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Ryann Jennings, Conestoga bog down Garnet Valley

TREDYFFRIN TWP. — In a semifinal playoff game sure to leave black and blue marks, Conestoga pulled away in the third quarter Saturday for a 51-31 victory over Garnet Valley for a shot at its first Central League title in 16 years.

Ryann Jennings scored a game-high 17 points for the Pioneers, making 13 of 14 shots from the free throw line in a contest with so many whistles you wondered if you were suffering from tinnitus.

“It was very physical,” said Jaguars senior Emily Olsen, who fouled out with 10 points. “In a Central League game like this, the semifinals, it’s going to be a hard game. We came in knowing it was going to be tough and we would just have to work through it.”

To get the job done it took a masterful game plan by Pioneers coach AJ Thompson and the tenacity of his players to carry it out against the Jaguars, who led three times in the first quarter and trailed by just 21-16 at the intermission.

It also took a tough-minded effort from Jennings, who among other skills was trained for these rugged games, having earned her place at the table battling older brothers Drew and Aaron, who are her biggest fans.

“We used to play all the time,” Jennings said. “They went to college so they don’t play so much now, but we played together all the time and I feel that’s toughened me up. One on one, two on one, things like that. Now when we play, I have them.”

After Olsen’s three-point play to start the second half cut a Pioneers lead to three points, the Jaguars (20-4) couldn’t get to the rim, get enough good shots or make one except for a three-pointer by freshman Addie Adamski (10 points). The Pioneers ramped up the defensive pressure on scorers Kylie Mulholland, who managed three points, and star Haylie Adamski, who was held scoreless.

“You’ve got to give them credit for their defensive strategy,” Jaguars coach Joe Woods said. “They were shutting down our main scorers. They had a good defensive game plan. Plus, the open looks we ended up getting, we weren’t knocking them down. They’re a very, very good team. And (James) is an excellent player. I think the first time we played them she had 27 points. The last game we played them she had like 17 and we beat them by one. We knew about her. So, give them credit. They made their shots, they made their free throws, we got in foul trouble. All the credit to them.”

The Jaguars were assessed 22 fouls on the day compared to 11 for the Pioneers, much to the delight of the hometown fans. The Pioneers just weren’t going to be denied after giving up a fourth quarter lead in a recent loss to Garnet Valley.

“They got some buckets, and we couldn’t get enough stops and they beat us by one,” Thompson said. “We knew it would be a tough game, a physical game today. I thought our girls were fantastic. All seven who played were just really fantastic.”

The Pioneers led, 33-22, entering the final frame. They pushed their advantage to 18 points before celebrating. How physical was the frame? The Pioneers scored all but two of their 18 points in the quarter from the free throw line.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game because we lost to them on Tuesday,” James said. “We had a lot of energy going in and we knew we had to lock in and play really good defense and put the ball in the basket.”

Jennings, only a sophomore, helped make that happen. She’s a shooter, and so are her brothers, who she credits with helping elevate her game. Aaron, by the way, attends a local school and as many of Ryann’s games as possible. He was there for her Saturday.

“She’s a great shooter but she can also take you off the dribble and she shoots in the mid-80s from the free throw line,” Thompson said of Jennings. “She does a lot for us. And she plays basically every minute of a tough game. She’s being face-guarded so she has to fight through that, deal with contact. She does a fantastic job. She just wants to be out there and compete. That’s what she loves to do.”

Next on Jennings’ to-do list is helping her team, particularly the seniors, rewrite the school’s Central League championship history. The 2008 title banner hanging on a wall in the gym needs updating.

Source: Berkshire mont

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