Abby Walheim had already lost five championship games during her time at Villa Maria, and she didn’t want to lose another one on Saturday.
So she didn’t. The senior forward racked up a game-high 25 points as the Hurricanes knocked off Mount St. Joseph, 61-37, to win the District 1 Class 5A basketball title at Temple.
“This is all I wanted since I was a freshman walking into the doors,” Walheim said, “and it means so much to do it with my best friend, Julia [Samar], and all my teammates.”
Villa Maria knew the dangers of facing a Cinderella team. Mount St. Joseph made the title game as a No. 12 seed, knocking off Pottsgrove, Radnor, and top-seeded Springfield Delco to get here.
“They had a lot of momentum coming in,” Villa Maria coach Kathy McCartney said. “We were very nervous about them, and you worry your kids are going to take them for granted."
It turned out to be no problem, and this was the fourth time Villa Maria beat Mount St. Joseph. The previous win came in the Catholic Academies semifinals in February as the Hurricanes came away with a 37-33 victory.
McCartney said the Magic seemed to stymie the Hurricanes’ offense with a zone defense in the last game. But getting off to a quick start on Saturday allowed Villa Marie to take control early and keep it.
“The key to the game was to get out quick,” McCartney said, “because they had all the momentum coming in, and we were worried they would think they’ are on a roll. And I wanted to take that right out of their minds right away.”
Villa Maria did just that by taking a 21-3 lead after the first quarter. Mount St. Joseph didn’t have an answer for Walheim, who scored 16 points in the first half, all of which came from in the paint.
Walheim took her game to the outside, draining a three, to start the second half to give the Hurricanes a 41-15 lead.
Junior forward Paige Lauder finished with 14 points, knifing her way to the basket on multiple occasions. She also scored her 1,000th career point.
Kelly Rothenberg led Mount St. Joseph with 12 points.
With the win, the Hurricanes claimed the top seed for the PIAA state playoffs, which begin on March 9.
Mount St. Joseph 3 10 6 18 -- 37
Villa Maria 21 17 11 12 -- 61
MSJ: Audrey Bryce 2,Lauren Cunningham 4, Grace Marrow 2, Grace Niekelski 7, Kelly Rothenberg 12, Taylor Sistrunk 5, Lauren Vesey 3, Paige Zipfel 2.