Allentown girls’ basketball continues to shoot past top competition

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STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
Allentown High School girls' basketball player Kayla McCrea tires to steal the ball from Monroe Township High School's Nina Branchizio during the a game played on Feb. 15. Allentown defeated Monroe, 41-38, to improve to 14-5 on the season.

Beating top-ranked opponents continued to be the case for the Allentown High School girls’ basketball team during its last 16 games.

A last-second buzzer beater layup in overtime by junior Maddie McCrea sent the Redbirds to a 65-64 victory over a 14-victory Trenton Central High School squad on Feb. 11 in Trenton.

Facing a 19-2 Monroe Township High School team on Feb. 15 in Allentown, the host Redbirds held the Falcons to a season-low 38 points to pull off a 41-38 upset victory to improve to 14-5 on the season.

“We came in not backing down and did whatever it took to get the win,” said Allentown coach Danna Wells. “Right now, our confidence is soaring. We have a lot of all-around players that have a good skill set. Once they all bought in and realized that we have something here, they’ve been able to execute plays on the court.”

McCrea was again clutch in the final minute of the contest for Allentown, barreling down the lane to the hoop for a layup to give Allentown a 39-38 lead.

The junior scored 13 of her game-high 17 points in the second half, including the first five points of the third quarter to help Allentown wipe out a 19-16 halftime deficit.

“I wasn’t going to lose and needed to turn it on to help my team comeback and get the win,” McCrea said. “We did a good job coming out and playing really hard in the second half.

McCrea is averaging a team-high 16.2 points a contest this season.

McCrea went one-of-two from the strike with 28.5 seconds remaining to extend the Allentown lead to 40-38.

With under 10 seconds to play, senior Sophia Conti was able to hit a big free-throw for Allentown to make it a three-point game with under 10 seconds to play. Conti finished with six points in the victory.

The Allentown defense came up with a big stop in the final seconds to extend the team’s winning streak to five-straight games.

Allentown swarmed all over Monroe’s Brielle Fitzpatrick as she brought the ball down the court, not letting the senior get a shot off from three-point range. Fitzpatrick tried to get a layup instead with three seconds left, but McCrea once again stepped up big for Allentown, blocking the layup attempt and allowing the Redbirds to hang on for the victory.

Defense has been a huge part of Allentown’s success this season. The Redbirds are holding its opponents to under 37 points a contest this winter and have only given up over 50 points this season three times.

“For us, our strong suit was playing in a 3-2 zone and just locating players and matching up with them when they got the ball,” Wells said. “Our communication is key for us on the defensive end.

Allentown is 14-2 in its last 16 games. The Redbirds are the the No. 4 seed in the Mercer County Tournament this year and will be the host to the No. 13 seed, Lawrence High School, on Feb. 19.

Seeing her team come together and play at a high level, Wells couldn’t be happier about where her team is at going into postseason play and believes that the victory over Monroe is a huge momentum booster for the team heading into the county tournament.

“As a team, they have confidence in one another,” Wells said. “We’re not just relying on one person to get the job done. At the end of the day, it’s all about our family as a team. We’re all going to do what it takes to get the job done and get the win.”

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