMOUTH MEETING - About the only dramatics during the Villa Maria Academy girls basketball team’s semifinal round District 1 Class AAA playoff game against Lower Moreland on Tuesday night centered around when exactly standout senior guard Lisa Mirarchi would get her 1,000th career point.
Mirarchi eventually hit the personal milestone early in the third quarter and finished with 15 points in all, as the No. 1 seeded Hurricanes destroyed No. 4 Lower Moreland, 52-28, at Plymouth Whitermarsh High School.
Villa Maria (20-5 overall) will now get the opportunity to make it three straight district championships. They’ll attempt to defend their crown on Saturday night at 6 p.m. in the title game at Villanova University’s Pavilion against fellow Athletic Association of Catholic Academies foe Merion Mercy. In the first game of the semifinal doubleheader on Tuesday, No. 10 Merion Mercy upset No. 3 Pope John Paul II by a score of 47-35 to punch their ticket to Villanova.
Equally as important for Villa Maria, they also clinched a PIAA playoff berth after it’s contest against Lower Moreland (22-5) turned into a surprisingly easy cakewalk.
Mirarchi came into the game needing 11 points to hit 1,000 for her career. She scored 10 in the first half, helping her team to a lopsided 36-11 lead. Her teammates, coaches and supporters in the crowd didn’t have to wait long after the intermission to see her achieve the feat.
Mirarchi was fouled with 4:36 left in the third period, and then proceeded to knock down the ensuing free throw to the delight of everyone in the crowd. The game was then halted momentarily as her teammates congratulated her on the court.
"It’s a nice accomplishment, but what we want here is district and state championships," said Mirarchi, who became just the fourth Villa Maria player to score 1,000 points. "I never expected to do this when I started playing, so it’s pretty exciting.
"The biggest thing is we get a chance to defend our district title on Saturday, which is going to be awesome, especially since it’s at Villanova. We can’t wait."
Junior Molly Namiotka scored a game-high 16 points for the Hurricanes, and Jackie Carlin (eight points) and Lexi Daggett (six points) were their other high scorers.
Villa Maria’s defense was phenomenal on this night. They forced 20 turnovers, and their play on that end of the court completely turned the tide of the game in the first half. The Hurricanes didn’t allow a single point in the second quarter, outscoring Lower Moreland 18-0 in the period to turn this one into a laugher.
There was 5:59 left in the third when the Lions finally scored again, a drought that lasted nearly 11 minutes dating back to the end of the first period.
"We’ve been telling the kids that if you wanna win championships you have to play defense," said Villa Maria coach Kathy McCartney. "I thought we were terrific defensively tonight, and we rebounded the ball very well. All and all this was a real solid effort on both ends of the floor."
McCartney, who also hit a personal milestone earlier this season with her 500th career win, could not have been happier for Mirarchi afterwards, a player who has started in each of the last three seasons for her.
"It couldn’t have happen to a greater kid," said McCartney. "She did all the yeoman’s work as an underclassman, and now she is getting her chance to shine."
Villa Maria has gone 8-1 in its last nine games. Their only loss in that span came in the AACA title game against a Mount St. Joseph’s team who will be playing in the AAAA district semifinals tonight. The Hurricanes will be facing Merion Mercy for the third time this season on Saturday night. They’ve won the previous two, and one more win over them is all that stands in the way of their third straight district championship.
"We’re very excited for the game," said McCartney. "It never gets old. I don’t care if it’s a tidily winks championship...we want to be playing in it."
Villa Maria 52, Lower Moreland 28
LOWER MORELAND: Killian 3 0-0 8, Dranzik 0 0-0 0, Morgan Stein 3 0-0 6, Campbell 3 1-2 8, Alexander 2 1-2 5, Givnish 0 1-2 1. Totals: 11 3-6 28.
VILLA MARIA: Mirarchi 6 2-2 15, Carlin 3 2-2 8, Namiotka 6 4-4 16, Fetterolf 0 1-2 1, Tirney 0 0-0 0, Mooney 1 0-0 2, Daggett 3 0-0 6, O’Rourke 1 0-0 2, Knopp 0 2-2 2. Totals: 20 11-12 52.
Lower Moreland 11 0 13 4 -- 28
Villa Maria 18 18 7 9 -- 523-point goals: Killian 2, Campbell, Mirarchi.