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NEPA Elite Clark team wins twice to reach quarterfinals in Texas

NEPA Elite News

New locale.

Same results.

Different approach.

The NEPA Elite Clark 17U girls team took its show on the road Tuesday, playing outside the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic for the first time and winning twice impressively in its Texas debut.

The wins are familiar, but the approach was a bit different.

NEPA Elite used a devastating rebounding combination to punish two opponents on the boards on the way to the quarterfinals of the Stanford Bracket of the Premier Basketball’s PBR Hoops Super 64 National Championships in Dallas.

Ciera Toomey, Olivia Smelas, Kylie Lavelle, Moriah Murray and Trinity Johnson all finished in double figures in rebounds on the day as NEPA Elite defeated a pair of Adidas-sponsored opponents, the Texas Elite 17U 3SSB, 52-39, and EBO 17, 54-31.

Ciera Toomey

With the two victories, NEPA Elite improved to 17-4 on the season and 42-8 overall in the program’s first 11½ months of competition.

NEPA Elite did not trail after the first four minutes of the day and combined long stretches of shutting down its opponent’s offenses with a 94-44 rebound advantage for the day.

Toomey, the 6-foot-3 Dunmore High School Class of 2023 forward who is among the nation’s hottest women’s basketball prospects, earned a spot among Premier Basketball’s “Starting Five” list of the day’s top performers. With Duke head coach Kara Lawson among those looking on, Toomey led the team with 14 points against EBO and shared the rebounding lead of 9. She also had 12 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists in the opening win.

The story of this day, however, was the collective destruction of two straight opponents on the glass.

The dominance was immediate.

NEPA Elite grabbed five offensive rebounds in the first four minutes. Drexel commit Lavelle grabbed four on the offensive end in the first 6:38 and NEPA Elite overcame a 5-0 start by Texas Elite by collecting 14 of the game’s first 18 rebounds.

Barely slowing down from there, NEPA Elite finished with a 39-16 advantage on the boards. Murray, another Drexel commit, shared the rebounding lead of seven with Toomey, her Dunmore teammate. Smelas, Lavelle and Maria Belardi each finished with five rebounds.

NEPA Elite followed up that performance by shaking off poor first-half shooting against EBO, a team from Fresno, Calif.

The team pulled down a stunning 15 offensive rebounds, including four by Murray, three by Toomey and two each by Smelas, Kaci Kranson and Kaeli Romanowski, in the game’s first 11 minutes. NEPA Elite had a 23-8 overall rebounding lead in that time and did not let up, finishing with a 55-28 advantage.

Toomey’s nine rebounds, included six on the offensive end.

Smelas and Johnson, who had a team-high seven defensive boards, came off the bench to share the rebounding lead.

Olivia Smelas

Kranson, seeing her first basketball game action in more than six weeks after suffering a wrist injury while playing in the District 2 Class 2A softball championship game for Holy Cross, and Lavelle grabbed six rebounds each. Kranson learned earlier in the day that she had made first-team, all-state in softball, matching the honors she already received on the basketball court.

The rebounding effort combined well with the long stretches in which the NEPA Elite defense shut down its opponents.

After Texas Elite hit its first two shots, including a 3-pointer, in the game’s first 53 seconds, it went just 2-for-15 over the next 9:40 as NEPA Elite built a 17-10 lead.

NEPA Elite held EBO without a basket for 17:17 – the last 11:20 of the first half and the first 5:57 of the second half – while stretching a 10-6 lead to 33-16.

At that point, EBO was shooting just 3-for-27 (11.1 percent) through the game’s first 21:57.

Murray led NEPA Elite in the opener with 14 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists.

After going 0-for-4 from 3-point range in the first half, Murray made four straight in a span of 4:31.

Murray’s hot streak was needed.

It came during a time when Texas Elite also found its offense.

During the first 4:31 of the second half, Murray helped NEPA Elite go 7-for-10 to counter Texas Elite going 5-for-8, including 3-for-4 on 3-pointers.

Lavelle had eight points. Anna Scoblick, who did all her scoring off the bench while the rest of the team was unable to produce a point in the final 7:37 of the half, and Romanowski each added six points.

Romanowski had two steals while Belardi and Toomey each blocked two shots to lead the way on the defensive end.

NEPA Elite shot just 28.1 percent in the first half of the game against EOB, but the defense and rebounding made sure that did not cause any problems.

Toomey made her last four shots; Murray her last three; Smelas three of her last four; and Johnson two of her three to offset their teammates combining to go 9-for-39 (23.1 percent) from the floor.

Romanowski had a team-high four assists and Scoblick added three. Belardi led the defense with two steals and two blocks. Smelas also blocked two shots.

Smelas is from Jim Thorpe, Lavelle from Riverside, Johnson from Wyoming Valley West, Belardi from Scranton Prep, Romanowski from Western Wayne and Scoblick from Abington Heights.

NEPA Elite faces the Gauchos at 10:45 eastern time Wednesday in the quarterfinals and, win or lose, will play again at 2:30 p.m.


Tuesday roundup from Spooky Nook:

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