By Tom Robinson, NEPA Elite News

MANHEIM – Claire Dougherty took over the middle offensively in the first game.

The NEPA Elite Rini 17U girls defense closed it off in the second.

The result was a pair of comfortable victories in the 2022 Division Pool N Sunday and a strong finish to the season-opening Live! at the Nook, three days of Select Events Basketball girls competition.

The Rini team was the only one from NEPA Elite to play twice Sunday.

The other four teams split their games. One of the wins came from the Clark 17U team, allowing both of the AAU club’s 17U teams to finish the weekend with 4-1 records.

A recap of Sunday’s action:

Rini 17U (2-0)

Dougherty was the statistical leader of both wins, including a dominant effort in a 57-37 win over All Day Hoops 11th in the first game.

Coming off a high school season in which she was Wyoming Valley Conference Division 2 Player of the Year after leading Lake-Lehman to the division title, the 6-foot-1 junior combined for 33 points, 12 rebounds and 8 blocked shots in the two wins.

Dougherty had 23 points, 7 rebounds and 6 blocks against All Day Hoops, then 10 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks in the 36-24 win over Crossroads Basketball, leading or sharing the team lead in each category in both games.

“We always just try to go with the flow of the game,” Dougherty said. “We’re all good players, obviously, so if our inside is strong or open, then we pass inside a lot.

“We’re just playing with the flow of the game.”

Brian Haefele, serving as the team’s head coach for both Sunday games, said it was important to that flow to first break the All Day Hoops press that had been effective against other opponents earlier in the event. Once the press was beaten, NEPA Elite could use its size advantage.

“The girls ran the press break beautifully,” Haefele said, “and after that, when they went to their zone, we were able to get the ball to her and she went up strong and did her thing.”

Dougherty took over in the game’s decisive stretch making her first four attempts on the way to a 10-for-13 finish from the floor.

She had 10 points in a 13-0 run that began midway through the first half and put NEPA Elite ahead for good.

Rowan Murray’s free throw cut the only deficit NEPA Elite faced to one point.

Dougherty then scored the next eight, starting with the basket that put NEPA Elite in front and adding another seconds later. She also had a blocked shot and a steal along with scoring the basket that completed the run to make it 24-13.

After leading 29-16 at halftime, NEPA Elite put together a 9-0 run in less than a minute to begin the second-half scoring.

Mia Blume hit Dougherty for the first basket, then drained a 3-pointer. Nadia Evanosky followed with a back-court steal and layup before Chloe Lyle hit from the baseline for a 38-16 lead.

Chase Purdy added seven points, five rebounds and four steals in the win.

Murray and Lyle added to the inside dominance by each also grabbing seven rebounds.

Blume had five rebounds and a team-high three assists.

The defense came up with 17 steals, led by Megan Desmet with five, Purdy with four and Kallie Booth with three.

Defense ruled in a different way against Crossroads.

Again, NEPA Elite faced just one deficit.

This time, it responded by holding Crossroads without a basket for the next 14:56, ending the first half and taking up most of the second half.

Desmet’s steal produced two free throws to put NEPA Elite back up at halftime and start a 17-1 run to a 32-17 lead.

“We were really focused on our help defense and not only that, but helping the helper,” said Dougherty, who had six points during the run. “Our defense was really strong the last two games. We did a lot better on closing out on shooters.”

Haefele said the game changed when NEPA Elite cut off the penetration of 5-foot-3 point guard Christy Brennan, who scored half of the points for the northern New Jersey team.

It was Brennan who gave the Crossroads the only lead and who broke the dryspell with 1:05 left in the game.

“In the second half we locked it down and kept their point guard out of the middle,” Haefele said. “We kept them outside, made them force shots, then we rebounded better.

“We took care of rebounding, hit our outlets and pushed the ball.”

Evanosky led the team with three steals while adding five points.

Blume led in assists with three.

Murray had two blocked shots and two steals.

Clark 17U (1-0)

Moriah Murray hit three of the 10 shots the team made from beyond the arc and NEPA Elite held New Jersey United Platinum to six second-half points while running away with a 63-29 victory.

“We took care of the ball,” said Carrie Toomey, who served as the team’s head coach for the weekend. “We only had 10 turnovers and we executed our plays very well.”

The result was a balanced offense to go along with the stingy defense.

Murray finished with a team-high 13 points.

Kylie Lavelle joined her in double figures with 11.

Leila Hurley added nine while Anna Scoblick and Kaeli Romanowski each connected on a pair of 3-pointers to finish with eight points.

“I think the girls are getting comfortable,” Toomey said. “A lot of these players are coming from different teams where they are the main person and they think they have to take it sometimes, but I think they are really starting to look for each other and understand each other’s games better.”

Toomey said improved communication and a more enthusiastic bench to help raise the energy level were among the factors in the strong finish defensively.

“I think our ball-screen defense is getting better,” she said. “We were overhelping a little bit.”

The team competed in the 2022 Division Pool C.

Sheehan 16U (0-1)

New Jersey Panthers 3SSB defeated NEPA Elite, 52-26, in the 2023 Division Pool C game.

Gianna Cafarella made three 3-pointers to lead NEPA Elite with nine points.

Scoblick 15U (1-0)

A balanced offense helped NEPA Elite rout Team Pennsylvania Baughman, 54-21, and finish with a winning record, going 3-2 in the 2024 Division Pool N.

Finley Bittenbender led the way with 10 points, including eight when the team was taking a 30-9 halftime lead.

Kennedy Bittenbender and Ella Wilson added nine each. Emily Romanowski had eight.

Mackenzie Perluke chipped in with six points and Emily McDonald went 5-for-6 from the line to account for all of her scoring.

Butler 15U (0-1)

Elmira Fusion defeated NEPA Elite, 47-30, in the 2024 Division Pool J.

Elizabeth Viglone went 5-for-10 from the floor while scoring a team-high 12 points.

Mackenzie Schirg had six points and led the team with seven rebounds.

Gabrielle Marsola had four assists and Ella Cooper had four steals.