FAIRVIEW TOWNSHIP — Defense can win a lot of games for Cumberland Valley girls basketball.
But when its offense isn’t clicking, it makes things a lot more dicey.
The District 3 champion Eagles played their trademark defense for the most part Friday night at Red Land High School, and it proved just enough in a 35-27 victory over Fox Chapel in the PIAA Class 6A first round.
The District 7 fifth-seeded Foxes (15-9) shot a paltry 9-of-45 from the field, missing numerous open 3-point attempts, a product of an off night but also CV’s well-oiled half-court defense. Domenica Delaney got 13 points, but she was held scoreless in the fourth quarter, and CV didn’t allow anyone else to make more than two buckets.
“I thought we felt pretty good with the defense in the first half,” Eagles head coach Bill Wolf said. “You’re gonna win a lot of games holding teams to 27, but on the flipside we needed to make shots. And we just were not making shots.”
No, they were not.
Cumberland Valley (23-4) was better shooting the ball than the Foxes, but not by much — 13-of-49. The Eagles were just 5-of-24 in the first half, holding a tenuous 15-14 lead at the break.
They had particular trouble in the paint against Fox Chapel bigs Megan Friday and Ellie Schwartzman, who combined for nine blocks (unofficially).
“We tried to just keep taking it to ‘em and just be aware of where they are at all times,” said senior Kennedy Kuffa, who had eight points, 11 rebounds and two assists in the win.
Wolf said they opened things up in the second half with more five-out motion, and it helped to a degree. CV shot 8-of-25 in the second half, including a pair of 3s, but still could not consistently generate offense.
However, it was just enough to book a trip in Tuesday’s second round against Abington, which beat Parkland 56-34.
“Yeah, I think we were a little nervous,” Kuffa said. “Shots weren’t falling and we were a little bit out of sync on defense, but I feel like as we continued throughout the game it got a little bit better.”
The Eagles looked locked in a week ago in a district championship victory over Dallastown, but Friday’s effort was not nearly the same. Wolf said he felt the team was not completely in the game mentally, perhaps a product of an inexperienced roster that hasn’t played on this stage before.
“You gotta get yourselves really pumped up to play these games,” he said.
He said the practices have been very good, and he feels two more practices of the same caliber will result in a different effort in the next round. A similar offensive performance will likely not be enough the farther CV goes.
“I feel like we’re just gonna put this game behind us and then learn from it, and work harder in practice before our next big game,” Kuffa said.
CV also dealt with Julie Jekot’s lingering ankle injury she suffered against Dallastown. Wolf said she sat the team’s first two practices this week and was limited in the last two.
He classified her as “75 percent” against Fox Chapel. It at least in part explains why CV couldn’t take advantage of what appeared to be a physical advantage at guard.
With that said, the Division I recruit played the closer role in the second half. She scored all six of her points after the intermission, grabbed three of her four rebounds in those 16 minutes and had an assist. It proved important in turning a one-point game into an eight-point win.
Linda Leitzel had a key fourth-quarter 3 and finished with eight points and three rebounds. Abbie Miller struggled with five turnovers, but chipped in six points and five boards. The Eagles dominated on the glass 44-27.
Email Jake Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @jakeadams520