Upper Perk's Morgan Aldinger squeezes her way between the Upper Marion defense to take a shot in Monday nights home opener.
Upper Merion’s Cassidy Koenig dropped a bomb on the season opener for the Upper Perkiomen girls basketball team. Make that several bombs.
The Vikings senior rained in five three-pointers in the first half to pace the visitors to a 56-44 win. The 5’7” guard scored 24 of her 30 points before the half to put the Tribe in a hole they could not climb out of despite 16 second-half points from Stacey Auckland.
Upper Perk Coach Pete Sovia was well aware of Koenig’s prowess. “She’s just absolutely a beautiful, beautiful shooter. She’s a nice player.”
Sovia related that Koenig holds Upper Merion’s school record for three-pointers in a season with 94.
Koenig came onto the court firing, launching two treys from the corner within the first three minutes of the game, more than offsetting a three from Upper Perk’s Kimberly Kachmar. By the end of the first quarter, Koenig had 13 points and her team had a 19-6 lead.
The Indians did get a boost off the bench from Holly Crossin (10 points) who tallied six points in the second quarter, but Koenig continued her blistering scoring pace as the Vikings lengthened their lead to 37-20 at the half.
Auckland, Upper Perk’s go-to girl, had a frustrating first half. Her only points came off a short jumper to start the second quarter, and she picked up her third foul late in the period.
“Some of it was opening game jitters and some of it was some tough drives that just didn’t go for her,” Sovia said. “I thought she settled down and played a very nice game in the second half.”
Auckland (18 points) got hot and fueled a mini-run in the third quarter that brought the Tribe to within 11, with just under four minutes left in the period.
The junior center converted a lay-up, hit a three and made one of two free throws after a steal and length-of-court drive, showcasing her many talents.
“Stacey’s quite a force,” her coach said. “She can play just about any position on the court. She can bring it up, she can play inside, make outside shots.”
But Upper Perk never got any closer despite another Auckland run in the fourth quarter. Koenig cooled off considerably, but Kristina O’Sullivan (12 points) and Jackie Van Loan (7 points) picked up the slack.
The Tribe did have their chances to cut into the lead but did not capitalize against an Upper Merion team (2-1) that already had two games under its belt.
“We needed to help ourselves more tonight with some lay-ups and foul shots,” Sovia said.
The Vikings outscored the Tribe 20-10 on the foul line, where Upper Perk shot only 50 percent.
The fourth-year Upper Perk coach sees better days ahead for the Tribe, and liked the fact that they battled the Vikings in the second half.
“We hung in there,” Sovia said. “[Upper Merion] looked like they were really going to stretch it out but couldn’t. We got contributions from a lot of kids on the bench. They all played fairly solid, especially in the second half. We’re looking to build on this.”
Sovia expects that last year’s youthful growing pains – most of the players were freshmen and sophomores – will mean less hurt this year.
“I expect us to compete with everyone in our division, and even teams when we go across into the bigger division. They are working very hard at practice. I think we’ll be there every night competing,” Sovia said.
The Tribe’s success hinges in a large way on Auckland, and Sovia is confident she is up to the responsibility.
“She’s going to have a couple of breakout games this year and really open some eyes. I’m really looking forward to watching her play this year,” he said.