There will be a lot of smiles around the Upper Dublin girls’ basketball practice today. The Cardinals took care of business in the second round of the District 1 Class 6A playoffs Wednesday night and relieved a major source of pressure.
No. 8 seed Upper Dublin jumped out to a 13-2 lead in the first quarter, increased it to 25-9 in the second quarter and held off visiting No. 9 seed Downingtown East, 48-39, to qualify for the PIAA Class 6A championship tournament for the sixth straight year.
The Cougars (19-7) will have to fight their way through the playback rounds to earn one of the three remaining Class 6A spots in the PIAA tournament.
“It never gets old,” Cardinals coach Morgan Funsten said. “It’s the best. I told the girls in the locker room the first practice after qualifying for states is the best because there’s a little bit of pressure released and I know it’s a top goal of mine, it’s a top goal of the girls.”
Practice is going to get pretty serious because with the win, Upper Dublin (18-7) moved into the quarterfinals against top seed Plymouth Whitemarsh. It will be the fourth time they have met this season. The Cardinals lost the first encounter but have won the last two, including a 39-35 victory in the Suburban One League Challenge semifinals on Feb. 8.
This time, the Cardinals will be trying to reach the District 1 semifinals for the first time in a long time.
“Recently, we’ve made great runs in states, but we haven’t been great in districts,” Funsten said. “So we get to redeem ourselves a little bit in this quarterfinal matchup. We’re excited about qualifying for states, but we’re trying not to just be satisfied with it and really come with the focus at practice the next two days to get ready for PW.”
Upper Dublin was red hot in the first quarter. Senior forward Kara Grebe drained a three from the left corner and a jumper from the right side to give the Cardinals a 5-0 lead on Upper Dublin’s first two shots of the game.
That set East back on its heels, falling behind, 10-0. In the second quarter, the Cougars didn’t score until 1 minute, 28 seconds remained.
To its credit, East rallied to outscore the Cardinals in the second half, 28-21, but the closest the Cougars would get was 44-36 with 1:37 left in the game when Cassidy Denning dropped in a three-pointer from the left of the key.
Jess Polin led Upper Dublin with 10 points while Bella Smuda paced East with 17.
DE: Bella Smuda 17, Cassidy Denning 6, Mary McFillin 6, Lauren Kent 5, Caroline Brennan 5.