Jess Polin's free throw sends Upper Dublin girls to PIAA state title game

Upper Dublin players celebrate as they win, 26-25, over Souderton in the girls state class 6A semi-final game at Council Rock South, March 19, 2018.

Freshman Jess Polin’s free throw with 2.6 seconds remaining Monday night gave Upper Dublin a 26-25 win over Souderton in the semifinals of the PIAA Class 6A playoffs at Council Rock South.

Polin missed the first of two free throws, but a timeout allowed her to calm down.

“Bricked the first one,” said Polin. “The Souderton coach called timeout and I guess she was trying to ice me. But it really gave me a breath and I got to think what would happen if I made it.”

Polin finished with four points for the Cardinals (26-5), who are heading to the state final for the first time in program history. Jackie Vargas was a force all game and ended with 11 points.

Upper Dublin will play Central Bucks South for the state title on Friday in Hershey.

Drexel recruit Kate Connolly, who made a game-tying foul shot with 26.3 seconds remaining, had nine points for Souderton (29-3). Alana Cardona and Megan Walbrandt each added six points.

Camera icon TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Upper Dublin’s Jess Polin (left) leaps during celebration after their 26-25 victory over Souderton in the girls state class 6A semi-final game at Council Rock South, March 19, 2018. Polin scored the game winning basket on a free throw with 2.6 seconds left in the game.

Led by seniors Connolly, Cardona (Indiana-Pa.), Tori Dowd (Muhlenberg), and Sami Falencki (Arcadia), the Indians won the program’s first  District 1 Class 6A title with a triple-overtime victory over C.B. South. They followed that with wins over Manheim Township, Easton, and Neshaminy. Souderton also lost in the state semifinals last season.

“This was a team that set records over the last two years,” said Souderton head coach Lynn Carroll. “I am so proud of them. I wasn’t prepared to say goodbye to the seniors tonight. It hurts.”

Trailing 23-17, Souderton scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to pull within one. The margin was the same following a Vargas layup and and two free throws from Connolly.

A frantic finish had the crowd groaning as both teams went cold from the foul line. Maggie Weglos, Nicole Kaiser, and Polin missed the front end of one-on-ones for Upper Dublin, while Cardona did the same for the Indians. Finally, Connolly made one of two.

Polin was fouled at the other end before making the deciding foul shot.

“Jess Polin is a baller,” said Upper Dublin head coach Morgan Funsten. “And that’s why she made that shot.”

Cardona and Connolly helped Souderton jump out to an 11-8 lead after one quarter. But foul trouble kept both players on the bench for most of the second stanza.

The Cardinals took full advantage by outscoring the Indians by an 8-2 margin in the period. Polin’s three-pointer gave Upper Dublin a 16-13 edge at the half.

Megan Bealer scored the first four points of the third to give Souderton the lead. The Cardinals, who have been known to score points in bursts this season, recorded the final seven points to go ahead 23-17. Dayna Balasa made a key three-pointer during the run.

Upper Dublin 8 8 7 3 – 26

Souderton 11 2 4 8 – 25

UD: Nicole Kaiser 4, Jess Polin 4, Kara Grebe 4, Dayna Balasa 3, Jackie Vargas 11.

S: Megan Bealer 4, Alana Cardona 6, Megan Walbrandt 6, Kate Connolly 9.